This post was originally published on September 3, 2015.
It is a well-known fact that a good hairdresser lends a sympathetic ear to a client. Not unlike a bartender, the hairdresser is a quasi-therapist—or so I want to believe. But what happens when your hairdresser happens to be sober in AA and expects you to be attentive to her nonstop chatter and gossip?
I recently went through this ordeal with my hairdresser Fifi. For financial reasons, I hadn’t seen her for 10 months, resorting to self-dying my hair black. That was not a good thing. For my age, Goth doesn’t quite cut it. By the time I started getting out of my financial slump and made an appointment with Fifi, my hair was black with a white streak running through it—think Elsa Lanchester in Bride of Frankenstein. As I walked into the salon, Fifi and her co-worker, Maria, stared in horror at my coiffure, as if I had skunk road kill pasted on my head.
“Why do you girls always resort to black when you’re broke?” Fifi asked.
She tied a cape tightly around my neck. “Sit,” she said, pointing to the chair at her station. I felt like I was about to be barbered by Sweeney Todd.
Maria, who had no customers, just sat in a chair and smiled, checking her iPhone every ten seconds.
After Fifi disappeared in the back for a few minutes, she came back and applied bleach to my head. As she did this, she yanked on my hair a few times. Was this some kind of passive-aggressive hostility that she was directing at me? Had I wronged her in any way? Did she think I liked her weird live-in boyfriend, Spiro?
I was friends with Spiro because we are both Greek, but that was the extent of it. He once told me that he had missed his calling to become a Greek Orthodox monk
. Aside from that, it was really hard to talk to him. He kept telling me that I needed a man to take care of me and that I had too many dogs.
Spiro talked way too much. As did Fifi.
“I’m sorry I had to reschedule! But I’m going through menopause! Oh my God, it sucks!” she said.
I, too, have gone through menopause. For a while, I was stupid enough to believe that it was amenorrhea, which I had experienced for three years in my 20s due to anorexia.
“Well, at least you have your son,” Fifi continued. “I didn’t want to have a baby before. I was so fucked up and loaded. But now I kind of want one, you know, cause I met my cutie pie.”
“Well, look at Annie Liebovitz,” I suggested. “She was 51, when she had a kid.”
“Who? Does she go to the Palmdale group?”
“Uh,“ I said.
She cut me off and said, “Oh, my God. We’re both getting old! Doesn’t it suck?”
“Everything. Everyone. Everywhere. Ends,” I said, quoting the tagline from Six Feet Under.
Wasn’t I supposed to feel better while I was getting my hair done? Jeez. I should have just dumped two bottles of black hair dye on my head and forgotten about going to a salon. For that matter, why bother dying my hair? Why not just look like the Bride?
As I began to experience an existential crisis, Fifi went on a roll. The subject switched from menopause to AA, or rather fellow AAs.
“Did you hear about Knute?” she asked. “Lost his time. You can smell booze on him. And then he got a DUI. So he has to go to meetings. Well, you know that gay guy, uh, what’s his name, Akmak?”
“I think its Ahmet,” I said. “Ak-mak are whole wheat crackers.”
“Knute walked into a meeting, drunk, when they were doing the Lord’s Prayer. And Akmak is the secretary and he wouldn’t sign Knute’s court card. And Knute punched him and gave him a bloody nose. I mean why the hell couldn’t Akmak just sign the damn card? What a little jerk!”
Fifi stepped back and gazed at my head, which was covered with bleach, as if it was a chocolate mousse cake that she was going to enter in a Betty Crocker competition.
“Okay, I think we’ll end up with a nice warm brown,” she mused. “Besides, bleaching will take hours and Sofia will tell me to charge more, and I know you are strapped for money. Did you say you wanted to go platinum blonde?”
“No,” I said. “Should I?”
She laughed maniacally, like a hyena.
What was so damn funny?
And then without missing a beat, she told me how Ahmet decided not to press charges against Knute and how Spiro loves Knute, because Knute is Armenian and Spiro is Greek. She informed me, as if I didn’t know this already, that both Armenia and Greece once shared a common enemy in Turkey. She also told me Spiro loves pot roast and that she cleans and cooks for him, like a happy housewife.
I began to zone Fifi out. I stared at her reflection through the mirror as her mouth moved and she waved her hands around.
I could hear names of more characters from AA being mentioned, and how she loathed them and how one person owed her money…Wait, that was actually a good friend of mine who owed her $11.
Why was my skin starting to crawl? I mean, she is a hairdresser for God’s sake. Hairdressers love to talk. But she is in AA, just like me. And the weird thing is that I remember she was the secretary of a few meetings, something that she took so seriously. And at the end of every one of her meetings, she would blare, like a donkey, “WHAT YOU HEAR HERE STAYS HERE.” And then with gusto, she would punch the table, as if she was the Speaker of the House of Representatives keeping order with her gavel.
Should I say something to her about how uncool it is to gossip in sobriety especially after you have done your steps? Why don’t I say something? Am I afraid that if I say something she will make sure that the bleach stays on my head so long that I resemble the Great Pumpkin?
Suddenly, there was silence.
It lasted for five seconds.
I breathed a sigh of relief.
And then Fifi started talking about how great sex was between her and Spiro and “what a cute little kisser he was. “
Oh, my God.
I closed my eyes and had a terrifying image.
I was the character of James Murphy, being altered into Robocop. And Fifi worked for the evil OCP, the corporation responsible for my horrifying transformation, and she was putting parts of my dead body into my new incarnation as a cyborg law enforcer.
“TIME TO RINSE,” she said.
I opened my eyes, startled.
About an hour and a half later, my hair was done. It looked good, but I was relieved that my ordeal was over.
Everything. Everyone. Everywhere. Ends.