Everyone knows that women process major life events through their hair. Graduated from high school? I dyed my hair black. Broke up with a boyfriend? I chopped it off. Transferred colleges? I started dying the ends blonde. Drastic hairstyle changes are a traditional form of female self-expression.
The Hair Story
I was walloped with some huge news one Friday. Naturally, the first thing I did that Saturday morning was call to schedule a spur-of-the-moment salon appointment. This wasn’t just a trim—I’d finally resolved that it was time for bangs. Don’t worry: I’d thought the whole thing through logically. I’d wanted to take the plunge for months, but I just hadn’t had the guts. Besides bangs would make my Halloween costume much more legitimate. See? Totally sound reasoning.
As I sat in the waiting area, my confidence wavered: with the kind of luck I’d been having this weekend, was it wise to seek out a drastic hairstyle change at a student salon? Sure, the $12 haircuts were a good deal when a trim was involved, but bangs probably required more nuance, skill, and money.
My ponderance was interrupted by the presence of a very short, meek girl with electronic blue hair. We’ll call her Smurfette. She mumbled something quietly which I assumed meant something along the lines of “your hair fate is in my hands today,” so I stood and followed her to the Chair of Destiny. The first phrase she muttered that was actually intelligible went something like, “you’re the first client I’ve had in a while.” Trying to appear more interested than disconcerted, I probed, “Oh, really? How long has it been?” “Two weeks,” she answered, “but I’ve been sick.”
Now, in my opinion, two weeks is not a noteworthy dry spell—unless you really don’t know what you’re doing—in which case, it’s an eternity and you’ve probably forgotten how to hold scissors.
“I’m sorry to hear that—are you feeling better?” I continued. At this point, my hair was literally in her hands, as she was attempting to wash it in one of those Fancy Salon Head-Only Bathtubs. “No,” she responded dejectedly. Now I was concerned about what germs were being rubbed all over my hair. “Oh, do you mind if I ask what’s wrong?” I sputtered.
“Oh, no, I don’t mind—I was on my way to work…and my back was hurting really bad that day…and I just couldn’t take it anymore…and I started throwing up…and they had to rush me to the ER…and they were doing all these tests to try to figure out what was wrong with me…and they couldn’t figure it out…so they just gave me some pain killers…but they don’t really affect me…I just…I get nervous when I try to curl people’s hair…because I’m afraid I’m going to burn them.”
We shared some silence. Finally, I ‘casually‘ asked, “so, have you ever cut bangs before?” “Well, I’ve cut them on my manikin but I’ve never done them on a person but usually the teacher cuts them for me.”
As I silently thanked heaven for teachers, I tried to make more small talk, “So what made you want to become a hairstylist?” “Well, I wanted to go to culinary school, but then the culinary school in town closed.” The whole burning fear seemed more ironic to me now.
We eventually transitioned from The Slowest Rinse Of All Time to The Slowest Trim Of All Time—a period in which I practiced crouching in my chair so that she could see/reach my hair. It was also a period in which she regaled me with stories of clients past.
She told me about her first-ever client, who had been “very angry because she said I was taking too long, but then she apologized and said that she was just hungry.” And another who “had been mad because she said I wasn’t good enough to curl her hair. And then I just told her it wasn’t worth it and left her in the chair. And I thought I was gonna get sent home, but I didn’t.” At one point, as she was brushing forward my bangs, she paused and said, “oh, let me set down the scissors so that I don’t poke your eyes.” *cringe*
After what seemed like the entire 24th year of my life, the teacher showed up and began showing Smurf Hairdresser how to cut layers. “So, see, you pull the hair up at this angle, and see, this is your guide, do you see it?”
Her response was a mumbled, “No, I don’t have my glasses…”
Teacher: “Well, are they here?”
Smurfette: “No, I’ll have them next week…”
My thoughts: “Next week doesn’t really help me very much when you are LITERALLY TAKING SCISSORS TO MY HAIR today.”
Somehow she hacked her way through the layers situation. I did my part by pretending that I couldn’t tell that she had no idea what she was doing and literally could not see my hair.
