According to my calendar, I’m due at the hairdresser in 3 minutes. That is – I was – in that parallel universe before the world went bat shit crazy and hid in a Bubble. It’s a significant Lockdown Moment for me. And not because I’m so desperate for a hairdo that I’m passing the scissors to my hubby. In fact, Sam – that’s my hairdresser – does such a good job that it’s barely noticeable that I’m due for a touch-up. I do know it’s time though because, well, I miss her.
To be honest, dragging across town to this particular salon is a bit of a ball ache. It adds another hour to the already elongated process of a cut and colour. And while the product and price tick the boxes, it ordinarily just wouldn’t be worth it…except for the one thing I get that money can’t buy: a couple of hours shooting the breeze with Sam.
The old adage that your hairdresser knows more about you than your spouse might be at the heart of this.. except…no, this time it’s not just about downloading the goss while the colour sets. This is different. It’s not just her artful conversation. This is about genuine connection.
Sam came into my life via a little Karma I received after complimenting a pretty girl in passing, who in turn shared her hairdresser’s number. I was sceptical. Since returning from overseas I’d been hunting for 18 months for a new regular place – actually, not a place, a person. It’s not that I hadn’t found that magic combo of service and price, it’s just that I hadn’t found the ‘Hairdressing Soul Mate’ I didn’t even know I was seeking at this particularly difficult point in my life. I needed someone who had the capacity to be with me for 3 hours and understand that at some point Grief was going to reveal itself as badly as my roots.
During my last appointment, Sam stopped in the middle of my appointment to take a call. Another client had lost her husband unexpectedly and was cancelling her appointment. The genuine emotion Sam showed after she hung up was unsurprising to me. Her level of client care does not add up to producing the bill and rebooking a future visit but from filling her tank with soulful conversation and mutual understanding with those clients who want to talk about real-deal life rather than flick through a mag. We turned out conversation from our shared love of travel back to that quieter place that we are able to dwell together, the one where (if you know the book) we stir out pots of Tear Soup.
I mentioned to her how following the loss of our tiny son, there came a self-loathing that made me feel like I didn’t deserve to try to feel beautiful. The decadence of self-care seemed almost vulgar to me. I didn’t feel very beautiful inside back then. Sam, that wise lady of a whole 25 years, told me this was actually quite a common reaction to loss and somewhere inside me, she stitched a single golden thread of renewal onto that broken heart of mine.
I was on the glorious flip side of having safely brought a new life into the world when I first met Sam. But long roots, grown from the fear of jinxing this second chance needed to be stripped back and renewed. It was Sam who started it (our ever-growing candour) when she mentioned that a friend of hers, no matter how dear, just had not yet been touched by a sadness or loss great enough to have the depth of life experience which clearly separates what is really important from that which is not.
It’s a bitter pill that must be swallowed to obtain that knowledge. Recounting with a thoughtful sensitivity, amongst other things, how she’d helped prepare her young Aunty for her funeral, we began a series of exchanges. Mostly, it’s fun and frivolity we yarn about. Whether Peyote is a valid gateway to self-exploration or the best bargain place to buy a very specific type of toothpaste. But it’s always real.
It took a couple of visits before I noticed a change that had occurred in Sam recently. ‘Have you changed your hair?’ I quizzed. She laughed and said she’d made some decisive lifestyle changes which were evidently having the knock-on effect of superior Instagram-Ability. Her ‘Babe factor’ was on the up..but, it perplexed me…I just hadn’t noticed it. I think it’s because Sam’s great beauty, to me, has always been evident. It is untouchable. A feeling. Timeless and invisible to any camera lens.
And when I leave the salon, I barely look at my hair. If (as I learnt whilst working on Dove) ‘Beauty is Confidence’, well that’s what I walk out the door with. I’ve had a few hours where I’m allowed to be exactly who I really am, by someone who sees me clearly and meets me there, blending happiness and sorrow into our conversation as naturally as she does the low and highlights of my hair.
So, Sam, I’ll miss you today. I wanted to tell you that Gabriel should have been 3 years old tomorrow – in yet another parallel universe where he’d arrived in a safe and timely manner as planned. As I said to you last time but can’t reiterate in person today: It is not the great quality of your work; it is not the very reasonable price; it is not your excellent recommendations of restaurants far too cool for the likes of me or tips on trustworthy insurance brokers that makes me come across town – it is just You. The value I get from spending time in your company. And for that, you get my business, a lot of crazy banter, my loyalty, my friendship..and a blogpost! You are a master of Good CX.