The relationship a woman develops with her hair dresser is often more emotionally intimate and honest than perhaps with any other professional relationship, save her therapist. Something about the physical contact puts the interaction instantaneously in category all its own. And when do we see our hair dresser? Happy times – weddings, fancy dates, when we are unhappy and want a change or when we are happy and want another change. Couple that with the natural gossip hub of a room full of extrovert hairdressers and captive clients things get real very quick.
I found a new hairdresser a few years ago, a local girl starting her own salon and decided to give her a try. Her name is Katie and we had instant rapport. She’s closer in age to my daughter than myself, full of energy but not in a way that makes me feel a million years old and completely irrelevant the way some young people do.
There was a gap of a few weeks last summer, between the time I knew I had cancer but I didn’t have enough information to begin telling my family. I made an appointment with Katie and I told her I wanted her to cut my hair shorter. I wanted fabulous waves and highlights. I wanted to be the hottest thing on the planet for the next few weeks. From behind me, she met my eyes in the mirror and asked me what was wrong.
I told her it was the first step to saying good-bye to my hair. I had cancer, breast cancer, and it was bad and in a few weeks I would be bald. And she was the only person who knew. She took my hand for a moment and then said okay. I left the salon with cute hair, a cute dress and took myself out to one of those trendy speakeasy-type places. I had possibly one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had.
A few weeks later, after I had told my family and friends and treatment had started, I went back to Katie. Katie closed the salon and while my mom and my daughter looked on Katie shaved my head and took the wig the American Cancer Society had donated to me and cut it to suit my style. My mother practically beamed when Katie declared I had a perfectly-shaped head. My daughter snapped pictures and instantly uploaded them to Facebook since nothing is real now unless reported on a social media site.
Until chemotherapy completely incapacitated me, I would see her every few weeks. Katie would massage my scalp with warm water and magic, tingly, smell good things and generally helped me feel human. The first time I left my house after my double mastectomy was to see Katie and have what little fuzz I had on my head evened out.
Everyone tells me this new do, the short hair, suits me. And it does seem to for now. I go to see Katie every few weeks and she keeps me looking chic and lovely. She also refuses to let me pay her. See, Katie lost her dad to cancer. It was crappy and awful and they barely had time to get used to his diagnosis before he was gone.
Last month, exactly one year after she shaved my head, I went back for a trim. Katie got a little teary and so did I. I count Katie amongst one of my many undeserved blessings of the past year; the kindnesses, large & small, which helped me get through this year with most of my sanity intact.