The bangs portion of this experience was even more terrifying. I turned out to be the first
victim client whose bangs Smurfette cut. The teacher talked her through and supervised the whole thing. Smurfette took things slow and her hands were only barely shaking. I kept my eyes closed out of fear the entire time, having flashbacks to a particularly relatable scene from The Parent Trap.
Once the bangs had been styled and the layers fixed, Smurfette turned to me, sighed deeply, and whispered, “I think that went well.” I’m not sure which of us was more relieved.
The Hair Story Story
I seriously rocked my work-Halloween costume with my Totally Accurate Character Bangs. Many people commented on the new hair stuff going on. That segued nicely into my fabulously cringe-worthy hair story. Soon, everyone wanted to hear The Hair Story. I was self-conscious about how frequently I was telling the hair story. Open workspace + repeated story = my whole team could probably recite it in unison now. My Hair Story was office legend.
This Friday, I walked over to K’s desk to show her some URL specifics. As I went to open a new tab, I noticed a tab on her browser displaying, “Emma gets her hair…” Suspicious, I clicked on the tab. I immediately started crying tears of shock and laughter, because this is what I found: gofundme.com/emma-gets-her-hair-done
For those of you too lazy to click on the link, this is what the site says:
My name is David and I am the coworker and friend of somebody who needs your help. Let me tell you about Emma.
Emma was homeschooled and, as you can imagine, super awkward as a child. I didn’t know her as a child but I know her as an adult and I can just tell she was an awkward kid. For reasons that are depressing Emma gets her hair done at a student salon near her home. Emma recently had a her hair done by a student (likely on meth) who forgot her glasses at home, threatened to stab Emma in the eye with scissors and abondoned Emma in her chair for several hours in the middle of her haircut (likely to do more meth). Despite all this the haircut actually came out pretty good, but still… I don’t think anybody should have to live this way.
Those who know and care for Emma want to change her life forever and we think we can do that with $75. I don’t know how much lady haircuts cost and I probably could have looked it up before I started typing this but I didn’t. We are going to assume that $75 can get her a good haircut. So please, I implore you. As a community let’s help end Emma’s suffering. Let’s empower Emma as a woman. Let’s give Emma hope again.
As of this blog post, we’ve had two donations. One was a friend who instantaneously donated $5 along with a “fight the good fight” comment. The other is a mysterious ANONYMOUS $50 donation. I am all confusion.
How did all of my coworkers and friends keep this site a secret for a day? Who would donate $50 to a cause like this? How do I get a hold of the money? Can I spend it on donuts instead? That’s a lot of donuts.
Watch Me Try To Make This Meaningful
- Trust the teacher—I truly believe in the student salon system now, because Smurfette was basically a worst-case-scenario hairdressing situation, and the teacher still made sure it all worked out fine. Too often, Friday situations make me feel out-of-control in my own life, and I just wish I’d remember more that God is the one in control anyway. I don’t need to be.
- Watch your words—The impatient first victim and the curling iron client probably both had valid claims…but they way those frustrations are communicated can have a big influence on a person’s confidence and future. I’m guilty of this too: too often for the sake of self-expression and candor, I haphazardly overlook the tact and grace that will save people like my hairdresser from long-term insecurity and anxiety.
- Be bad at stuff—Some people are already good at this. I am not. I’m bad at being bad at things, and it stops me from trying new tasks and going out on enough limbs. I feel like every post I publish has a thread of this in it, and I already know this is going to be a lifelong learning.
- Choose your stories—A few weeks ago, a mentor of mine warned me, “Don’t let your mind tell you stories.” She knows me too well. Last week, another coworker advised, “When I’m telling myself negative stories, I try to stop and couch them in the context of the situation. What mistake have I made? Is it a huge deal, or is this a minor thing overall?” My brain can’t help but weave stories out of every ten-second interaction, but I think the key is intentionally choosing what genre to cast the story in. From set-backs at work to Halloween haircuts, I think I’m going for the indie-comedy sort of vibe. Because LOLing about my haircut is a lot more satisfying and cathartic than a thirty minute tirade. And you might even get some money out of it, too.
Lastly, in case you were wondering, Frida Cauliflower won all the points this Halloween: