Something happened to my hair yesterday. It wasn’t good.
And, it happened on one of those days that I had to, not only leave the house but, see another person who fully intended to see me back. To make matters worse, we’d never met before which meant that I had to seem as close to a functioning/productive human being as possible.
I knew the other person would have certain phonological expectations of me. There was no reason for her to suspect that I wouldn’t move my mouth in such a way as to allow sounds to escape which would coalesce into words and string together to form complete sentences, maybe even coherent, fully-realized ideas (perfumed with a hint of forethought).
I eventually managed to do that once or twice, even with the hair situation, albethey run-on sentences and tangential thoughts which contained, at times, too much personal information that I have never shared with another soul. As I heard one confidence after another float into the conversation cloud hanging over the Ethiopian restaurant at the Pizitz Food Hall, my inner voice which still has some sense of dignity and hope for a brighter future kept saying, “I’m begging you, Amy – rip your lips off your face before you say anything else.”
But, it was too late.
Anyway, the hair emergency began earlier that morning when I sat in front of my laptop and turned on the webcam. I plugged in the heating-up, wand magic thing that I use when I want to look my very best to go to Wal-Mart or Publix and, operating my webcam as a makeshift mirror, I raised this wand to my head to start the long process of taming my hair. But I was caught, like the proverbial deer-in-headlights, when I accidentally got a good look at myself.
I see myself often enough but I try not to look. Look with a capital ‘L’. But I did in that instant and what I found disturbed me.
How long had it been since I’d washed my hair?
I put the wand thing down and thought.
After a while, I came up with a number. I’m not going to reveal the exact length of time. I feel that’s not particularly relevant at this juncture. (Cough, cough.) Let’s just say that it had been so long I thought, “I’m surprised the Health Department hasn’t threatened to shut me down; and, I can’t possibly meet this person without getting my head scrubbed by a professional.”
So, that was the plan: leave the house early enough to find a walk-in salon where I could get my hair washed, blow dried, styled – so that I wouldn’t look like a dandelion – and then go to my meeting.
It didn’t happen like that.
Imagine walking into a seemingly unremarkable beauty salon and asking, “Do you do coiffure reduction and follicle scarification?”
A Young Thing with suede brown eyes and dip-dyed split ends replies, “Don’t be stupid. Of course, we do.”
“Very well then,” you answer, as the beautimortician begins salivating and sharpening two antique fish knives.
You continue, “Cut it, fray it, thin it so that it’s REALLY easy for me to put on a wig.”
Young Thing takes a step back, a tinge of almost-respect pulls at the corners of her buttercup mouth. “You want the No Wig Cap? Are you sure?”
You nod… and somewhere in the back of the salon somebody whistles that famous western whistle from the Clint Eastwood movie, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly…“I’m sure.”
Then she comes at you with a freshly sharpened fish knife in one hand and a weed eater in the other and something ensues not wholly unrelated to shaving an Alaskan Musk Ox.
None of that actually happened.
It happened according to plan except, when she got it dried and straightened she said, “Do you want me to nip the ends?”
I looked at the ends and then I looked at Young Thing’s snarled lip. “Sure,” I said. “But only nip the ends. Okay? I’ve got a thing I’ve got to do today and I’m not feeling particularly adventurous. So, only a little bit off.”
“Yeah. I’ll just nip the ends.”
And she actually said it in a very impatient way, the same impatient way I used to talk to my mother when I was a teenager and she asked me questions like, ”Are you going to put ketchup on that?” as I stood there with a bottle of ketchup poised a half an inch above whatever food product I was about… to… put… ketchup… on… “Wait for it, you’ll see! Let the world unfold before you in a spectacle of wonderment, mother!”
So, anyway, somebody please get me a fucking dictionary. By definition does ‘nip the ends’ mean butcher this woman’s hair into some monstrous conglomeration of a fringe and a mullet; something that not even the Partridge Family would have wanted forty-seven years ago?
When Young Thing turned me around in the swivelly chair and and I got a good Look, capital ‘L,’ I didn’t say a word and neither did she. She took the cape from around my neck. We walked in silence to the front where she punched at the cash register for a moment and a surprisingly high number appeared on display. I swiped my debit card and left her a $10 tip when it flashed the question: do you want to add a tip to this purchase?
We parted without ceremony.
I went to the car, drove downtown, parked, and walked to the Pizitz Food Hall, found a seat in the restaurant where I waited for about fifteen minutes, drinking a Dr. Pepper.
The person I was meeting eventually emailed to let me know that she was standing just outside the door.
She described herself as, “In a pink dress.”
I ran my fingers through my hair one last time and went to greet her.
Once we were inside, seated, making first introductions, ordering, etc… I noticed that she was easily the most beautiful woman in the room, no doubt the smartest. She was confident, at ease, personable.
I heard a voice inside my head say, “Stop looking directly at her mouth. Stop squirming in your seat. Put your knees together.” And then, “How often do you think she washes her hair?”