WHICH HAIRCUT WOULD YOU LIKE, LITTLE GIRL?
I had my hair cut Friday.
Not styled. Not shaped. Not highlighted (as a friend would advise). Not even blown dry. What I do with my hair is quite simple: I have it cut.
I have difficult hair. Thick and tough and wiry, it has more kinks than a cheap hose. Little wings flare out from my temples, from behind my ears. Depending on the season, the back might actually sport a nice wave, but the top salutes like a Marine. Well, several Marines. Saluting all seven seas. Think whisk broom. Think Chia Pet.
When I was a child, my hair was a fuzzy bubble. My mother would try to tame it by installing three fat, foamy curlers around my face, a process I hated and squirmed straight through. When I was about 10, a neighbor lady recommended a place in Santa Ana (17 miles away!) called "De Puppe," which the neighbor inelegantly pronounced Dee POOP-ee. Despite the grotesque embarrassment of the name (that shame somewhat by the fact that it was far far from home, thus minimizing the risk that I would see someone there I knew), I was optimistic. The hair lady pointed at some images on the wall, and I selected as my model a pretty girl in a blue dress with shiny, to-the-shoulder, auburn hair. The girl wore a sleek, powder blue barrette which pulled her long bangs away from her face and held them attractively at the side of her head.
I would be that girl.
I understood this was a process, that the promised transformation would involve several visits before the new and more beautiful me would emerge. So my mother drove. The De Poopy lady tugged and pulled, pinned and cut. Conditioners were applied. A special hair brush was purchased. My mother drove and drove. The De Poopy lady cut and cut. But the Chia Pet stood fast. I never got that blue barrette.
Over the years there have been attempts. There have been consultations. Hushed, Frito-breathed advice over the shampoo sink.There was even an unfortunate experiment with a lightening product. Unexpectedly and at last, liberation came in the guise of an outdoor job, when practicality demanded I crop my hair short.
And short it has stayed: #6 clippers on the sides, hand cut on top, rounded at the neck, no points on the sideburns. This formula courtesy of Barb—Barb with a touch like Edward Scissorhands. Barb, who for years had me in and out of the chair in 15 minutes and still managed to catch me up on all the gossip. Barb who never tried to sell me color. Or conditioner. Or Amway or Tupperware or Pure Romance products. Barb who never once had Fritos on her breath.
And then she was gone. One day her arm swelled up and turned purple, and that was it for the haircutting career. Barb had been poofed to the netherworld of carpal tunnel syndrome.
The magic wasn't just the clipper/cut formula. The magic was Barb. And without her I've been adrift for nearly three years, back to the tutorials, the micromanaged instructions. No no to flipping through stylebooks. No no no to the gels and creams in their gold-lettered bottles.
It was a coupon that led me back on Friday to Barb's old place. My loyalty could be bought for $7.99, the price of getting me by for 6 more weeks. And guess who was there at the salon, who ran to hug me when I stepped through the door?! Barb snapped the cape and tied it around my neck. Pumped up the chair and tugged on those wings behind my ears. Are we still using a 6 on the sides? She was one week back at work, and it was as if my heart had never skipped a beat. Though, this time the haircut took an entire 20 minutes. We had a lot of gossip to catch up on, after all.
Nancy Carol Moody
I'm a poet and a letter-writer. Yup, that kind. The kind who uses pens and paper and actual stamps. The kind who will leave the house with nothing on the agenda but to get to the mailbox before the scheduled pick-up time. The kind who understands that technology is a wondrous thing, but nothing quite beats finding a real letter with a real stamp on it amid the credit card solicitations, pizza coupons and seminar catalogs.