Originally published in Strut Magazine.
My mother was a straitlaced, law-abiding citizen. A dependable, responsible woman who always paid her bills on time and balanced her checkbook to the nano-penny. She was honest and conservative and never met a pair of underpants she couldn’t turn into a dust rag.
But for all her virtuous traits, she did have one obsession that nearly led her to commit a crime: her hair.
Her hair was the subject of much attention, not only her own, but of all her lady friends who always thought it looked perfect. And it did. Except when she looked in the mirror and saw something different: hair that needed fixing by a highly skilled technician.
She had one hairdresser in particular, Steve, who in the early days of their relationship got the hair just right. It was a parted-on-the- side wedge, with perfectly blown-dry strawberry-blond hair that leaned forward, framing her face in a way that brought many compliments and inquiries about the artist who created such a flattering style.
After a couple of years of fabulous haircuts, her relationship with Steve began to lose its luster. She didn’t feel he was paying as much attention to her hair as he did in their honeymoon phase. She’d come home from an appointment and anxiously scrutinize her hair in the bathroom mirror. “I can’t believe he did this. This,” she’d say, pulling strands of hair, “does not match this! It’s uneven! What was he thinking?” Then tears would flow along with running water and Vidal Sassoon shampoo. Before you knew it, she was blow-drying her hair all over again.
One day she spotted an ad for a salon that specialized in “Geometric Cuts;” the supposed inspiration of a high school math course. “That’s the way Steve used to cut my hair.” The picture was seductive. She was dying to look the way she did in the early Steve days and made an appointment, bringing along the ad photo, herself a picture of uncharacteristic optimism, the tulip bud ready to burst.
She showed the picture to the new hairdresser, explaining that Steve used to cut her hair like that, but not anymore. In the beginning, she said, Steve understood her hair – the way it naturally lay – and he worked with it. Carefully. He didn’t rush like a blizzard passing through Wisconsin. But something happened. Maybe he was having personal problems and took it out on her hair. Or maybe he just didn’t care anymore. ‘Cause it just didn’t look the way it used to.
It’s quite possible her new hairdresser didn’t fully comprehend that Mom was really, really picky and when Mom went on to say she wanted it cut exactly like the picture, she meant she wanted it cut exactly like the picture. Because when the new hairdresser finished, her hair did not look exactly like the picture.
How could this happen? She came expecting cupcakes with confetti and sprinkles but felt she was leaving with day-old pastry. Mom tried to cover up her reaction. But her face, all sour pickles and lemon wedges, hardly conveyed gratitude. She thanked him under her breath.
With her dream of the perfect “Geometric Cut” obliterated, she went to the reception desk, checkbook out. When no one rushed over to take her money, she had time to consider false advertising: hair that was no feat of geometry and a hairdresser who didn’t listen.
She ran out of the salon. The hairdresser ran after her.
“You have to pay for your hair!” he yelled.
“I’m not paying for this! You did a terrible job. It looks nothing like the picture!”
“You’re crazy, lady. You’re crazy! If you don’t pay, I’m calling the police!”
The epitome of humiliation, she returned to the shop and, under his strict supervision, wrote a check and left.
Maybe they had dragged her back to the shop like the principal herding the troublemaker into the school office, but that didn’t mean she was rehabilitated. As soon as she got home, she called the bank and put a stop on the check, disregarding the fee. Geometric cut, indeed, she said
Geometry, she’d have paid for. A hairstyle that made her feel like yesterday’s cheese Danish, no way.
What’s your hair-obsessed story? Ever run out of a salon without paying?