Monday, January 10, 2011

Hairdresser's Anonymous

I went to the hair dresser last week. Actually, it was a hairdressing school I went to for I am not only notoriously cheap (haircut and wash for $12) but they do a great job… seriously. If you have the time — it can take a couple of hours — I highly recommend it. I’ve been going for several years now and while I never have the same hair dresser twice there seems to be a curious, and yes, codependent pattern that repeats itself each time I go.

The pattern begins with a nebulous fear that initially manifests itself as procrastination. Normally I am a timely, don’t-put-off-things kind of gal but when it comes to cutting my hair, the clock is my worst enemy. I hate getting it done. I think the longest I waited to trim the unruly mass resulted in my father asking me the infamous question: “what happened to your hair?” (Love the guy but jeez, you’d think after three wives he would be a little savvier about making hair comments). Anyhow, when I finally gain the courage to go under the knife, I mean scissors, I am already, needless to say, quite tense. I sit in the chair counteracting my panic by breathing in a deep, meditative way. My intrusive thoughts, however, don’t believe in meditation. They immediately run rampant upon looking in the fully lit and absurdly revealing mirror. They are going to ruin your hair, they whisper, you will walk out of here and be a laughing stock; it will be too short; it wont be short enough, you are doomed. They attack me like bed bugs on meth. I sit in fear and curse the knowledge that long hair on me makes Charlie Manson look cute in comparison and that I am not hip enough to wear hats nor old enough to wear scarves. (Or is that old enough to wear hats and hip enough to wear scarves?) Regardless, the hair must be cut and I fear the results. Of course, what my fear doesn’t know… uhhh that would be because I don’t take leadership over it, is that I have complete control over the process. My fear is the codependent part of myself that tends to bequeath authority to whoever yields the power, or in this case, the scissors.

With fear leading the way, I am never quite able to back up my initial confident statement of “three inches off, please”. Hairdressers are notoriously shy about cutting hair too short (oops, I thought you said crew cut) and so when you say three inches they usually start with half an inch. “How do you like that length?” they ask. Immediately, my confidence fades: Why are they asking that? They’ve only cut half an inch… do they know something I don’t? Should I not go for the full cut? I start to stutter, “uhhh, doesn’t quite look like three inches.” They look at me skeptically as if to ask, are you sure you want to look like a sheered spring lamb? I whisper back, “I mean, only if you think it will look okay.”

Then we have the hairdressing students. They are a fine lot, eager to please (the teachers, that is), eager to not make mistakes and eager show how good they are — a deadly combination from the victim/client’s perspective but, of course, one that will get them far along in the biz. I have had ones that think they know it all already and flit and flat when the instructor finds uneven strands and missed wisps; ones that think they don’t know anything and beg the instructor to take over; and one’s that belabour their work for so long that my neck becomes one long strand of steel encrusted nerves. My wanna-bee stylist today was of the begging sort. Despite being half finished her training, her confidence lagged and she would not let the instructor out of her grasp. I wanted to sit her down and say, take a chance, trust yourself, you’ll be okay but then sanity (thank god) shuts me up with a she doesn’t know what she is doing, let her call for help.

Then there is the codependence between the students and the teachers. Over my tenure as a client I have had numerous visits with different hair stylists but the teachers have stayed the same, that is, until this recent visit — a new staff member has joined. Lovely lady, dedicated and seemingly talented but with the increasingly ineptness of my hair dresser, “I don’t understaaaaaand”, develops a I’ll-take-care-of-you bond, securely joining herself at the student’s hip. At one point the senior instructor came over and admonished the newby, “let her learn by doing it herself,” he said. (I gasped). Thankfully, no one listened to him and we continued merrily along with hair dresser whining and teacher taking over. A fine codependence and one I truly appreciated.

By the time my hair is complete… we actually go two and a half inches in the back; three in the front, I am feeling slowly but surely the release of tension — its over; I survived. I am pleased, so pleased I tip the ever apologizing stylist — “I took so looooonnnnnng” — a handsome amount and whisk myself off to the washroom to covertly wash my back of errant hair particles and sprinkle water over my head to reinvent the naturally tousled look with carefully hooked fingers.

So, you might ask why I do this to myself. Why do I become anxious over a rather mundane event when I inevitable come out at least somewhat pleased? Why do I become timid in declaring my needs; tip to make the stylist feel good (terrific) about herself; and cower in the face of authority when I don’t do that (well, not always) in other aspects of my life? And, why am I not alone in this absurdity?

I like to think it is my way of taking care of the little guy. I mean, I have these codependent parts of myself that are losing their power: I don’t listen to them as much as I used to; I don’t cave in to their demands; they are no longer in control. Allowing these parts to go wild ever so often is my way of saying, hey, go have some fun but be back by dark. They let off a little steam, get to flex some muscle and no harm done… right? And it only costs me $12 plus a tip. Maybe I can even write it off as a charitable donation.

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