A hair-raising experience

When we moved to a new community four-and-a-half years ago, it was a huge transition for our entire family to build relationships, engage in the community and find our place. As much as I love an adventure, I’m also learning how much I value knowing what to expect, the comfort of reliable friends and even the simple things, like being able to find my way around without a GPS.

About four years ago, I met a person who became a constant in my life. One day a month for the past four years, we have spent two hours together. She’s half my age, and in a totally different stage of life. But during the past few years, we’ve talked through many of life’s biggest events.

She was single when we met. Then engaged. Then married. We’ve shared relationship issues, diet changes, TV shows, vacations and life’s big questions. She knew me when I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, and listened to my woes when I radically changed my diet. She has met every member of my family and gotten to know my daughters. She remembers details about our conversations from one month to the next. We’ve had weird dreams about each other. Heck, I even taught her how to use the podcast app on her iPhone.

Yesterday, I got the phone call that I knew one day would eventually come. And yet, it still took me by surprise.

“Emily…. I’m calling about your appointment tomorrow. Katie is no longer with us.”

It took me a minute to fully grasp what the caller was communicating.

“Noooooooooo!” I responded.

“Oh. No.”


During the last four years, I guess you could say I’ve paid Katie to be my friend. I’ve paid her for our two-hour appointments. I’ve paid her to cut and color my hair, every four weeks, like clockwork. But she’s also become a real, genuine part of my life.

For a lot of people, a hair stylist is someone they barely cross paths with a few times a year. But for me, and my prematurely gray hair, my hair stylist has always been a big part of my life.

It’s not easy to find someone who can deal with my high maintenance hair requirements. It’s not easy to find someone who can keep my short hair cut looking just the way I want it every month. And it’s not easy to find someone I enjoy spending that much time with on such a regular basis. I mean, seriously, there are times I see her more often than some of my closest real-life friends!

I’ve been through this before. There was Shay. And then Andrea. My gosh. I even had a very long and super dysfunctional relationship with Henry, who gave me a completely unflattering hair cut, but was so pleasant to be around that I stuck with him nearly four years.

Oh, I know she has a million other clients who probably feel exactly the same way about her as I do. But I don’t take for granted when I find a stylist I can count on to always be there when I need her. Someone who knows exactly what to do to make this middle-age mom feel a little better about her appearance. And someone who keeps me entertained with meaningful conversation in the process.

The woman on the phone gave me a choice of two possible stylists who could take me in for my appointment today. I was already a few days past the four-week mark, which means I was desperate to get some color on my half-inch of glowing unpigmented roots. (Katie, couldn’t you have waited ONE more day to move on with your life?!) ;0

I felt like I was walking into a funeral when I drove into the parking lot of the salon today. Too distraught to even think through my options, I told the scheduler to just decide for me who I should see.

“I have to be brave,” I told myself. (Thankfully, that’s my word of the year, and I’m reading a book about it!) 😉

I tried to smile. Act natural. Make conversation.

Instead of being greeted immediately when I walked in with a friendly smile, I sat in the waiting area, anxious to see who would walk around the corner.

I shook his hand awkwardly.


The new guy pampered me.

He told me he likes to give his clients a foot soak in a hot tub of water filled with stones and essential oils. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh, cry, run or be happy. So I took off my socks and boots.

Instead of a tea bag, he gave me loose leaf tea with an actual strainer. (Did he know that loose leaf tea is my love language?)

I quizzed him about his life to try to find common ground. We finally hit on our mutual roots in southern Illinois and his recent weight loss due to a major health issue and diet change. But mostly, we resorted to superficial chatter about celebrities in the news.

He mixed my color perfectly.

My hair cut turned out just as it always does.

He tried some new products on my hair and explained all of their benefits. I tried to act interested.

Sure, he complimented my scarf and jeans. But he didn’t give me a full outfit review like Katie would have.

He did everything right. But I still feel lost.

As I checked out, he asked if we could see each other again in four weeks. A lump formed in my throat.

I can’t just jump into a new relationship with only one day’s notice. How can I commit to seeing this person every four weeks until one of us moves or makes a major life change?

The reality hit me as I scrolled through the calendar on my phone.

She’s not coming back.

I can hear the clock already ticking until I have to figure this out. I have four weeks to find someone new. I have to get myself back out there. I have to date new stylists. Find one I can trust. Someone I can count on.

This won’t be easy.

There could be some very bad hair days ahead, people.

There’s more to consider here than just a cut and color.



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