I didn't blog on Saturday because I went to the hairdresser. Two of my sisters and I drive an hour to a salon in Newton Highlands called Mann Made Style to get our hair cut by Isaac Mann, one of the proprietors. Then we go to lunch and then we shop. If we had to, we would drive two hours. If I had to, I would book a plane flight. Because I’m shallow? Yes, of course. But I think how your hair looks has a lot to do with how you feel, and Isaac has never made me feel less than fabulous.
The makeover shows have a similar philosophy about the importance of hair.
I’m not a big fan of reality shows but I do like some of the makeovers. My favorite is--or was--the British What Not To Wear because (1) Trinny & Susannah had less than model-perfect figures, (2) their subjects ran the gamut of sizes, shapes, and weights and were not all between the ages of 19 and 30, and (3) they paid attention to the psychological aspects of one’s appearance, e.g., pressures on working women with families, menopause and what it does to body and mind, etc. I have not yet seen the most recent incarnation of the show, which, I’m sorry to say, has replaced these wonderful ladies with a pair who look much more like their U.S. What Not to Wear counterparts, pencil-thin Stacy and Clinton. Just what we need, more supermodels giving fashion advice. Do they have any clue what it’s like to deal with a diminishing waistline?
Never mind that. Let’s talk about the annoying U.S. version and let’s get right to the hair.
The British version showed mainly the finished result, not the hysteria and agony in the hair salon. The U.S. version does spend time in the salon. The women seem to find this part far more disturbing than the 360 degree mirror. Time and again, despite being in the hands of Nick Arrojo, a top level stylist, the woman is terrified. The scenario rarely varies: Nick is poised behind her, scissors in hand as he studies her in the mirror. And she says, begs, insists--sometimes tearfully, “Don’t cut my hair.” Or, “Just trim it.”
And I think, “Take a pill.” Here is a woman whose hair is practically screaming “I need a style!” Wouldn’t any rational person realize that, to make a style, you need to cut? To make clothes, you need, first, to cut the cloth. A rational being would realize that not everybody looks good in long hair and not all long hair looks good. Plus, she’s getting this free. But confronted with the logic of hair--either cut it or go on looking exactly as she did before, which was what got her on the show in the first place--she will cry.
Look, I love my hairdresser dearly. He is a friend as well as a genius of a stylist. But am I the only non-celebrity who isn’t afraid to let a talented hairdresser cut her hair as much as he wants to?
Some of you may be nodding in sympathy with these women. You are probably thinking that they have all had bad haircut experiences.
Well, so have I. When my sisters and I were little, my mother used to send us to a lady down the street who cut hair in her house. She did not put a bowl on our heads and cut the hair along the rim of the bowl, but the haircuts looked as though she did. She gave us “pixie cuts” that looked like those BEFORE pictures on the commercials for hair replacement. And we had home permanents that made us appear to have been recently electrocuted.
This is why, as soon as I was earning my own money, I started looking for a good hairdresser. For a time I frequented a fine salon in Boston. But the stylist kept giving me cuts that resembled those pixies from the lady down the street. Then I went to a local salon, part of a chain bearing the name of a hair superstar, and for a time did well--good cuts, interesting styles--until the day the stylist went insane and gave me a permanent that looked like the ones my mother gave me. I complained to a friend, who introduced me to
This was a long time ago. I won’t say how long because I intend never to stop lying about my age. But Isaac looked at my hair with an expression of shock and awe. “It’s all burnt,” he said indignantly. And he cut it all off, very short, and turned an atrocity into a thing of beauty. Since that day, Isaac has been my one and only stylist and a dear friend. Since that day, I have never, ever had a bad haircut. I sit in the chair and let him do as he pleases. All I ever say about the proceedings is “Should we try a different color?” or “Should we let it grow?” or “Should we cut it short again?” A creature of habit I am not, and my hair has been every color and every length. The one thing it hasn’t been is hard to maintain. Isaac knows I have neither skill nor patience with blow dryers, curling irons, or other beautification tools. Wetting it, throwing some goop on it, and running my fingers haphazardly through my whatever-color locks is the summit of my achievement.
Apparently, a lot of other women give up the search too easily, or settle for untrustworthy hairdressers. It’s a lot like the search for love, the way we do it in romances. In both cases, the woman needs to find a man (or vampire or whatever) she can trust implicitly. In both cases, she ought to settle for nothing less.
It might even be more important to trust your hairdresser, because your average hero is not usually wielding sharp or very hot objects about your head, and applying the mysterious contents of various jars and bottles. Apart from doctors and dentists, few people get closer to us--and the doctors and dentist don’t have nearly the impact on our appearance as well as, in many cases, our self-confidence.
This realization gave me some insight into what it was like to have a lady’s maid. To be a lady’s maid, you had to be a hairdresser along with a seamstress, stylist, manicurist, pedicurist--well, a full-service salon and boutique, in other words. I found myself wondering what it was like to have someone always so close to you, who knew every personal detail there was to know about you--maybe even things your mother or your spouse didn’t know. Wow, that was some significant trust going on there. I know these ladies had a lot of money to throw around, and many were spoiled to a degree we can hardly imagine without imagining Paris Hilton, which I for one had rather not do. But would they ever settle for someone they couldn’t trust? Should anybody?
What about you? If you were sitting in Nick’s chair, would you be terrified or palpitating with anticipation? Do you have an Isaac? Or are you still trying to get over a traumatic hair experience?