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by Harriet Berkal, June 11, 2020

My mom was a wash and set type of gal. Sometimes she would throw in the odd perm, to make her life easier. She stayed with same stylist forever. She was loyal to a “T”. So, in later years and after many strokes, I asked Maureen her hairdresser, if she might be able to come to the house, to give my mom a little cut and blow dry? “Absolutely Harriet, I adore your mom and I know it is so hard for her to get to the salon.” Now, that is a fabulous hairstylist!! She really cared for my mother.


She initially met her as a spunky “regular” Friday customer, who always had her hair done before the Sabbath. I bet Maureen knew more about shule business than some congregants did. After all, Sara Berkal had to look good for all sorts of events, ranging from weddings to funerals, condolence calls to bar mitzvahs. There was a great deal of pressure to deal with. There were lots of eyes watching her every move. She was a trendsetter. She refused to wear a hat to synagogue on Saturdays, for fear it would ruin her freshly done “do”.


She would go only once a week. I never saw my mother wash her own hair at all. Maureen knew just how she liked it. Sometimes, they would experiment, but they were partners. She fondly referred to my mom as “Mrs. B.”


They would kibitz with each other and have a good laugh. And my mom would comfort Maureen when she was going through a divorce. Oh, how Sara relished this ritual of being pampered every week. She looked forward to it. It was a release for her.


We rely on these folks not just for the cut, colour, extensions or perms they do - they are like quasi therapists for us, to vent to or gossip with. And it is more than often reciprocal. They might feel safe because we typically do not see them in our social circle. So, our secrets are locked away.


We unload and they console. This all happens whilst, we are getting done up as our spirits are lifted by their artistry.


Truth be told, if you have seen the same stylist for over a decade or so, she/ he likely know more about what is going on in your life, than others do.


Perhaps they might know the inner workings of your marriage; or how you really feel about your new mother-in-law; who cut you off in a friendship and why you are bewildered; what events you have planned; how your surgery went; if your thyroid condition is affecting your hair texture; OR they might say I think you are losing your hair, perhaps you should go to a doctor.


So why do we trust these professionals so much? Well hair is very personal. They are helping us portray ourselves to the outside world. Have you ever left a salon hating your hair but didn’t complain? I will fix this myself once I get home. And we would still go back to them.


Your hair creates a very strong part of your persona. When we might lack the skill set to do it “just right “ourselves, we become dependant upon them.


Perhaps this explains why so many individuals were in panic mode when COVID hit and salons closed. Omg, who is going to colour these roots? How many people decided to go grey during this pandemic? Some liberated themselves, whilst others touched up their roots with boxed colour form the pharmacy and desperately waited for salons to reopen. Let us not even talk about the ones who get regular straightening treatments, to delude the world that their real hair is curly or frizzy and they want to be transformed into Barbie dolls.


So, the government has issued strict rules to ensure the safety of the stylist plus the customer. All necessary and important.


What if one found oneself with a hairdresser who might go well beyond the regulatory guidelines? Yes, she would check your temperature prior to entry. If you did not have a mask you could be sent away. You were to wait in your car until your appointment, etc.  Services were limited and no sittings beyond 2 hours. That all sounds reasonable, don’t you agree?


What if additional rules were imposed? Perhaps, they dictated what clients could talk about whilst in her chair. You were not allowed to speak of COVID or the pandemic of anything negative / only good vibes. So, I guess the unjust killing of George Floyd and the subsequent riots might be off limits? The world has gone insane, as the US is totally divided much akin to the days of the civil war. What can we talk about; the nice weather or what flowers we just put in? Forget that there were no grads, except virtual ones and weddings all on zoom.


How many paying customers would tolerate being instructed on what is acceptable for discussion set out by a stylist?  


The irony would be profound. How many hairdressers  haven’t unloaded their personal histories with all the negative details to us at some point or another? It is therapy for them too. I’m all for positivity, but neither do I have my head (groomed or ungroomed) in the sand. The world has gone MAD and the last pandemic was in 1918. The winds of change are in the air regarding the institute of policing and the acknowledgement that systemic racism does exist in this world. But it sure was a beautiful day yesterday.


I think we have all experienced that special connection when we are vulnerable and getting a service done. Chit chat has long gone on between customer and client within this industry. They are listeners and make you feel special to them. It is a quasi friendship of sorts. In some cases, you are, or think you are, friends with them.


In the States, we saw right wing protestors carrying their AK 47’s demanding their constitutional right for hair cuts.


The salon is a magical place. It offers creativity, moral boosting, and bonds of loyalty.


Many of us have devoted our trust to our hair stylist. We all remember that last appointment at salon X, where she/he whispers that they are leaving this company and will be in touch. And most of us do follow them, despite the change in parking, etc. that we must adjust to. So as paying and loyal customers – would you tolerate IF a stylist dictated what you could speak about during “your” time? I would not!


So, for all you Hairgicians out there - we are so glad you are back. Be safe and demand that your clients respect your health as well.  safe. But please, try not to Hair-itate anyone, with aloof and outrageous demands regulating what we talk about. It is our freedom of speech that fuels creativity. Do not STOP us from that. Relax and create magic. Otherwise we just might end up playing musical CHAIRS.


AND THAT’S A CUT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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