My Saturday morning opened with high emotion--tears of shame, doubt, fear, sadness--grieving the loss of a wonderful gift of hair. It was the second time Mary came to see me, with about 2 or 3 years since our last visit. She was wearing the same gorgeous silk Givenchy scarf. (I would love to own it.) Her hair reflected the space of the appointments once we removed the comb and pins, white and airy flowing halfway down her back. It is lovely hair, with the exception of the missing bit on the top of her head. And not just a bit--all the hair on the top of her head is 1/4 of an inch--or less. She'd been trying to wear her hair in an upswept bun, as usual, but the missing hair, which was now so obvious, troubled her. Miss Mary couldn't arrange her long hair Trump-enough to disguise the source of her embarrassment. She's had Shingles, dangerous for a 96 year old; it affected her scalp, causing her hair to fall out.
Truthfully, I was shocked when I saw the extent of the hair loss. Her daughter is a client of MOE, so when she made the appointment for Mary, describing the situation, even she didn't realize just how much hair was gone. Mary's daughter had thoughts of cutting the hair short, so that Mary would wear her 'do like many women of her generation, short and set on rollers. But there was simply too little to work with on the top, and by the tears that continued to well in Mary's eyes while we consulted, I just couldn't cut it all off. I was fighting tears, or as I used to say, my eyes were hot.
I was scared that I wouldn't be able to help Mary cover her head. Her daughter was full of encouragement and suggestions, "It will be just fine, Mom. You'll be able to style it like you always do, but are you sure you don't want to cut it short?" It was light, but constant pressure until I set my pain for Mary aside and started thinking simply about that 96 year old head. I took quite a bit of length from the back, leaving plenty for rolls and buns (hmm, never realized the food connection there :), cutting the sides much shorter, angled toward the back. She can still put her hair in rollers. She'll have to roll those sides up and do a good job on the back-combing for a half a year or so, but we got her looking much more like herself.
I really enjoy my work, but making a connection like last Saturday morning's, putting myself to that kind of test, puts a sweeter spin on it. As she was leaving, Mary came around the desk and said, "I didn't catch your name." After I reminded her, she thanked me a few times, and told me she hoped that when I am 96, someone treats me with as much kindness as I'd shown her. I thanked her for coming in, and for trusting me to help her. It was perhaps the greatest moment of my life as a hairdresser.