Saturday, February 11, 2017

Saturday Stories 2017--A Real Haircut

I had another story planned in my head, but this memory came flooding back to me as I left the salon after my haircut today.

My Grandma Olsen was a beautician. Not a stylist, not a colorist, not a cosmetologist--a country girl who grew up on the lip of Bryce Canyon in southern Utah who escaped to the big city (Salt Lake City) to become a beautician in the 1930s. Think pincurls and short hair and helmet hair dryers. She was a true beauty expert.

We lived over 200 miles north of my grandparents, and when we would visit (either us down there or them up to us in Idaho), Mom would perm Grandma's hair or Grandma would perm Mom. Sometimes, we girls got in the lineup as well for stinky Lilt home treatments and pink perm rods. I never had professional haircuts as a kid, because my mom learned how to cut bangs and trim ends and give frizzy perms from her mom, and that was enough for me for the first thirteen years of my life.

Then I hit junior high.

It was the era of Levis 501s, Sperry Topsiders, Izod Lacoste polos, popped collars--and the mullet. I wanted that bi-level haircut almost as much as I obsessed over an unattainable pair of topsiders, but Mom didn't have the experience to do it. When my grandma came to visit, I asked her if she could cut my hair like that, having that perfect childlike faith that she could do anything. She was a beautician. If I remember right, she was a bit hesitant, but she pulled out her old hair scissors, wrapped a towel around my neck, and started cutting. I trusted her completely, never looking in a mirror as the long shocks of hair hit the floor. I knew this cut would be the cut of my dreams--the one I saw on all the cool girls at school who could feather it just right and who had tons of friends.

I knew she must be almost done when the snips became more precise and the hairs leaving my head got shorter and less frequent. I got excited to see it, but something was wrong. Grandma had doubt on her face and in her voice. "Jenny girl, I don't know if this is what you wanted or not." Her tone worried me, and as I shook out the hairy towel before walking to the bathroom for my first look at 80s feathered perfection, I worried if this cut would be "it."

It wasn't "it."

I looked in the mirror, and the sob started before the tears fell. I was heartbroken. Not only was my hair gone, but it was awful. "I look like a BOY!" I shouted, with no filter to shelter my precious grandma's feelings.

I walked out of the bathroom to the kitchen where Mom and Grandma were standing in shocked silence. I was too young to soften my words, but it was too late for that anyway, since they'd heard my outburst in the bathroom just down the hall. My grandma looked first at me, then at my mom, and then she uttered words I'd never heard spoken in my house.

"Let's take her down to a shop and get it fixed." I never knew if I hurt my grandma's feelings that day, but looking back on it now, I know how much she loved me and how sad she must have been that she couldn't cut my hair the way I wanted.

I don't remember if we walked into the hair salon in Blue Lakes Shopping Mall with or without an appointment, but I do remember the unfamiliar chair that could go up or down and the strange plastic cape around my neck. Minutes later, I looked in the mirror.

It was fixed.

It was almost what I'd envisioned.

It was my first real haircut.

It was a mullet.

It was 1983.

I was fourteen.

No comments:

Post a Comment