On The Fringe


My First Time.
December 4, 2009, 7:50 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Chapter 4

A year had gone by.  It was time to put my fingers into my own personality of hairdressing.   I had watched all of the best; it was now up to me to make my hands do what the other hairdressers did so effortlessly.  I had my own station…and would soon have my first client. The loud speaker called me to the reception desk to greet my first paying patron.

“Susan, would you come to the front of the salon please.”

Oh shit.  Here I go.  My first client in this salon with all of these seasoned hairdressers around me who are going to watch me deliver or choke. I have so much to remember.  I introduced myself with a big smile, making her feel as comfortable as possible, a disguise my mother taught me when I was a youngster, moving from city to city. Hide your freezing fear no matter how terrified you may be.  I would be cutting this woman’s hair for money ,and this was going to be great if my hands could remember what was inside my head.  I could pull this off; I was the great pretender. It was easy to look like I knew what I was doing. I began to go to work, trying to create some interesting conversation while concentrating on the hair cutting system, and my mind did what it always does when I panic – forget everything I know.

Right before a test I would memorize all of the answers and then – bam!  It was as if my brain was a toilet and someone gave it a good flush.  I was fumbling around on her head – lost and swept into an unfathomable situation. I was a feeling as if I was in front of the chalkboard in grade school, not knowing  the answer and  praying for the light to go off in my head. Hoping she was unable to see the perspiration developing under my arms and on the top of my lip, I turned the chair away from the mirror. Where were Stefan’s fingers I had so diligently watched over and over?  I realized I had no picture in my head of the end result and a catastrophe was about to take place. The system. The system? My thoughts w ere spinning out of control and I was lost in my first haircut! All of my insecurities moved across my face flashing like a neon light: failure, stupidity, embarrassment.  I continued cutting. A chunk came and fell to the floor while I moved to the other side of her head and lopped off a hunk by her ear.  I thought  maybe it should be one length.  No…I’ ll give her a bang.  I fumbled to the front then to the back, back to the front , maybe the top should be shorter?  How could this be happening to me? My eyes began to fill with tears that were ready to spill onto her hair.  I retreated.  I walked over to Dee, a fellow hairdresser with a lot of experience.  I begged her to go back and fix this poor girl’s hair.  It was sticking out in places that hair should never stick out.  Remember, this was the 70s. Punk hair wasn’t invented  until the early 80’s. Meg Ryan was still in diapers.

“Dee, please help me”, I begged. “I have ruined an unsuspecting young girl’s hair, I’ll never be able to fix this mess.”

She looked at me with a sternness in her eyes and said, “ Go back out there and finish cutting her hair and then curl it with a curling iron and tell her she looks great .”  She wasn’t going to save me? Some friend she turned out to be, I thought. I would have walked out that night and never came back. Instead, I did what she told me to do. I sauntered  back to the chair,  wiping a few remaining  tears on my sleeve. I followed  Dee’s  instructions, curling her hair  and snipping the sticking out pieces  that refused to lie down.   She inspected it with a hand held mirror, not even noticing the overly-layered mess, and smiled approvingly. I couldn’t believe she wasn’t going to march to the manager and complain to have me fired!

Six weeks later she was back…requesting me to cut her hair. This was the moment I realized that it wasn’t all about the talent – it was about the way I treated her. This was a huge lesson for me – a “light bulb” moment as Oprah would say, a lesson that taught me to abandon the fear I carried of not being good enough, and understanding that I  was going to have to develop a lot of patience.  That was also a first, learning to be patient…with myself.



“Won’t you be my neighbor?”
December 1, 2009, 6:44 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

As I have said, my clientele is a very eclectic group of artists, academics, and crazy people. In which order…I am not sure. My salon is very close to the local public radio station’s studios and offices. At one point my salon served all of Mr. Rogers staff, the famous public television show we all grew up with in the sixties and seventies, Mister Rogers neighborhood. One brilliant art director for the show who visits my salon is named kathy. Her hair is similar to my Aunt Betty’s. When I first cut her hair and suggested a shampoo called pure abundance, she was willing and able to maximize any kind of body she could get.  I explained to her that there was clay in the shampoo to make the hair follicle feel thicker. Her response was,

“Are you sure I couldn’t just dip my head into one of the litter boxes at home?”

Kathy loves cats. The last time she counted she had close to 20. I visited her home once. As I sat down in her kitchen she asked me if I preferred wet or dry food. You would have to see the refuge cat camp to believe it. Everyone knew she had the heart to save any abandoned cat in the city. And she took them all — the mother Theresa of city cats.  Kathy always said I was able to make her hair look French and that I was able to work with “her lifeless hairs better than any hairdresser she had ever worked with”. Kathy is one of the most creative women I know. She was always looking for help with the props on Fred’s set – she had the demanding job of setting the stage for the taping of the show each day. One day she came to me and asked me if I could take care of Lady Elaine’s wigs. They needed to be combed and dusted.

“Sure, “ I said. “Bring them by.” Lady Elaine and the other famous clients I’m about to name drop are some of the most famous clients I have worked on in the salon to this day — the puppets of mister Rogers neighborhood. Lady Elaine’s up-do was combed and cleaned for the following day’s shoot.

Not only did I get Lady Elaine, she also brought Danielle the Tiger and X the Owl. They stayed in the salon for a couple of days. Everyone loved seeing their old friends from The Mister Roger’s Show.

Knowing Kathy is one of the highlights of my career. I always enjoy our visits. She helped a friend of mine, Karen, who was an out of work artist and needed some cash.Kathy informed her how Mr. Rogers  wanted sketches of  Mr. Mcfeely and many Modes of Transportation from A-Z including  airplanes, buses, and trains cars . Once Karen had  completed  the sketches Mr. Rogers told Kathy that all the sketches were very good but he had some issues with the shading on Mr. McFeely’s pants. My friend Karen had decided to make Mr McFeely anatomically correct – a definite no-no according to Kathy. She told Karen to make sure that his genitalia was not even implied. We all got a great laugh over those sketches. At one point Karen gave Mr. McFeely an erection standing by one of the modes of transportation. Kathy and I laughed but it never made it to the neighborhood!