Recently on Twitter one of my WANA1011 classmates mentioned she'd gotten a new hairdo and how good that made her feel. A great haircut and color can do that. It's invigorating. But a monstrously bad hairdo? Well, sometimes that can teach you a thing or two.
CHANGE IS SCARY
Shortly after I graduated from nursing school, I moved across two states to be closer to the young man who had been my brother’s college roommate. We'd met a few times and exchanged letters across the 700 plus miles between us. The letters gradually grew more intimate but long distance communication by snail mail (the internet and email were not available to everyone at that time) was frustratingly slow and prone to misunderstandings that had to be smoothed out by long distance phone calls. I was young and up for the adventure, so I accepted a job in that far away city.
I packed all my worldly possessions into an eight-foot U-Haul trailer, hitched it to my little 1975 Ford Mustang and drove to my new life.
I arrived at my new home on the coldest day of the year, literally. I was shocked to hear the radio announcer warn parents not to let their children wait at the bus stop in the subzero wind chill as frostbite would be certain. Yikes! I began to have my first doubts about what I had done.
A NEW HAIRSTYLE CAN FIX IT!
During my first weeks of the new job, new rules, new procedures, different terminology soon left me feeling overwhelmed. I found that as a working adult, making friends wasn't the same as it had been in college. These folks had their friendship circles established, leaving me feel like an outsider. Even the young man I'd moved for had a circle of friends and routines that didn’t include me. What on earth had possessed me to move? I felt disconnected, uncertain, and afraid. So I turned to the most reliable 'make-myself-feel-better' method I knew – a new hairstyle.
But I hadn't established a new hairstylist since my move. My boyfriend's mother helpfully offered the name and address of her hairdresser. Her hair always looked nice and I knew where the salon was located, so I made an appointment.
On the day of the appointment, I left home anticipating that great feeling of a new hair style.
ARE YOU LISTENING?
The salon was a combination barber shop and hairstyling salon in the lower level of an old brick building. Entering the shop you were assaulted with the overpowering odors of permanent solution, bleach, and sickly sweet after shave. Everything in the shop said established, traditional, and every single stylist was my mother’s age or older. That made me feel a little uneasy, but I sat in the stylist chair and described how I have always envied women with thick, hair that bounced with body, so that's what I wanted. The stylist asked me several questions about curls, didn't I want some? I kept repeating that I wanted lots of body. Finally the stylist seemed to understand. She assured me that she could turn my unruly shoulder-length locks into a dream head of hair.
After a quick shampoo and trim, she set up the tools of
torment her trade: perm papers, rollers of various sizes, and lots of clips to secure the rollers.
Oh those torturous rollers! By the time she was finished, I couldn't waggle an eyebrow nor bend my neck for fear of scalping myself. Then came the breath-robbing permanent solution!. Finally, she put me under the hairdryer.
I had come prepared with a new book to read while I waited. It was a good book. I escaped the sounds and smells of the salon and entered the world of the story, barely aware of passing time.
Finally I sat in front of her station, staring into the mirror. My head was a mass of wet, tight curls. "Um, that looks pretty tight," I said. She reassured me that this was as it had to be and after a couple of shampoos it would relax and be the bodacious hair of my dreams. As she styled my newly
frizzed permed hair, my dismay grew. She styled my hair exactly as she styled my boyfriend's mother’s hair: a tight cap of curls. I bit back my tears and couldn't wait to get out of there.
In my car, outside the salon, I sat staring into my rear view mirror, tears cascading down my face for what seemed an eternity. I looked hideous! I decided I couldn't be seen this way and drove to the nearest department store where I bought a bunch of head scarfs and covered my curls before I left the store.
I can't tell you how many tears I shed over that hairdo, which did not relax into the beautiful bouncing body I had hoped for. By the end of a week I was angry. I returned to the salon and complained to the manager. He listened to my rant and said he would fix it for free. He put a relaxer on my hair and trimmed off the fried ends. My dreams of long waves were swept up and dumped in the nearest trash can. Afterward as I peered into the mirror I felt as if I could face myself again. The manager said something about being sorry I had been so dissatisfied and in a very mystified voice added about how my former stylist usually did a good job in questioning her clients so she could give them what they wanted.
BEING NEW DOESN'T LAST
Of course, my hair grew out. I found a new circle of friends and I grew comfortable with my new home. And before I chose my next hairstylist, I did a lot of investigating and interviewing. Eventually I found a stylist that was a fit for me and memories of the really bad hairdo day have faded, though obviously not forgotten.
DO YOU LISTEN?
I'm not certain when it occurred to me, but eventually I realized that the problem between the hairstylist and I was one of communication. Not only did she not listen to me; I didn't listen to her.
These days I've come to value listening. But it's not as easy as one would think.
Surprisingly the first person you have to learn to listen to is yourself. You can't know what you need, what drives you, or who you are unless you listen to yourself. Without that self-awareness you can't really listen to others.
It's only after you are comfortable with yourself that you can hear what others have to say. You have to be able to listen with your ears, you eyes (what does their body language tell you), and with your heart. When you listen to others, rephrase what they’ve told you. You don't have to give advice, or tell a similar story, or say anything. Just listen. By doing so, you validate their experiences, you demonstrate that you value them, you learn about the human experience and gain a 'I’m not alone' wisdom. Best of all, you develop relationships that can grow.
So nowadays, no matter whether I'm getting repairs done on my home or a new hairstyle, the number one trait I look for in someone else is listening.
Thank you for reading (listening) today. I know you have a ton of things to do and I value your time. I'd be delighted to hear about your most memorable listening lesson or bad hair day day. I'm here, listening.
Oh, and just so you know – I have never, ever again gotten a perm. 🙂