ON A SCALE THAT MEASURES CATASTROPHES, losing a lover is a 9.5; losing a stylist is 10 million to the infinite power.
My stylist Chelsea and I had been together for more than two decades and I imagined we’d always be together, well into my blue rinse days. My will even had a provision that said, “In the event of my death, before calling the coroner, make an appointment with Chelsea to do my hair. She books up quickly.”
Then one day, Chelsea made a fateful announcement: She was moving away and wouldn’t be able to do my hair anymore.
Our entire history flashed through my mind. How Chelsea benevolently took me on after my tragic run-in with a bottle of Sun-In. How we survived the bangs crisis of 2005 when she gently reminded me that chardonnay and scissors don’t mix. But our relationship went far beyond hair. We’d shared 25 years of life events with each other. How would I survive without her?
The first few months after she left, I was in a deep state of mourning. I decided if Chelsea couldn’t do my hair, I wouldn’t get it done. Instead I’d have flowing, free-range hair like Venus emerging from the sea shell. But then, six months after Chelsea abandoned me, a child in the grocery store pointed at me and said, “Look, Mama. It’s Cousin It.”
Still I wasn’t ready to replace Chelsea. Instead I engaged in a series of tawdry encounters with anonymous stylists who worked in quickie, walk-in hair salons. Instead of “wham, bam, thank-you, ma’am,” it was “mow, blow and off you go.”
But quickie haircutting salons don’t do color and my roots had gotten so dark it looked like I’d poured a can of brown paint on my head. Feeling desperate, I went to the drug store. I could almost hear Chelsea’s frantic voice, saying, “Step away from the box,” but I blundered on, grabbing a box of Champagne Blonde do-it-yourself color.
Long story short, after months of cheap haircuts and box color, it looked as if a very ugly bird had decided to build a nest on my head. Finally I couldn’t take it anymore. I stumbled into a real salon and one of the stylists gasped, “What monster did this to you?”
Tearfully I told her my sad little tale. Her eyes grew large with sympathy and she said, “As God as my witness, I will fix your hair.”
Her name was Tammy and she restored my dignity and also made me look human again. When she was done, she met me at the reception desk and asked hopefully, “Would you like to book another appointment in a month?” I almost said, “It’s too soon for that kind of commitment.” But then I remembered her kindness in my darkest hour, not to mention my darkest roots.
“Yes,” I said. “But make it two months. We need to take this slow.”
Karin Gillespie hopes to bond with her new stylist, but she will never forget Chelsea. Visit her at karingillespie.net
This article appears in the February-March 2016 issue of Augusta Magazine.