Tag Archives: hair cut

Overheard – and Understood: “Syria” at the Hair Salon


I always enjoy going to get my hair cut – but likely not for the reasons you may think.

Although I adore my fabulous hairstylist and champion colorist, Katie (who is guiding me through the just-started process of letting my for-years-dyed-brown hair go “natural” – a story for another blog post – although if you see me on the street and notice my blindingly obvious rapidly-growing-in white/gray roots, do feel free NOT to comment) –

Wait, where was I?

Ah, yes, I was talking about one of the reasons I like going to the hair salon.

Because of the excellent eavesdropping opportunities!!

NOTE to the wise: I have very good hearing – and if you are sitting next to me at a restaurant, on a plane or at the hair salon – I will be able to listen to your conversation. Apologies in advance.

There are often some wonderful tidbits of life to be over-heard.  That perhaps will make their way into this blog in a slightly-disguised fashion – or into a piece of fiction that I write (this fall I am taking a graduate school class on “Techniques of Fiction”).

Yesterday at the hair salon a woman came to sit in the next chair who looked familiar. I glanced her way several times and realized that yes, she was the wife of a lawyer with whom I once worked. Or more accurately, for whom I once worked. Because I knew her –  although I’m pretty sure she had no idea who I was – I tried my hardest NOT to over-hear her conversation with her stylist.

I failed.

I learned (not to my surprise) that Lawyer Wife (a) is still happily married, (b) travels to nice places (c) has adult kids doing well and (d) has grandchildren.

Lawyer Wife wasn’t bragging or being snobby about her contented-sounding-life. You probably also know people who, from the outside anyway, seem to have fewer problems than the rest of us.

After Lawyer Wife’s hair was finished, she left the salon. I was not yet done because trying to go from having dyed hair to letting the white/gray grow in is a more arduous process than I had realized. Involving significant use of those crispily-irritating, little silver foil squares to highlight the few non-white/gray strands that are left to make the quickly multiplying white/gray strands less noticeable. If you have questions about this process, let me refer you to Katie.

The woman who followed Lawyer Wife into the chair next to me, let’s call her Attractive Middle-Age-Woman – started to tell a story to her stylist about one of her adult kids, or maybe it was about a niece or nephew. Sadly, I couldn’t quite hear every word of Attractive Middle-Age Woman because as she began to talk, my own hair was being blow dried, which hindered my ability to eavesdrop.

(I did briefly think of asking Katie to put her blow-drying of my hair on pause so I could better follow the interesting conversation of Attractive Middle-Age Woman, but decided not to do so, knowing that Katie, quite the stickler for salon etiquette, would not be amused by my request. And I like to keep Katie amused.)

From what I could hear above the noise of the loud blow-dryer:

The adult child that Attractive Middle-Age Woman was discussing had “issues” – he or she was troubled,  a source of distress to her family.  Another member of the family kept asking questions of Attractive Middle-Age Woman about the troubled adult child which her mother was reluctant to answer. This member of the family was rather persistent, she kept “probing for pain” (as a psychologist I once heard at a lecture describe it.) Finally the mother of the troubled adult child told the other family member to stop asking questions, explaining something like this:

She’s like Syria, get it? A messy situation of long-standing. Lots of conflicts, brief flare-ups of peace, but mostly ups and downs. Too many factions involved trying to figure it out who don’t have effective solutions. And it continues on and on.  Painful. Sometimes I don’t want to be asked or talk about it. It’s hard enough to have to live through the situation without being asked questions that have no good answers.”

At this point, Katie had stopped blow-drying my hair and was applying the finishing touches, whirling me around in my chair so I could admire her lovely results. I had no choice but to pay the bill and leave the salon so did not get to hear the finale of the Attractive Middle-Age Woman’s conversation.

But wow, how I identified with her analogy of her adult child’s situation to a constantly war-torn nation.

There are times when I do feel like talking about the young-ish adult in our family who causes us major concerns, and other times when I get angry if family and friends do not ask questions – and do not offer to help — but there are also many, many times when I don’t want to answer any questions!  Similar to the ongoing conflict in Syria, a trickily difficult situation with no clear solutions.

My Message to Attractive Middle-Age Woman:

———if it seemed like I was eavesdropping, yes, I confess I was. But particularly because what you were talking about resonated with me. I so get your analogy to Syria. And likely others do too. It is hard enough to have to “live through it” without having to answer questions.

That is one of the reasons it is so soothing to escape to the hair salon. To have your head ministered to by hair wizards like Katie. To try to forget all about your Syria while your hair is being washed and your head massaged. To admire the results and have people tell you as you are leaving how good your hair looks.

A brief and welcome respite.

Which is (one of the reasons) why I like going to the hair salon.







Filed under Adult Kids, Communications, Law firm life, Lawyers, Mental Health, Parenting, Talking, Women, Writing, Young Adult Mental Health

Why I am not a Blonde, with Bangs, nor look like Meg Ryan

hairstylist_cutting_bangsI am a truth-teller.

So I like it when people tell me the truth.

