Salon Infidelity

Courtney came in to my life about two years ago.
We met at the mall one Saturday afternoon in August. I didn’t quite know what I was looking for when I found her but I knew what I was NOT looking for. I’d had enough of inconsideration, painful and ultimately unfulfilling experiences and wanted something new – something fresh. After our first encounter I knew that she was the one.

No, Courtney is not my lover.

Courtney is my stylist.

I never had to explain anything when I went to see her – I could use abstract keywords like, “Spikey metrosexual – professional, but still young and a bit edgy” and she would know exactly how to take care of me. While she worked, we would talk about music, relationships, life… After the cut, she would take me to the back and rinse the clippings from my hair, gently massaging my scalp with her long nails. She always did an excellent job with my hair, but lately I’ve been wondering what it would be like to try something new.

Last week I cheated on her.

It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with Courtney, it’s just that I wanted to see what else was out there – play the field, shake things up a bit. My infidelitious desires led me to book an appointment with a “Art Director” at Toni & Guy at the mall. I found it funny that the senior-level stylists were referred to as “Art Directors” – it was like having your deep-dish pepperoni with extra cheese brought to you by an “Italian Cuisine Transportation Engineer”. When I walked in the first thing that I noticed was the music – stale EuroTrance being ripped from a Shoutcast station in the UK. Courtney’s shop *always* has good music. New wave 80’s mixed with ambient dub. I told the receptionist (her real title was probably “Client Relations Greeter” or something equally as insipid) that I was here for my appointment with the “Art Director”. She took my name, glanced at her book, smacked her gum and said that it would be a few minutes. I looked around the place and wondered who would be cutting my hair. I hoped that it would not be the middle-aged guy with the Fabio hair. As I waited, I began to feel the first pangs of guilt. “What if Courtney sees me in here?”, I thought, “How would I explain myself?” Just then I was introduced to the person who would be responsible for a good portion of my appearance. She was a Vietnamese woman in her late 50’s with crayola-red streaks through her cookie-cutter mod hair. Before she even introduced herself she took one quick glance at me and said, “You hair good. Come – shampoo.” I was led to the back of the shop where she dunked my head under a stream of less than tepid water.
“You like Barton Springs?”, she asked, rapid-fire. “I go there on weekend. Some say it too cold but I like cold. Shock at first but I get used to it.”
Her hands did their best to redirect as much water as possible away from my head and directly into my ears. As I sat there, the only thing I could think was, “Courtney uses warm water and is MUCH more gentle.”

After the shampoo I was directed to the chair where she asked what kind of shampoo I usually use. I told her that I use the cheapest stuff I can find because a) I’m a straight male and b) I have short hair. She then launched into a sales pitch for the Bedhead (product line owned by Tigi, the parent company of Toni & Guy) shampoo and explained why I *must* use ONLY use THAT SHAMPOO and NO OTHER. I think that it might have involved the earth ceasing to rotate if I used a product which promoted waxy buildup around my follicles, but I tuned it out and instead thought about how Courtney would be telling me about her latest weekend adventures.

The Art Director asked how I’d like to have my hair cut. I explained to her that I wanted something short, easy to manage and something that helped me look young. She didn’t understand. I asked if she had seen MTV within the past year, she said that she did not own a TV because it was bad for your soul. I pointed to one of the patrons who was leaving and said, “Kinda like that”.
“Oh no,” she said, “Your hair too straight. I know – I give you good cut.”
While I may not be a barber, I do understand what clippers do and how to use them.
Apparently she did not. I mentioned that she could just use clippers (set to 2) to trim the sides but she refused and continued with her shears.
“I do this eight year”, she boasted. I wondered if giving your kid a bowl cut at the kitchen table can be counted as valid work experience.
She launched into a flurry of activity that I had never seen outside of cartoons. Her hands were everywhere at once, grabbing the blow-dryer to remove the hair clippings from my face, snipping a bit here, squirting leave-in conditioner into my eyes, brushing hair off of my neck, snipping some more, razing for texture, etc.
As she worked, she continued to attempt to sell me on the different products offered at the counter. “Courtney never tries to sell me crap”, I thought.
When the whole thing was over I realized that I had just spent an hour and forty-five minutes listening to bad music and sales pitches for over priced styling products to get a haircut that I could have gotten for FREE with a 4-yr commitment to the US Armed Forces. She whipped the apron off of my body and disappeared to the front of the shop.
Dazed, I stood up and brushed myself off. She met me at the counter with an armload of products. I politely explained that I had absolutely no need for ANY of the crap on the counter and simply wanted the bill so that I could get back to work. The total ended up being MUCH more than I had anticipated. I was told that I was being charged the standard rate for services rendered by an “Art Director”. Grudgingly, I pulled out my wallet and handed them my credit card. As tacky as it might seem, I did not tip because there is NO WAY that I will go back.

Getting a bad haircut from someone other than your regular stylist is like cheating on your significant other and getting Chlamydia. There is no way to hide your actions and you also have to deal with the humiliation for a few months. How will I explain this to Courtney the next time I see her? Will she still treat me the same way she did before? Will she continue to personally give me the post-cut rinse or will she shove me off on one of the shampoo girls?

The entire experience has left me older and wiser. I guess I never realized how much I appreciate having a good stylist who knows how to make me look good. That’s it – from now on, she’s the only one that will cut my hair.

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