The typical hair salon provides a unique relational dynamic. At a highlight or other color service, two women who may not be more than acquaintances may chat for hours like good friends. A massage is usually much quieter, while a manicurist or esthetician’s work is much shorter.
I recently had this type of experience with an entirely new hair stylist. When I walked in, her rainbow colored pixie cut and obvious number of tattoos set the stage for a very interesting conversation.
Her opening subject is location. She inquires where I live; I answer (5 minutes down the road) and toss the question back. It turns out she lives an hour away, so we discuss highways and rush hour traffic and proximity to the mountains.
After a minute there’s nothing left to say about location, so she moves on. “So, do you work?” Is it kind of a loaded question, coming from a woman who, um, does – or is that just me? “No,” I respond, almost apologetically, “I’m just home with the kids.” Yes, deliberately downplaying what I consider my God-given mission in life. “Hey, that IS work!” she responds kindly, and then tells me emphatically that she could never be a mother.
A moment later we get back to the subject of my life. “How many kids do you have?” “Four…” I answer, resigning myself to the fact that the divide between myself and the hair stylist continues to grow. “Ah,” she replies, in a tone which reveals she has labeled me as a crazy member of the quiverfull movement. This assumption is proven by her next question, “Have you ever thought of homeschooling?” asked with a generous hint of sarcasm. “I… have thought about it!” I say uncomfortably, knowing this will only lead to the revelation that she wasn’t homeschooled, she could never homeschool, that maybe she has a (weird) friend that homeschools. Sure enough.
To fill the ensuing silence, I make a cheerful comment about the salon’s playlist. Since we’ve already established that I live in a cave, I point out that it’s difficult to stay on top of current music while living with small children. “I bet you hear a LOT of Frozen!” she laughs. I laugh along. I’ve never seen Frozen and neither have my children, but this is too shocking to admit. Let’s pretend we’re normal people, just for a few minutes.
I mention what a nice break it is to have an evening out. “Did you make dinner before you came?” she asks. Caught off guard, I have to admit that I did in fact make dinner for my family before heading to a 6pm hair appointment. I can’t think of a way to make that sound more relatable, so I come across, unfortunately, as far too superior. In a surprising twist, it turns out that my stylist doesn’t enjoy cooking. Odd, since so many working women do. She is a big fan of easy (fast) food options and recommends several for my future enjoyment.
And that’s where conversation disintegrates. My stylist, obviously an intelligent woman, can see that there is just nothing else to talk about. She is clearly a single, childless woman in her early 40’s (late 30’s?) who works a full time job and lives in Gastonia. She’s kind of a rebel. She enjoys fast food and shopping at Walmart. In other words, we basically live on different planets.
Toward the end of my appointment, I compliment her hair cutting skills. Can’t go wrong with a compliment! We chat for a few minutes about hair care. This seems to be a safe subject. We find out that the rainbow pixie cut is a very tame look for this stylist. And on that note, I pay her and escape to my own home, where I live comfortably with my right-wing traditionalist beliefs.