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Friday, November 11, 2011

That's Right, I am not your Friend.

As a whole, my clients are rather enjoyable. Interesting lives, stories I want to hear. Some clients make me crazy; a handful are extra special to me. What I see in them and the parts of self they share with me, make me forget that I am the hairdresser. Mostly, that phenomena is a good thing. It helps to have a sincere connection with people, especially because it's my job to be inside their bubble. I have to touch head, neck and shoulders. When I was pregnant, my baby belly pressed up against an arm and a shoulder or two. These clients celebrated my wedding, my first house, the births of my children, they sympathized when my dear mother was ill, hoped with me when my husband's job was ending, and cheered when he found a new one. You are witness to my open-book manner of living & sharing my life. I love people. Because of the nature of my work, I have the privilege of meeting folks, all kinds, who would not otherwise be in my friend world. The thing is, what I am reminded of tonight and the inspiration for this post, regardless of the relationship I perceive with my clients, a line exists which cannot be seen until it is crossed. It is the divider between the one behind the chair and the one under the cape seated in the chair.


Tonight I crossed the line. I'm not sure how many years Janet has been with me. 6 or 7? She is delightfully quirky, a California grown seeker and veggie and so interesting. She was a bit weary tonight, maybe end-of-the-week weary, maybe my in-laws are fading weary. I wish I was gentler with her. She did a little unloading of the regular stressors, then asked me about my Thanksgiving plan. As I was telling her that I will bring the Ethiopian coffee ceremony, she interrupted several times. While I described the ritual, she did not seem to be following me. I said: Oh my. You are showing a lot of resistance, so I am just going to stop, and let you *be*. This brought out apologies from Janet, and clear distress. I wanted her to not apologize, and to step back and take my place behind the line.  I love the listening and sharing that both client and I, the stylist, do during an appointment.  I was excited and proud to explain the coffee ceremony to Janet, I felt disappointment that she wasn't taking it in.  I was embarrassed that I wasn't setting aside my own desire to tell my story in order make room for the extra time, extra breath she needed.  I was reminded that I am the hairdresser, not the friend.  She isn't paying me to point out that she isn't being a good listener, she's paying me to color and cut her hair.  It's part of my job to listen, and simply a bonus when I am able to indulge with a captive audience.

These realizations occurred within a few short moments.  It was good to have that 30 minutes color processing time to step outside of her personal space, let flow return to normal, to shape-up the next client's hair. Take myself completely out of the awkwardness I felt and welcome a fresh face/perspective.  I even moved to MOE's station across the aisle.  At the end of the second woman's appointment, I mentioned something about the VIP.  In the mirror I saw Janet watching and listening (remember, it's a small salon.  we typically talk across the room, it's cozy); her eyes opened w i d e and her mouth dropped open when she heard me say 'my mother-in-law is with us.' 
    "I thought I sensed something was off with you!" 
I was like, uhhh. nope.  that was you, lady.  you came in here complaining and complaining and weren't able to make room for the answer to the question you posed.  it is you who is off. 
    "Nah.  It's been good with her."
I wanted to leave the earlier weirdness, shrug off the comment. I pulled the foils from her hair and swished her back to the shampoo bowl.

That tiny bit of disconnect made me feel vulnerable.  What does it mean to be understood completely?  I want my words to be transparent, in the way that I am speaking honestly, directly.  I have been worried and frustrated when I am not able to convey my thoughts, to lay out the thought map in a way that one can easily follow.  What really struck me tonight, though, was how she was so relieved to find a place to pin a label on that stray kink in the conversation link, to lay the awkwardness on me.  To say that the hairdresser was a bit off tonight because her mil is visiting.  Which is NOT to say that she asked a question to which she really did not require a reply, and to NOT say that interrupting on that level is not good for flow. 

It struck me how hard it is for me to be called on my shit, and that she did not like it either.  It must have been hard for her to hear YOU ARE RESISTING ME.  Just like I wasn't happy to hear YOU ARE ACTING DIFFERENT BECAUSE THE VIP HAS BEEN AT YOUR HOUSE FOR TWO MONTHS.  If I were sitting with my friend, drinking coffee or tea or listening to the lake lick the shore or the fire crackle, or better yet--the rocks hiss when we throw more steam (DANG.  I AM FREEZING AND I WANT A SAUNA!!), if we were chatting and you, as the friend, kept interrupting me, I'd just say, HEY.  I'M TRYING TO TELL YOU SOMETHING.  WHAT IS UP WITH THE INTERRUPTING!?  and then you would throw more water on the rocks and say GET REAL LADY, I AM FULL IN THE EARS OF YOUR JABBER BECAUSE I HAVE MY OWN THOUGHTS AT WAR IN MY NOGGIN, SO LAY OFF!  and then i would throw a ladle of water on the hot rocks and one almost on you and we would laugh.  in my heart i could be happy to be taking a sauna with my friend where we don't sweat the silly stuff, we sweat our butts off.

I thought it was Janet WHO WAS OFF.  Janet thought it was Jenny.  She was WRONG. 
Okay, fine.  We were both right and it wasn't wrong to hit a little bump.  It's good to remember I am the hairdresser, the friendly, blunt hairdresser with cute kids, and a mother-in-law on the couch.  (I brought her some milk tonight and teased her, "Here is your baba."  She doesn't speak much English, but she knows how important the baba is around here!  I love when I can get a giggle out of her.)  But I am pretty sure it really was more Janet who was off.  Just sayin'.

8 comments:

mella said...

great post!

the baba exchange with your mil is priceless. love that. i can totally picture that scene, and your mutual appreciation of the moment of connection. you so funny.

and i love how you recognize what is happening on the deeper levels of communication...

did you know the finnish ministry recently won a prize for sauna diplomacy? :)

MindiJo said...

Ahhhh! Real friends. Real saunas. Real Aha! moments. I love when people make me see something about myself that I hadn't seen before. Good or bad. It helps you to be a better person, doesn't it?

I love this post. Oh, who am I kidding- I love any post you write.

Stephanie said...

Oh hair jenny, what makes you soooooo very special to me is that you do call me out on my crap and I love you even more for it. Maybe I am the minority, but if you were just snipping away and nodding and smiling...talk about NOT BEING YOU!! The added bonus, to seeing you and leaving with a new do', is knowing that every time I am in your presence I leave with something newly learned. Whether it be from your life, my life, or your grounded perspective of my life from the outsiders view point...You make me reflect and I love you for it. Hair jenny rocks my world, both inside and out!!

Sharyn said...

<3

Anonymous said...

I want to use the word "rapt" to describe my enjoyment of this post, but I can't seem to figure out how to do it in a proper sentance...:) I'm a bit short on sleep.

Anonymous said...

that was me, proof that I need more sleep...jr

elizabeth said...

Like jr, I was rapt. I am always fascinated by the patterns below the patterns - I love how you see and notice and relate them.

ethiopifinn said...

keepin' it real, yo.

love all y'all!