Levels of Betrayal: Hairdressers

There is a quote doing the rounds on Facebook at the moment. One of those ones that seems to get straight to the crux of the matter, you feel it in your soul, you make an involuntary sound of agreement and immediately click “share”.


Wow right? You’re immediately lost in thought – transported back to that moment in time when someone “done wronged you”! It could have been an old flame, an ex-best friend (I have a few too many of those) or a teacher or parent who never quite lived up to their side of the bargain.

What you don’t think about is all the times that you left someone to drown; and then asked them to trust you while they were still choking. Betrayal comes in many forms; some that don’t even make it onto our radar. But that doesn’t make them any less real.

Now if you’ll indulge me with a little tale of betrayal…

The price of everything is going up, you can barely keep track. You’ve had to change to no name brands and your preference for organic bananas is a thing of the past. No more weekly manicures, a quick YouTube video has shown you all you need to know, and saved you hundreds in the process. But there are some things you can’t do; like plumbing, or electrical installations, for instance. And cutting your own hair. You can’t possibly be expected to cut your own hair. You can’t even see most of it for one thing. And as much as you love your friends you don’t trust their hand to remain steady once a girly night in takes hold.

So forking out for a haircut is a necessary evil. Colour on the other hand is a questionable need vs want scenario. You committed yourself to a colour when you started your new job. You’re pretty sure everyone thinks it’s natural, but now your roots are starting to betray you. You phone the salon. R240 for a cut – you can stretch to that – the credit card will make it your future self’s problem. But R380 for a colour?! Roots only?! You’re not sure you can justify that – even to your future self. But it’s ok, this is what that aisle of hair dye products in Clicks is meant for right – for just such an occasion. How difficult can it be? You probably won’t even need to ask a friend for help.

You come home on Wednesday evening and decide to make a night of it – bottle of wine, candles, movie star foam bath. You’re living the dream. But suddenly you’ve dozed off, you wake with a start as your face slips beneath the bath water and the dream has turned into a nightmare. Your scalp is on fire. A rogue spark from a candle must have done it because there is no other explanation for the excruciating pain radiating through your skull. You waste no time in dunking yourself under water, anticipating a hiss and a sizzle and the unpleasant aroma of burning natural fibres. But all you get is more pain. An intensified stinging sensation that you imagine can only be rivalled by child birth. You burst through the bath water like a scene from Inception, your fingers flying to your scalp. You feel instant relief that there is still hair there, but this small consolation only offers a momentary reprieve. You fling yourself from the tub, not caring for towels or bathmats, grabbing the edge of the sink for stability as you take your first desperate look in the mirror, heart pounding. It must be a trick of the light, the soft candlelight flickering in the peaceful evening breeze. There is no way your roots could possibly be orange.

But your roots are orange. Like traffic cone orange. After multiple lather, rinse, repeats in varying temperatures of water, using three different types of shampoo and even that special anti-frizz conditioner you save for special occasions, your roots are still orange. In fact they may even be more orange. You spend two hours on the internet Googling everything you can think of. There’s nothing for it, you’re going to need a professional.

After a sleepless night of tossing and turning and getting up every twenty minutes to see if your hair has miraculously turned itself back to normal, it doesn’t take much to convince your boss that you’re “sick”. Your next call is to the hairdresser. A most humbling conversation with an expert whose profession you failed to recognise the true value of only hours before. Suddenly, she is a saviour in your eyes. Jennifer will know what to do. Jennifer will make the pain stop; both the pain in your skull and the pain in your soul. With her help you will be able to go out in public again. Except that Jennifer doesn’t work on Thursdays.

So it’s Caroline who will be your saviour, or at least this is what you saliently pray as you make your way through the mall to the salon, beanie pulled down over your ears. A junior stylist and the only person available at zero notice. It does not bode well. But anything is better than orange, surely?!

She doesn’t laugh, but she also doesn’t quite not laugh. Then she applies some miracle lotion and suddenly your scalp isn’t burning anymore and she is the kindest soul, and most awesome human being you have ever met. She fixes the colour. She fetches you a cappuccino and a bagel while you wait. She engages in meaningful conversation instead of that awkward, meaningless chit chat that Jennifer usually subjects you to.

And then, the holy grail, she offers you a free haircut. “Change the style so that that’s what people will notice first”, she says. And boy will they notice. Junior stylist or not, Caroline could give Edward Scissorhands a run for his money. You feel like a new person. Light and airy and no longer weighed down by the stresses of that old style and those orange roots. People notice, they smile, they pay compliments; your self-esteem grows in leaps and bounds. And it’s largely thanks to Caroline. Life couldn’t be better. Until about a month later when you realise you need a trim.

For six solid years Jennifer was your stylist, as soon as you were “grown-up” enough to choose one for yourself. She’s seen you through triumphs and tribulations, graduations and break-ups. She knows your life history and you know hers. And she’s wonderful, really she is. It’s just that Caroline does a better cut. And now you have that cut there really is no going back.

But with calming relief you remember that Jennifer doesn’t work on Thursdays. So you will just get your hair cut on Thursdays from now on. Jennifer will never know. She’ll probably just forget about you – assume you moved away or are growing your hair out. You love it when a plan comes together. And so, before long, it is Caroline who knows your life history and it is Caroline who is seeing you through the good times and the bad. You have a comfortable rhythm, you understand each other, and things couldn’t be more perfect.

Then one dreary Thursday afternoon as you rattle on about work trauma and friends who are just too much effort, you spy her out of the corner of your eye. Jennifer. Covering for Miranda apparently. The hurt in her eyes is plain for all to see. She sees your new style, the radiant colour, the familiarity in your interaction with Caroline. She knows this is not the first time. She knows this is not a once-off. You have been seeing another hairdresser behind her back and you didn’t even have the decency to go to a different salon.

You try and justify it to yourself. You’re sure Jennifer still has enough clients to get by. You have to put your own needs first sometimes and a good haircut is a crucial part of the very fibre of your being. You know Jennifer would understand if she just gave you a chance to explain. But it’s too late for apologies. Her eyes, at once filled with pain and then filled with fury, tell you all you need to know. You have cheated on your hairdresser and there’s no going back.