Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Delving for that je ne sais quoi

When I was in my twenties, I moved seven times in seven years. Now that I've stuck it out in the same locale for a couple of decades, I've discovered stylists are perpetually on the move as well. One said she was moving to a different city to see what it was like. Another fell for a boyfriend who wanted her to learn to dance the salsa and sit by his pool. One guy got a chair in a better salon. Another moved back to Texas because he grew up there and loved riding his ATV through the desert.

Being in the market for a stylist is as torturous as, say, shopping for a car. Cars run the gamut of personality statements--racy, sexy, conservative, cute--just like hair. I'm looking for a stylist who will not only see me for who I am, but who will, with skill, finesse, and expensive haute couture training, produce the spitting image of how I see myself, or failing that, how I'd like to be seen.

Over the years, I've tried just about everything. Sometimes I've asked friends for referrals. Or I've driven down streets and eyed salon storefronts, wrapping my mind around flippy names ("Hair Works," "Hair Raisin'"), trying to hone in on harmonious vibes. Or I've opened the yellow pages to "beauty salons," closed my eyes, and pointed.

This time, the universe didn't seem to align with my quest. The friend I asked said her hair stylist had moved. Huh. Go figure. I called several numbers in the yellow pages but got voicemails. Meanwhile, my hair grew steadily limper, more frayed. Waiting in line at the bank one day, worrying over who I was gonna call (Hairbusters?), I noticed the woman's hair right in front of me in line. It was sophisticated, chic, not overstated. I tapped her on the shoulder.

"Excuse me! Can I ask you? Who cuts your hair?"

The woman pivoted, exclaiming: "Shelly! Oh, I just love her! She's done my hair for years!"

Since the line was crawling, we had an opportunity to delve: Shelly had staying power, Shelly cut hair at a salon not far from here, Shelly was the greatest hair stylist on the planet. The woman even gave me Shelly's card. That wasn't so bad, after all. You just never can tell.

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