I'm cheating on my hairdresser

I knew it was wrong, but I saw someone else, and he was good. Very, very good.

Published November 10, 2006 12:00PM (EST)

Dear Cary,

I feel like I'm about to cheat on my hairdresser. I've found someone else who does it better and now I don't know how to tell my current hairdresser that he just doesn't cut it anymore.

There are complications. My current hairdresser is a very dear friend. I've known him for years and when he worked in another field, there was no problem. However, once he became a hairdresser two years ago, I started going to him. Things were fine when all I wanted was a simple cut. But recently, I decided I needed a change. A girl has a right to change her mind, doesn't she? So I went to him for this new look and, well, he didn't quite get what I was aiming for. So I tried someone else, who got it perfectly.

But how can I tell him that I want to leave him? I know it would devastate him, and end our friendship. Proof of this is that when he and his boyfriend came over for dinner the other night, he looked at my hair and remarked on how well his cut was holding up. In a fit of honesty I told him that I had gone somewhere else. He reacted with what amounted to panic and dismay until, mid-sentence, I told him that I had only gone somewhere else for a different color, rather than a different cut. His relief was immediate and definite. He as much as said that he wouldn't be able to take it if I were to leave him.

There's more. Recently, his mother passed away and he is, naturally, overwhelmed by grief. If I tell him I'm going elsewhere, do I risk adding to his store of emotional pain at a time when, surely, he has enough to deal with? He and his boyfriend have been immensely supportive through some difficult times in my life over the years. They are both good friends.

Do I come right out and tell him I love him as a friend but for the sake of my hairstyle, I have to go elsewhere? How do I keep my friend and still have hair I can live with? Do I dare risk upsetting him further at a time when he is already going through the emotional wringer after the death of his mother?


Dear Confused,

This isn't going to be easy.

But the hair knows what it wants.

He wouldn't be a real hairdresser if he didn't know that. The hair knows what it wants and we follow blindly, sometimes crying, rending our clothes, unable to accept the inevitable. We cry out to God asking why it must be this way, and God just shakes her pert little curls and looks at her nails, thinking maybe a manicure this time.

The hair changes. It grows. It grows and changes and its needs change too. All they can do, even the best of them, is deftly cooperate with its whims. So when the time comes for change, there isn't much to do but change.

We are all powerless over our hair. Every real hairdresser knows this. Still, you can't blame a person for fighting it.

I often wonder, and perhaps you do too: If God has so much power, why does God let people leave their hairdressers? Maybe it's part of some bigger plan, something we can't really understand because we are just down here brushing off our collars. Maybe, in order to make the world a more splendid and beautiful place, God wants to see more new hairstyles in the world, more combinations, so God toys with us, tears loyal customers from the salons where they thought they would go gray and start dyeing, and sends them to new young, strong hairdressers who don't even know who Donna Summer is.

I don't know.

But these things happen and so you are going to have to be strong. You could put it off, of course. But you've already crossed the line; you've already gone to another man's salon and lain back in his chair; you're already bared your scalp and felt his scissors brush cooly across your neck and made the secret coo-cooing chitchat with him. Did you do it on the sly, slinking into this new, strange hairdresser's salon after the evening sun has set and only shadows are visible on the streets, when all the other customers are gone and he can tend to you alone, pulling the shades down low and perhaps turning on the TV so it would appear even to a passerby that he was alone in the salon watching television after hours, not ministering to the breathless needs of some other hairdresser's woman -- or "customer," if we must be so coldly technical about it? And how was it? Was it as good as you thought it would be? How did you feel afterward? Surely you had that glow of hope: Maybe this one is for real, maybe this is the last new one. But did you feel something clinging to you, too, something itchy?

Whatever. It's done now. You have to tell. You owe him that much. Take him out to dinner at a nice place and tell him over dessert.

At first there will be disbelief. He won't think you are serious. Then he will deny that this is happening. It can't be happening. How could it? How could there be another hairdresser who gets your little curls better than he does, who knows just how that little flip on the bottom turns a slightly different way on the left side than on the right? He may mention his mother. How could you do this now? What about all the hours you have spent together lying back in his chair, he will ask, his hands molding your scalp, his gentle scissors clipping away with such precision and yet such passion that though it is always a little frightening at first you always end up abandoning yourself to him? What about that? Surely, you can't forget.

"You'll be back," he'll say. "You love that old Donna Summer tape. You know you do."

Be strong. Tell him it's over.

Then just walk away.

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