A hair affair to remember

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I’m not quite sure what got into me. I’ve very commitment-oriented and have long been satisfied with the way things were going. My own transgression continues to surprise me.

On a Sunday afternoon, with Richard and the two little ones, I perused the aisles at the local Trader Joe’s. There was debate over whose basket got to hold the pasta, an unwillingness to sample the warm spinach and kale pie, and juice testing … I admit it. I’m stalling.

I first saw her selecting tea. I passed. Then glanced back. While I was trying to find the familiar Gruyere and Cheddar melange that I use for mac and cheese, I got a closer look as she perused the goat varieties.

After Richard turned the corner, I had to approach.

“I can’t keep my eyes off your hair,” I said.

“Oh, thank you,” she said. Then she offered the bait. “I get it done at Not Your Salon, Across Town, by Not Gina.”

I didn’t want to be tempted. But I was. The information kept swimming through my head. Her hair WAS fabulous. I couldn’t keep my eyes off it. Contemporary. Conservative. Cute and Cool. All the things I dream about. (Her’s was also straight. But I digress.)

But I like my hair, I kept reminding myself every moment the tantalizing thought entered my head. Gina knows my hair. She’s never failed me. But I just kept visiting the idea of the adventure. I couldn’t let it go.

Finally, I told Siri what I wanted. I thought, if Siri can’t find it, it’s just as well. I was actually counting on Siri being the incompetent companion she so often is – so she could save me from myself. Recently, I requested that she find the Father Solanus Casey Center. Instead she delivered to me every salon in the tri-county area. Even after several attempts, she couldn’t find for me that lovely place at which I wanted to pray.

Apparently, however, salons are Siri’s forte. She found Not My Salon in one try. Drat. I’d like to blame her – but only I can take responsibility for what happened next.

Timidly, I clicked that little blue arrow to dial the number. The party on the other end answered, and I did it: I made arrangements to let someone I didn’t even know run their fingers through my hair.

What was I doing? I’m risking too much I thought. How would I tell Gina?

When the day approached, the doubt continued. As I was close to Not My Salon, I received a call that Not Gina was running late. I don’t have time for late, I thought. I should just cancel. This is a sign. My schedule doesn’t accommodate a trip across town, let alone the trip and another half an hour.

I was so close, though. I’d already spent the time. And I saw a cupcake shop on the next block. I disgusted myself at my ability to justify this whole affair. I need a little down time. A few minutes with a cup of coffee and a cupcake will be a nice respite, I thought. I need a respite. Don’t I?

The salon was big and busy. Kind of hip but not too pretentious. At least a dozen chairs. About half of the stylists sported coifs that combined made up the majority of the rainbow. Kind of fun. And between asking myself, “What am I doing here?” I thought, as much as I love green, I sure hope Not Gina isn’t that girl over there with the (faded) verde hair.

She wasn’t.

Not Gina approached. She had on the cutest little Kelly green floral corduroy shirt dress, black opaque tights, knee-high black boots. Her hair was long and naturally wavy. She was fresh-faced and freckled: reminding me of a taller version of my sweet Mary Claire.

I tried to let my doubts go. I relaxed and stopped nagging myself for doing this. “It’s okay.” I justified again. I need a change. Everyone needs a change now and then.

Introductions were bumpy at best. I wasn’t sure if she heard me. I wanted to keep the length in the front for when I wear hats, and I didn’t want my neck shaved. My thoughts went back to Gina, who knew my little quirks. And here I was, starting over with Not Gina. I felt like an awkward teenager.

Next thing I knew, I was on my back. I will admit, the shampoo was a little rough but invigorating.

Once back in the chair she studied me. Slowly combing through my locks.

“You have a lot of cowlicks,” she said.

I know, I replied.

“I mean a lot.”

I inhaled the “yes, I know” to calm the momentary “what-am-I-doing-here?” shot of stomach juice with an “I-can-still-leave” chaser.

I asked her how long she had worked there.

Eight years, she said.

Ok. I thought. She’s experienced. That’s good. Then in conversation, she used some choice words describing what she could do for me. Appealing words like modern, swinging, and, yes, even hot. And then she used that one word that fuzzy-headed girls like me only dream about: easy.

