There was zero setup for the hair-related psychotherapy session I wrote about yesterday, and I apologize. I sometimes assume that the entire world is having my same experience.

I just noticed this hairdresser-guilt phenomenon over the past few years (okay, of which I am part.)

My friend, Anna, once said, “I’d love to try out a new haircut, but I could never go back to my salon if I let somebody else cut my hair!” So she stayed where she was and wore the same hairstyle month after month, year after year. She showed her stylist a magazine clipping now and then of a new look she wanted to try, but her hope was dashed.

“You won’t look good in that.” Case closed.

Gentlemen, I know you are rolling your eyes, but just flip the word “hairstylist” with “auto mechanic.” Yeah, right? You now relate.

Anna rationalized that compared with her sister Gloria’s salon, she’d saved seventy-plus dollars per month.  Even if she got bored with her style, she swore her hair looked just as good as her sister’s.
Her sister did not agree. She said even if it looked okay, a low-budget haircut could never “feel” as bouncy and fabulous.

Gloria is mired in the stress of dividing three quarters of her monthly income into tips between several people: the colorist, stylist and shampooer, nail and eyebrow people. She experiences heart palpitations over whether or not her tips were evenhanded, because each visit fostered a different treatment and outcome...

Did the colorist perform more than the previous visit? Did the hairstylist primp longer, use extra styling balm? Did the shampoo girl deserve a bigger tip for a better rinse? You know, a hefty tip conveys appreciation for actually scrubbing the itch-producing product off the scalp better than just a fair tip with the words thank you.

Then come the holidays, the need to express good will through extreme tipping approaches. She then needs to be shot with a tranquilizer gun (and also refinance her home and sell her children into slavery.)

Like Gloria, Anna and her hairstylist were Chair Mates, meaning that outside of the shop, they never spoke. The chair was what connected their souls. And in the chair, she revealed things that surprised even her. One might hear her stylist shout things after her as she exited the salon, like, "Have him try the Gold Bond powder to reduce his genital chaffing!"

Not that she’d rationalized it, but if she started with a new stylist, Anna would have to begin again, draw a who’s-who and what's-their-problem chart of everybody in her life. What if he or she mixed everybody up, never got it?

Anna tipped fair and average and even enjoyed a community experience in her local beauty shop, a real-life Steel Magnolia ambiance, and I sometimes envied its simplicity and thought that, had I not lived an hour away, I would have gladly surrendered the chilly fusion of extreme-fashion, marble floors, Roman columns and a ginormous fountain for an old-fashioned salon.

I could be seriously over-thinking this.

Maybe it was mid-life crisis, or maybe it was because, as she said, somebody had given her a gift card, but one fall day in 2012, Anna did the unthinkable and walked through the doors of a high end salon where she was carefully assessed. Then, like a chicken cutlet, she was quickly moved through the shop: colored, highlighted, washed, cut and blown.

And she looked great!

After she stopped beaming at my compliments, she disclosed awkwardness and sadness. Her new look required the loss of her Chair Mate and the familiarity of the local beauty shop, and, after twenty years, she’d never even said goodbye.

Why would her hairstylist want to hear her say that anyway?

So Anna stopped looking back and decided that she was never going to be a Chair Mate again, ever. Her hair services were going to be kept just that, a service, very businesslike.

Anna presently slides beneath the steering wheel at traffic lights and slips through the aisles of her local supermarket when she sees her former hairstylist. She wishes to speak to her and say: I really miss you. Instead she leaves her cart in the aisle and runs out the door.

I admit, I am curious about how the business-like relationship is getting along in her new salon.