Except for my hair stylist, Katie. I have created a special exemption to the truth-telling rule just for her.

Katie does a terrific job with my hair. She also thinks I am funny. She asked that I not tell her my stories while she has her scissors in hand because I make her laugh too much. How great is that?

But even better is that Katie understands that the unvarnished truth for a female client in her early 60’s may not always be the best way to go. Tactful but direct, that is Katie.

She handles my FAQ’s with ease.

1. “Should I get bangs?”

I ask Katie this same question on nearly every visit. I am pretty much obsessed with my forehead. When I look in the mirror my wide forehead beams back at me with over-sized prominence. Approximately 5 minutes of every appointment are taken up with a discussion of what to do to minimize my forehead. With me often suggesting that soft, feathery, to-the-side bangs would be just the ticket.

Katie disagrees.

Last year when Michelle Obama made national hair news with her new wispy bangs, I took to pestering Katie even more than usual about getting bangs cut.

She looked at me in the mirror and said kindly, but firmly:

“Nancy, I want you to like me. You will not like me if I cut bangs for you.”

Even though I very much want Katie to like me (and after all, Michelle Obama did ditch her bangs after a few months), I can’t get off the subject of my forehead.

So I keep asking for bangs. On a recent visit the ever-patient Katie showed me her hand – then spread her fingers across my forehead.

“See, Nancy, I am measuring your forehead. It is about 3 1/2 fingers wide. If you had a 4 finger wide forehead, I’d consider bangs. If you had a 5 finger wide forehead, we’d definitely do bangs. You are only 3 1/2 fingers wide.”

Scientific evidence.  No bangs for now.

2. “How will I look if I stop coloring my gray hair?”

I have been coloring my hair since my 40’s, maybe even since my 30’s. I got my first gray hairs in law school. (go figure!)  Coloring my hair back to its earlier brunette incarnation has been a constant.

Now that I no longer have to show up at the law office every day, maybe the time has come to let Mother Nature do her thing.

How would I look with all gray hair?

This is a slightly tricky question which Katie gracefully evades by pointing out that my natural hair color is by now actually all white, not gray.

Lovely!  I am not only getting older but now I have white hair, not gray.

Then I think,  maybe I could be a blonde?

How far is white from yellow on the color wheel anyway?

I could be a blonde! My husband will be thrilled.

Before I get too excited, Katie looks at me in the mirror and tells me that blonde is not going to happen.

I am going to stick with brunette for awhile longer.

3. “Will you cut my hair short in the summer?”

Every summer I look with jealousy at women with cropped hair. It looks so modern and fresh. The wash-and-go look has never worked well for me. Perhaps if I cut it all off, I can join the hip crowd that is liberated from the electronic tether to their blow-dryers.

Katie side-steps this question as well. She points across the street, where a very popular place called “DryBar” recently opened up.  Blow-outs only, no hair cuts. And free champagne!

Women pay $40 just to get their hair blow-dried in a number of styles including the “Straight Up”, the “Manhattan” and the “Cosmo”.

My hair is stick straight, I grew up about an hour from Manhattan and I once drank a Cosmo.

So I will stick with Katie’s subtle hint that I not go back to the pixie cut I loved as an 8 year old.

4. “Can you make me look like Meg Ryan?”

Ever since I saw “When Harry Met Sally”, “You’ve got Mail” and “Sleepless in Seattle” (movies I admit I could recite line by line, so many times have I seen them),  I have wanted to have my hair cut to look like Meg Ryan’s.

Tousled, shaggy, seemingly effortless. It was an iconic look.

One that my straight, fine hair was never going to emulate.

But I am nothing if not persistent.

“Katie, can you just cut a few layers, wave it a bit and see if I come out looking like Meg Ryan? C’mon, let’s try. How awful can it look? I just want to try it once.”

Katie, who has heard many, many clients before me tell her they want their hair to look just like a celebrity’s hair, avoids this question entirely.

Instead she changes the subject. “What are you reading in your book club, Nancy?”

Point scored for Katie.

5. “Do eyebrows eventually turn gray (or white!)?”

After I see Katie, I venture to the back of the salon to see the young woman who does my – let’s call it, “facial” waxing. Soft-spoken Sherry casually mentions that a single eyebrow hair is completely white. I had noticed this myself but had been avoiding its significance. Instead of plucking it out, she suggests that she can tint it darker. O.K., by me, you’re the expert.

Then, wait , it occurs to me that this could be a glimpse into my eyebrow future.

“Sherry, when women get older, do their eyebrows also turn totally gray – 0r in my case, white?”

“Not always” she says politely.

“Is that the truth?” I ask, seeing her try not to smile.

Sherry laughs, “No, it’s not. Do you want the kind answer or the true answer?”

“The latter, please.”

“Your eyebrows will eventually turn the same color as your hair.”

Yay, something else to look forward to! White eyebrows to match my hair.


Photos of my latest hair cut are available upon request-























Filed under Baby Boomers, Book Club, Books, Husbands, Midlife, Women