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.

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1 Comment so far
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And I love the title, ‘My First Time…’ Did you know that Cher (yes, Cher!) wrote a book in the late ’90s called ‘The First Time?’ Rather than being an autobiography, the book is a collection of significant ‘firsts’ in her life. Very clever and there are similarities to what you are doing with this blog.

Comment by Glenn




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