An open letter to my hairstylist

kitten before Dear Tonya,

I’m just checking in to make sure you’re OK after yesterday.

Not that I think anything untoward happened. After all, we exchanged only pleasantries. I may have communicated firmly, but I know I did so kindly.

It’s just that, as you said, I seem to do a very good job of “pushing you out of your comfort zone,” and so I wanted to make sure that you weren’t too rattled after my second visit to the salon in five days. I mean, you did say to come back if any aspect of the cut wasn’t working for me, and so I did that thing that I am historically so bad at doing with hairstylists and asserted myself.

The cut was good, Tonya, it’s just that, well, I have a shitload of hair. I have, conservatively, about three normal people’s worth of hair. And it is thick, and it is curly, and it does what it wants. And it needs much product as well as a strong and drastic hand in order to be tamed. And you, Tonya, are going to have to be this strong and drastic hand. Even if it does push you out of your comfort zone and cause you to say things like, “Well, you’re definitely the most… different… and… determined client I have.”

It’s OK, Tonya. I can take it. I mean, you’re not the first hairstylist I’ve made uncomfortable. The first 20 years of my life were essentially a quest to find someone who could figure out what to do with my hair. Sure, I had unrealistic expectations. As a kid, I wanted hair like Barbie’s: long, blond, straight. If not Barbie, then I would have happily settled for Cindy Brady hair: those two pigtails in their perfect ringlets. In the early 1980s, I wanted hair that would feather. I was a young Jewish girl who longed for WASP hair, and it wasn’t happening. For a while, I had a good thing going with Al, who wore leather pants and worked out of a salon in Richmond, British Columbia. He managed to coax something like style from my masses of frizz, but then he died of a heroin overdose and I was back to square one. For a while, during the late 1980s and early 90s, when big hair was in, I managed to work out a trick involving a whole lot of styling mousse and a bandanna. By the mid-1990s, I spent hours of my life I’ll never get back flat-ironing my hair into submission and avoiding rain and swimming pools at all costs.

And then, I met Jimi. Jimi, at Coupe Bizarre on Queen Street West in Toronto. Jimi, who had hair EXACTLY like mine. Jimi, who never once used thinning shears — the bane of my existence — but instead sliced away at my hair with a straight razor, carving out great swathes of it. Jimi, who cut out channels of hair directly at the scalp, defying everything anyone else had ever told me about hair in order to thin mine out, make it manageable. Jimi, who cut my hair dry. Jimi, whose cuts lasted a good two months. When he was done with me, he was up to his ankles in hair. “It looks like kittens!” he once said at the end of a cut.

And then I moved up here, to Thunder Bay. Where there was no Jimi. Fortunately, I returned to Toronto often, visits that were planned with a trip to Coupe Bizarre in mind. But, sometimes I needed a haircut here, and as time wore on, I visited Toronto less often, and so the quest to find someone to whack away mercilessly at my tresses with a straight razor, to carve out channels into my scalp, began.

Tonya, you’re at least the sixth person in town I’ve been to. Everyone says that they can thin out my hair, and everyone pulls out some thinning shears and hacks away at it for a while. And I look down at the ground, and there are no kittens there. And I feel the weight of my hair against my scalp, and I know that they haven’t done what I want them to do. And it irks me, Tonya. It really irks me.

And then I met you. And you were game. Reluctant, but game. And you timidly carved a few tiny channels and my scalp. And I pushed you to do a couple more, and you did, and I felt that perhaps I had pushed you far enough for one day. And then, during the next visit, you did a bit more, but still not enough. And then you blow-dried my hair and that made it poof out. I’m sorry that I got cranky when that happened, but I had told you that I didn’t want you to blow-dry my hair because it would poof out, and also I had to pick up my children. And then I came back for another cut on Friday, and I pushed as hard as I could push before stepping out of my own comfort zone, but still, at the end the haircut there was too much hair on my head and not enough on the floor and so I pulled it together and made a follow-up appointment. And I vowed that I would not leave the chair until you had cut channels into my head a centimetre apart all the way around. I wasn’t leaving until there were kittens.

KITTENS, Tonya!

And you did. It went against everything you have ever learned in hair school, but you did it for me.

So, yes. I am determined. I am perhaps even different. And thank you for not saying it, but if you think I’m difficult, so be it. You’re stuck with me, and I sincerely hope that you are not fond of heroin, because we are going to make this WORK.

Love,

Susan

kitten after