20 July 2002

It's A Girl Thing

There is no term for a phobia of hairdressers.

At least a cursory search of Google doesn't come up with one. There should be a term, however, as at the supposedly rational age of 26, I am scared shitless of hairdressers. I will go for a full year without dragging myself into a salon. And this phobia I can, with no qualms of guilt whatsoever, blame on my childhood. Mom was a hairdresser.

I love my mother dearly; as I've progressed from the "blame my parents for everything" stage to the "hey, parents are humans too" stage, Mom (neè Ma; think heavy stress on the 'ah') has become one of my best friends. I'm lucky in this fact, as there are many who don't have wickedly cool chicks like her as their mothers. She has changed the scope of her career a while back, but I'm still scarred from being the daughter of a hairdresser.

Many females suffer from a fear such as mine. Unlike the vast majority however, mine is not born out of a lack of knowledge or communication with the hairstylist. It's born from that knowledge. i grew up toddling around salons and stacking curlers. I know all about parts, scissor angle, layers, perms, highlights, lowlights, frosting, up-dos, those funny scissors that look like combs, round brushes vs. flat brushes etc. Push comes to shove, I can whip up some bleach and do a mean 80's frost job. The fact of the matter is, hairdressers are human beings, and, like all of us, can have really shitty days. The results of which can materialise on top of your head. Males don't generally understand this, as the shorter your hair is, the quicker the cut or dye will grow out. Besides which, you guys can always do the Bruce Willis thing and shave your heads. Or wear a baseball hat. Fuckers.

I had my first perm in second grade. Between the perm and the Texas summer sun, my naturally dark brown hair bleached out into a blonde Little Orphan Annie 'Fro. (My god perm fumes are noxious. Ack. What an olfactory memory.) I continued to have boyishly short permed hair while all the other girls had long feathered bangs and cute girly sausage curls. Please don't get me wrong; Mom was (and is) a pro, and a damned good one at that. It's just that I was trying to give myself the 80's exploding bangs look on a asymmetrical 3 inch cut. With laughable results.

The real trauma began when I put my foot down in 7th grade, grew out my perm, ditched the bangs, and went with long hair au natural. The problems arose when trim time came around.

"How much do you want off sweetie?"
"An inch"

And after 20 minutes I'd be looking at 3 inches of my hair laying on the ground. Every time. When I'd start to do the teenage pout and whine "MAAAA! I didn't want it that short!" , the reply was always a placating, yet merciless "It needed it, honey. You had so many dead ends..." The truly traumatising moment came in my late teens.

My middle sister (I'm the oldest) had just had yet another blazing row with Mom. Right before she was going to trim our hair. My sister went first.

Never, ever piss off your hairstylist.

Mom started cutting her hair. It ended up lopsided on the left. Muttered curses while she evened it out. Now it was lopsided on the right. Louder muttered curses (from both parties). Third time being a charm, Mom finally got it even. Of course by now, a good amount of my sister's hair was on the floor. My turn.

"Sit down!"
"Mom, you're tired. We can do this tomorrow. You've had a long day...."

I sat down. You don't disobey someone with a very sharp pair of scissors in their hands and a tone of voice that would strike fear into a Navy Seal. I do believe that was the longest I've ever held my breath. I'd like to believe that it was my breath holding skills that saved me that night from an inadvertent Vincent Van Gogh accident and horrendously short hair. Most likely it was just the fact that Mom had already worked out her ire on my sister and regained her concentration. Still....

Normally I am a Nazi with whoever ends up cutting my hair. "Part it straight down the middle, cut half an inch, and no funny stuff buddy, or the scissors end up in your throat." Aside from Mom, I've had a couple of other self proclaimed stylists give me unacceptable cuts. Like the time I informed one girl that I was going backpacking around Europe, wasn't taking any styling products, hairdryers or other such ilk and by the way, I'm allergic to hairspray. I ended up with an above the shoulders shellacked bouffant looking thing and subsequently had zits galore for two weeks from the spray and wore a beret for a good month of my trip.

I dragged myself into the hairdressers today. It's been a year since I cut my hair and it was down to my butt, looking a bit frayed at the ends. Hell, my split ends had split ends. With the moral support of my girl friend (who needed a cut also), I shakily pointed at a (very) long hair cut that I know will be easy to take care of and won't require me to make another salon trip for at least 3 months. I bit my lip an stood as still as I possibly could while he began to dry cut my locks. ACK! Dry Cutting! Shit! Is this guy a hack?! I flicked my eyes over at my girl friend, who had just finished the blow dry and style. She had a lovely professional cut (more avant-garde than I will *ever* go, though). I calmed down. Somewhat. My friend was looking at me anxiously, knowing exactly how freaked out I was under the calm exterior. (Shaking in fear is not recommended when scissors are near your eyeballs).

The ending of today's story is good, I am happy to report. Not great, but good. It's a good haircut, well done, and I can still stick with my wash-and-go beauty routine. Points off just because it's shorter than I wanted. Guess what the response was when I said it was a little too short?

"It needed it. You had a ton of spilt ends."

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