My age is sneaking up on me in mysterious ways. I’ve become inordinately concerned with going to the dentist, I pay attention to when my car is actually due for an oil change, and last week, I caught myself watching a young mom of three wild boys and saying to her “You’ve got your hands full there,” with a sage nod.
There is, however, one notable facet of adulthood and growing up that I can’t even pretend I’ve come close to mastering.
I set out at the beginning of this year to find myself a real, grown woman hair salon. I hear it’s a burden that many women grapple with (hence the finding a hairdresser that works and then following her to the ends of the earth stories you hear), and I decided that this was going to be my year.
I made a vow to Meg, after a healthy amount of teasing, that I would not trim my own hair as I did during my beyond broke study abroad college days. I’m a broad on a budget after all. Nevertheless, I have kept my promise.
My car slows, threatening to stop at every Supercuts I see along the road and somehow, I haven’t been able to go in. Supercuts feels like a regression haircut, like a low confidence attempt to slink back to childhood.
This week, I made myself an appointment at a local salon celebrated by Yelp with one dollar sign, meaning I can probably make the cost work. I’ve also gotten my brush stuck in my hair twice in the past month, so I have to face the reality that it’s something that needs to be done.
My creative universe’s practice in letting go of control begins at the shampoo bay. I lean back and let this perfect stranger guide my head to the cushioned rim. In spiritual circles, we call it leaning in to the experience, emotion, etc. and it seems like perfect poetic irony that in this excruciating situation, that phrase applies so very literally. So I lean in. My head rests against the questionably sanitary tiny tub and I let the Eastern European woman with kind, bored eyes named Katrinka scald the shit out of my scalp. I tell her everything is fine when she asks about the temperature. She lets the first droplet of water dribble down my neck and my body tenses. I’m sure she asks me questions, but I am only aware of the second water droplet, which runs on a perfect line between the corner of my eye and the inside of my nose. If there’s a hell, I think I’ve found it. I am stiff and a headache begins across my temple, where I hold my tension.
There is nothing more humbling than being forced to stare at my own face in that mirror with the black cape concealing my neck and body with a threateningly tight grasp. “Has anyone’s head ever looked more like a basketball?” “Why have I never noticed how grateful I am for my neck?” I make a mental note to thank God for necks, the unsung heroes for those of us self-conscious about our round faces.
I start to wonder where my eyes are supposed to travel when I realize I’m warm and not just slightly. The sweating begins and my eyes become nervous darts. Should I close them or is that creepy? Surely it’s better than whatever is happening now.
I watch helplessly as several inches of my knotty ends fall to the floor and I observe how strangely sad this makes me feel. The sweat continues to bead along my forehead while Katrinka commences her 40 minute blow dry trick. I scratch and claw at my insides to make it through the small talk about the color of my hair, as if this is a topic anyone has ever been interested in. I feel lightheaded with the inability to scratch my own nose. I’m daydreaming about a Gatorade to replenish my electrolytes and joining some religious cult where cutting your hair is fiercely prohibited. Then I briefly consider re-enlisting in therapy.
Katrinka rings me up; the total is $10 more than the price listed on the wall – a sweating fee I imagine. I don’t even care — I’m free. Perhaps 2020 will be my year.