I worked as a stylist for 10 years before becoming a stay-at-home mom. In those 10 years, I cut, colored, highlighted, permed, straightened and styled my way through many appointments. In some ways, I wish I could say that I worked at a really fun, modern and hip salon in the heart of a big city. On the other hand, the crazy stories and experiences I have from the little home town salon make it so worth while. Sure, there were days when I wanted to scream from boredom. From old lady bouffants and perms to “take a half inch off and make it look TOTALLY different but don’t change a thing,” I wanted to cry and would wonder if I made a terrible mistake going into this field.
The first time I was ever completely offended at the salon, it was actually from a fellow stylist and not a client! I had been working there a week and this coworker threw her arm around me and uttered under her vodka-ridden breath, “This is a cutthroat business and I don’t think you have it in you. You’re very nice but you don’t have what it takes.” I was appalled. Embarrassed. Completely humiliated since she said this in front of her clients who were listening intently. I ultimately had the last laugh because at the end of my first week, I had more clients and made more money than this woman who had been doing this for 20 years and who thought I didn’t have it in me!
I am a very bubbly, smiley, artistic and happy person so being a hairstylist came very naturally to me. That being said, I sometimes gained the clients that others would cringe at. I would give those clients a chance because everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt. Looking back, I realize I may have been a little young and naive at times!!
In all those years and all those clients I will never forget Louise (names have been changed to protect client’s true identity however I decided on another old lady name to keep with the style of the salon!) Most stylists would groan when Louise entered the salon due to her… eccentricities. I was not much of a fan but when you’re starting out and have to work hard to make a paycheck, beggars can’t be choosers! She would come in once a week just to have her hair shampooed and I would charge her a whopping $3 for this service. I think she was lonely and liked having human interaction. At the same time, she always told the truth. ALWAYS. Most days I would ask how she was and her reply would be, “terrible!” On one particular occasion, I had noticed that she hadn’t been in to see me in a few weeks. Being the concerned and a very young 21 year old that I was, I asked, “Louise, I haven’t seen you in a while! Whats going on? Do you have a new boyfriend I don’t know about?!” I liked joking around with the older ladies because the were so fun when you got to know them and they would usually play along! I should not have joked with this particular truth-teller because I got just what I asked for. Her response was as follows, “Well, you know I have been in the hospital…my colon fell out of my vagina.” Yes, you read this right. There was no uttering it under her breath or trying to quiet her voice, she called it out plain as day! I had no idea what to do. She then went on to explaining her donut she was sitting on and I tried to block out the rest of our conversation. I only had to sit through about 15 minutes of this but I can tell you, it was less than ideal!
Being a little older and a little wiser, I am more familiar with some of the things that happen as you get older. As a 21 year old, I didn’t know what to do! Once again, I was totally embarrassed but luckily, my boss set me straight. She is a wise lady and to this day, I still look up to her. She told me, “Not everyone has the great family and friend support system they once had. Sometimes, they have to tell their secrets and not-so-nice things to their stylist because no one else is there to listen.” From that point on, I was more proud to work there. I was happier helping some of the clients I would have previously rolled my eyes and begrudgingly said, “ok, I guess I will do that.”
There is a part of me that is sad that I was ever not a compassionate person. I now know I had a lot to learn but I feel like I am a better person because I worked there. In the weeks to come, I will share other great stories I heard or experienced over that decade and hopefully, give you more insight on what it is like to be a stylist in such a cute, small town!