I Trust My Hairstylist Completely—Because My Hairstylist Is Me

The ecstasy of being professionally styled isn't there, but neither is the agony

A visit to the salon was once all about possibility. Starting when I was a teenager, getting my hair cut meant feeling like a whole new person, whether it was getting my first blow-out or snipping off my long hair into a pixie cut.

But as I got older, some not-so-great things also came into focus. The possibilities began to fade as hairstylists repeatedly reminded me about the limitations of my curly locks. You can't cut your hair too short when it's so curly. A bob won't work for you. Your hair is too thick for [fill in the blank]. I was constantly being told what I couldn't do.

Then there was the money. The cost of the haircut, no matter how much of a bargain, always increased and became even more expensive with the requisite tipping. A tip for the hairstylist, of course. And the hair washer. Since I frequently washed my hair before visiting the salon, I was more than a little resentful at having to tip someone for doing it all over again when it was still wet. Ugh!

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There was also the inevitable high and low of it all. I'm sure you all know that almost orgasmic pleasure at how you initially look after being whirled around in your chair to face the mirror. My God, those shiny straight locks, that perfectly mussed pixie! The day of a haircut, I turned the world on with my hair. Compliments abounded, co-workers who previously failed to acknowledge my existence were all of a sudden giving me meaningful looks. Everything was going my way until …

… that first post-salon shampoo. After that, I couldn't recapture the magic, even with the fruit-scented molding/sculpting/finishing hair paste I had purchased at the urging of the stylist. (Speaking of money! Ka-ching!) My hair just never looked as good as it did on that first day, and the letdown was crushing.

And then one day, in my late 20s, I needed a trim and just decided to do it myself. I used a pair of plain old sewing scissors and trimmed it—no muss, no fuss. And guess what? It looked fine! It really did. Sure, the ecstasy of being professionally styled wasn't there, but neither was the agony.

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Of course, there were missteps, most notably on my wedding day. I needed to touch up my pixie cut, which I usually did in front of the bathroom mirror, but our apartment was crammed with visiting family and the bathroom was occupied. Buzz clippers in hand, I crouched in front of the bedroom mirror, trying to get a good angle for a trim. The light wasn't all that good and I hadn't put my contacts in. I really needed to get into that bathroom!

When I put my glasses back on, I saw a large mound of hair on the floor. Upon not-even-that-close inspection, I realized I had completely eliminated some patches of hair on one side of my head, leaving pale white areas of scalp visible. I was half pixie, half jarhead. For some reason, I didn't panic (much). I grabbed a stick of black eyeliner and used it to fill in the blanks while adding a slightly curled point in front of my ear. Then I repeated as needed in the subsequent weeks until the hair grew back in. A trust had been born.

Twenty years later, I've become my own master stylist, snipping my hair into bobs and curly pixies and punk cuts. My secret? Not aiming for perfection. My hair is a work in progress and an errant curl here, a whimsical strand there is all part of the charm. Plus, appointments are always available and I don't have to tip.

Tags: beauty