That Awkward Moment When . . .

Hair stylists are kinda like boyfriends. It takes a while to find a good one; but when it’s time to move on, you hope you’ll never have to see him again.

I had a hair stylist that I went to for years. Not only did she do a good job on my hair, but I enjoyed her company on my salon visits. She was a woman about my age with kids. I loved how relaxed and down to earth she was, and since she owned the shop she didn’t get all glammed up to cut hair. She was someone I would have easily been friends with if she was a neighbor or a coworker, and over the years we got to know each other well. Eventually she took a job as a sales rep for L’Oreal, and she closed up shop. She arranged to have a chair at a local salon for two days a month in order to continue to service a group of faithful clients, so I followed her there.

Because she was trying to fit a week’s worth of appointments into one afternoon, I often ended up hanging out for hours in a room full of women all there for the same reason. We would sit around with hair wet or in foils, chatting about the things that all women chat about at the salon. It reminded me of a modern day Steel Magnolias, and I actually enjoyed the camaraderie.  Unfortunately my husband soon got fed up with me being gone so long on Saturdays, and I was beginning to want a fresh perspective on my haircut so I went in search of a new hair stylist.

I decided to take a chance. Without any personal advice or recommendations, I called a random salon where I’d once had a Groupon for a facial and asked to make a haircut appointment with one of their senior stylists.

My new hair stylist was the polar opposite of my last. A young skinny guy with tattoos covering both arms and a baseball cap, I will never forget the first time I sat in his chair thinking, what ON EARTH have I done???

Turns out my new guy was just what my hair needed, and I’ve been going to him ever since. It’s been a couple of years now, and I kept meaning to email my old hair stylist and tell her why I’d gone elsewhere and check in to see how she was doing. I knew she’d be cool about it, but I felt like I owed her at least a good-bye and thank-you. I just never got around to it.

* * *

Last Saturday I was at my new salon, getting my usual cut-and-color. My head was hanging back into the sink waiting for my color to be combed through. I took the opportunity to doze and was lost in thought when I heard a voice saying my name. I opened my eyes to see a woman sanding over me, smiling.

“Do you remember me?” she asked.

I came out of my daydreams and tried to focus. Her face was familiar, but I couldn’t place her. I played a long for a minute as she talked, and suddenly I realized.

It was my former stylist with a new haircut.

She had chopped her long brown locks to a shoulder-length bob and colored it red so I didn’t recognize her at first. As I tuned back in, she was explaining that she was there to introduce my salon to a new L’Oreal product for conditioning and strengthening color-treated hair. I remembered her new gig and the reason she’d closed up shop, and immediately the pieces of the puzzle fell into place.

I suppose it’s not so far-fetched to imagine that I would have run into her this way, knowing that she travels around to salons training them on L’Oreal products, but I certainly never anticipated it. I might have been a bit more motivated to write that email had I predicted this encounter.

She was totally cool about it and seemed genuinely happy to see me, but I couldn’t help but feel a little bit like one of my kids when they’ve been hiding something from me and get found out.

We chatted for a few minutes while she applied the new product to my hair, and then I went on upstairs with my current stylist for the haircut portion of my salon services.

“Well, that was awkward!” I confided once I got settled into my chair.

I explained that she was my last hair stylist before I came to him. Then I laughed and said, “I feel sort of like I just got caught in the act by my ex-boyfriend!”

And that pretty much sums it up.

How do you handle the Hair Stylist Break-Up?