Nothing cures a bad day like a trip to the hair salon.
It’s not that I’m shallow. And I’m no more obsessed about my appearance than the average woman. I don’t stress over a killer pimple or wear dark glasses indoors to hide under-eye circles. I don’t cry when I break a nail or feel naked if I leave the house without mascara. I do admit to being bummed when I wreck a fresh manicure (all that time & money down the drain!) and resorting to the occasional pep talk on those days when fastening my jeans is a struggle. But nothing sends a day spiraling into the gutter faster than the effects of wind and rain on my hair.
I’ve felt this way since high school. One of the biggest rows my mother and I ever had was when she told me it was too close to bedtime to wash my hair and I’d just have to go to school the next day with it dirty (yes, this was in the days before blow dryers). I was up at the crack of dawn to jump the line for the shower (five of us vied for bathroom time) and allow for ample drying time.
I’m not alone in this obsession. Sure, I have friends with bullet-proof hair. Julie doesn’t have a clue what frizz is. Alysse and Maryanne have truly wash-and-wear locks. And Shelley—well, this is a woman whose artful use of hair accessories (i.e. reading glasses doubling as a headband) has disguised many a messy up-do. But for most women I know, achieving hair nirvana is an uphill battle. Humidity is Public Enemy #1, closely followed by excessive use of hair product (who knew there was such a fine line between too little and too much dry wax?) Split ends run a close third. And let’s not even discuss what a bad haircut or not-quite-what-you-expected color job can do to the psyche.
“Hell” is calling the salon, desperate for a morale boost, and discovering that your stylist has skipped town—without bothering to email, text, or tweet. Think that’s absurd? Two months in the hospital and a lengthy course of heavy-duty antibiotics caused my mom’s hair to fall out. Despite the array of debilitating physical ailments that continue to plague her, she has given nothing as much airtime as the pain and embarrassment of this loss. On Thanksgiving we all shared her joy at the visible return of her own hair. But seriously: this woman almost died. Is it possible that the worst thing that happened to her was bad hair? Apparently.
So yesterday I let a new stylist color my hair. During the consultation, she slipped into that foreign language of highlights, lowlights, and ash versus golden. But she sounded confident and in a leap of faith (or moment of true desperation) I concurred, relaxing until the moment she walked away, timer in hand, saying she’d be back soon. After what seemed like an hour I broke into a sweat, imagining the frightful effects of over-processing. But panic subsided when, during the final rinse, the assistant pronounced the color “pretty”. In my excitement I said yes to the overpriced blowout. Soon the mirror reflected a shiny, swingy, bob in a just-right shade of gold. And—poof!—the week’s woes bit the dust.
If only I could afford to go every day...