I [heart] my hairdresser.

I [heart] my hairdresser.
‘Jesus, love, would you not get a perm?’ I heard this from hairdressers right up to 1995. They felt sorry for me. My straight brown hair was mingin’, in their eyes. At fourteen, in the Limerick branch of Peter Marks, I asked for a Louise Brooks box bob, and the staff regarded me as a bit odd ever after. I’ve taken a sadistic glee in the straightening balms, frizz control spray and blow-outs prescribed for the last five years, but it took me until last year to lose my fear of commitment with hairdressers.

Nina regarded me as a project from the start.
‘So, what are we doing today?’
‘Oh, you know, just a trim. I think I’m growing it out.
She looked suspiciously at my long, mousey bob.
‘When I know you better, I would like to try new look with you. You have beautiful eyes, you should have short hair to show them off. I would color it dark red for the green eyes. And short hair, like shag, you know.’
I looked at her. Her own hair was free of the dodgy experiments that most hairdressers afflict themselves with.
‘Go nuts,’ I said.
‘Thank you for this trust,’ she said.

We have never looked back, Nina and I. I’d worn the same style for twelve years, convinced my hair only knew one trick. It’s still pretty dumb, but at least it no longer belongs above a Nancy Reagan power suit. But that’s not why I go back to her.

Nina is Lithuanian. She used to be a pianist, and you can see it in her graceful fingers as she cuts hair. Her husband was a violinist; they had played together.
‘Never marry a violinist. Very temperamental. Oof!’
Her two daughters are beauties; smart, too. Nina let the younger go to Florence to study Art History when she was fifteen. Now, at 21, she slogs through Pharmacy courses. They bore her, but she wants to have a career more dependable than her beloved art. Her older sister is a pharmacist, too; Nina goes out to San Francisco to see her grandchildren as often as she can.

Nina is vibrant, beautiful, naturally glamorous. Her favored clients get warm hugs when they visit on the way home from running errands. She commands the salon attendants, but they love her as a diva. Sometimes we have heart-talks.

‘Let me tell you, leaving my husband was big mistake. I had mid-life crisis, thought I was not in love with him any more. Every thing he did, the way he ate, the way he walked, drove me crazy. So I left him. And everything he did afterwards—I mean, every little thing, he didn’t leave even one detail—proved I was right, he was jerk. But still. It was big mistake. Because here I am, eight years later, and I have no one. I don’t date. I don’t go to bars. I work, work, work, all the time. If I take time off, no one else brings home pay check. I am independent woman. I have this ‘freedom’. But it’s big joke, because really, I am traditional woman.

‘I tell the last one, he keeps calling, calling now, too late: “You don’t understand what kind of woman you found. How lucky you are. Because I am free, I have no ties, I am full of energy, I still have my looks, I am smart, I can bring so much. And yet, when you call me up, you expect me to do everything, to be so grateful for date that I book the restaurant, that I tell you where to go and when.”’

‘Russian men, that generation, very bad with women.’

‘So now, I have no one. And it makes me sad. I am not desperate. I have desires, but I can control them, I have self respect. But I have lot to share and yet I wake up alone everyday. New York is world capital lonely people, you know? So many single women.’

‘You know, when things go bad, easy to think that you find next one, and everything will be fine. Is not fine! Women, we think we just need to fix them, but we are the ones who have the problems. Change is inside only. And easy, so easy, to break things up. Easiest thing in the world. Building things, looking after them, that is the hard thing.’

‘You see this wave pattern on the mirror? That is what life is like! Up and down, up and down. Like the EKG waves. If line is flat, person is dead. You learn to ride the up and the down, and you celebrate fifty years. I wish I’d started with someone to ride the up and the down with. Last week, we would be thirty years married.’

‘When you are young, you are beautiful, you think you will find the right one. But my dear, my dear, women, we have to learn that you need to start with fix yourself.’

‘I don’t play the piano any more. But he is still violinist.’