Once she got to work, she seemed pretty systematic. Next thing I knew, scissors were down, and she started drying my hair.

That was painless. I thought. And from what I could see, it looked pretty good. But then she picked up a straighter. Outside of a hair dryer, I don’t use appliances. Without discussion, she set to work.

“I’ve never had my hair straightened,” I confessed. “I have a pin head. I rely on my hair to, you know, make me not LOOK like a pin head.”

Not Gina assured me, it was just to check out the cut. Examine my cowlicks. Make sure things were straight.

It actually looked pretty good. Not as pinny as I imagined. Then she looked into my eyes through the mirror and said, “I still have a lot of work to do.”

Before I could utter, “Huh?” Something like this happened. (You don’t need to watch the whole thing – you get the picture.)

It seemed to go on forever. At some point, she angled the section of hair I mentioned I didn’t want cut, and I stopped her just short of cropping the front of my hair right off.

“You don’t want bangs?” I thought we covered that. No bangs. The nervousness came back, but she seemed relaxed while “why am I here?” continued playing on repeat in my head.

Suddenly – with scissors a-blazing – she was chatty.

“What do you do?”

“I’m a writer. Wife. Mom.”

“Oh, I write poems,” Not Gina said. “Hundreds of them really.” I nodded with my eyes not moving for fear of the scissors.

“I’m sure they’ll be published someday.” She studied her work. “I’m not sure they are really poems. But they’ll be a book.”

Wait. What am I doing here?

In the next 15 minutes, I learned about the apparent joys of sitting in an empty room with your own energy (which is not the same if there is a picture hanging on a wall), primitive painting using food coloring and frosting, an unfulfilled life due to the squashed ambition to become a dancer (without lessons), and a yearning desire to be a vegetarian – if only she could only stop craving meat.

At one point, she said something that led me to interject information about me  singing at church. She said she was going to go see a jazz band at a church down the road. She asked me about church and what denomination I was.

She told me she was baptized Catholic, then scoffed that her parents weren’t at all religious. She didn’t know the denomination of the jazz-band church.

Then she looked at me, scissored hand to chest, and said, “I believe in God. Completely. I’m just afraid to call myself anything,” she said. “You know: like I am a ‘this.'” Then she added, “I made my First Communion, too.”

At that moment, I knew why I was there. Her sincere eyes – pale and green like my own – locked into my gaze. Searching.

I shared with her the fact that with the Sacrament of Baptism she received an indelible mark on her soul . “It’s always there,” I quietly told her. Again her hand went to her chest, brushing her hair just enough for me to spy a cross among other charms around her neck.

“God made us to seek Him,” I told her. “He’s drawing you, and he made you to be drawn. You just have to choose to respond.”

“Maybe I should make my Confirmation,” she said. I told her that deciding to follow Christ meant making a commitment to pray and to learn about what His church teaches. Maybe she should learn about that Baptismal promise her parents made on her behalf.

“For Catholics, this is the Year of Faith …” I started to explain. Before I could continue, Not Gina surprised  me by saying, “Yes. I know. It starts today.”

After she shaved my neck (sigh), we said our goodbyes. I could see her contemplating our talk. I left her armed with some information to help her on her journey, and I promised I would pray for her. She sweetly and humbly thanked me.

At that moment, my hair looked great, but when upon leaving, when the receptionist asked me if I wanted to make my next appointment or wait to see how it grew out – she confirmed what I suspected – it wasn’t going to last.

It’s only been a handful of days, but every time I look in the mirror and try to tuck my too-short piece of hair behind my ears, I can’t help but recall the whole affair. Just the same, I am always grateful for the opportunity to share with others my faith, and through these experiences I am gently reminded that it is not without sacrifice that we are called to follow and spread Christ’s love.

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit.

Matthew 28:19

Postscript: I’m trying to see how long I can make it before I go to Gina, confess and have her fix my indiscretion. Her mom’s a regular reader – so Connie, put on some coffee and save me some maple cookies, and let Gina know I’m in it for the long haul. 😉

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