The magazines on our salon’s retro coffee table blaze with colorful airbrushed images of the latest, lushest hair trends. Fall Color, Bridal Updos, the latest Pixie style worn by Hollywood starlets…and I love it. The thoughtfully selected, hip-yet-relaxing tunes hum in my ears as I introduce myself to my new client. We stroll toward my chair, and I’m mentally running through the current condition, texture, chemical processes…the possibilities for her long hair, chattering as always: “So how did you hear about us, Meredith (not her real name)? Are you from Fresno? What are you wanting for your hair today? Are you doing something special after this…?” STOP.
Meredith’s reply was a reality check: “Yeah…I’m going to a funeral. A double funeral.”
One of my favorite guest speakers when I was a cosmetology student was a middle-aged stylist. He didn’t dance onto the stage with trendy shades and record the action for his afternoon Instagram post. No banners and not a lot of branding. But I will never forget the words he spoke:
“Being a hairdresser is a privilege; never take this for granted. People trust you. Complete strangers let you TOUCH THEM. Their hair, even their faces. This is as close as you can get to someone without being a physician. And these people will lean on you to make them look and feel beautiful through every important life stage. Weddings. Children. Birthdays. Anniversaries. Graduations. Illnesses…Deaths.”
Today, the weight of these words settled a little deeper than the first time I heard them. I found myself quieting down, relaxing my smile, speaking less and with a tone I hoped would convey that this was her time to unwind and go numb if she needed to. I asked a few questions but mostly I silently studied this woman in shock and grief. I FELT this privilege. Touching her hair. Massaging, rinsing, brushing, elevating, snipping, drying and curling…nothing I could do in an hour would lessen her grief. Nothing could ease the huge decisions looming over her. Nothing could make a difference. Nothing could make her ‘feel beautiful’ today and I knew it.
She smiled a bit wearily but with appreciation and a thank-you; we shook hands and parted ways. Her family had preparations to attend to. Funeral clothes and meals and the viewing. And I had thoughts to think. I fell naturally into my re-organizing routine.
The music played on. Colors flashed; in fact I didn’t even hear the words of our receptionist at first: “New Guest”: Meredith’s daughter. Maybe I did make a difference…