Hairdressers are expert conversationalists — set yourself down in that chair of theirs, the second they've got the backwards Batman cape on you, the questions start: your work, your love life, your travel plans, your grandmother's tomato aspic recipe — it's all fair game.

I suspect part of the training involved in becoming a hairdresser has zero to do with coiffures. Like the best bartenders, the folks that make yer 'do look swell can be paragons of chitchat, endlessly interested or spectacularly good at faking it.

I'm utter shite at chatting with strangers though (mom refused to let me practice when I was young) and the anxiety I get sitting in the chair, talking about redecorating the living room may have something to do with why I've been cutting my own hair for the past four years.

Jeanine Fritz
Jeanine Fritz

That, plus laziness and just a whisper of self-delusion.

I've been thinking if I cut my hair often enough, just like anyone learning a new thing, I'll eventually get better. But my home haircuts look just as bad now as they did when I was 5. Being spanked and sent to time out did nothing to improve my skill, nor has being mocked at work for bangs that come to a point. "You look like freakin' Legolas."

Last week, I decided to tap out and have a trained professional fix the hot mess that was my hair.


She was endlessly kind. With each tentative stroke of the comb during the "what the hell are we working with here" portion of the visit, her astonishment grew, and her voice lowered. By the time she was done, she was practically speaking in a whisper. Brushed straight, my hair looked like a bale of straw had been dumped on my head. There was a 4-inch difference in the length in some spots, and thanks for wondering, but no I hadn't attempted to cut layers.

She'd tried to have the conversation with me: what profession was I in, what were my plans for the evening, but there was no way she could pay attention to the answers when so much work lay before her.

"Do you want me to put some layers in? Er, what shall we do with these bangs of yours? Do you think maybe we could use a little detangler here?"

I called a duck a duck.

"On your worst day, there'd be no way to fuck this up, given where you've started from — knock yerself out, missy."

Three hours later — yes, the time it'd take to watch two standard Hollywood films — and my hair was even and uniformly colored. (Yeah I was coloring it myself too.) And while again I was reminded of the genteel nature of the hairdresser, I vowed not to return for a good, long while. I can't sit still that long.

She's gotten herself a solid story though; she can be Ahab and my hair can be the white whale.