At this very moment my hair, along with locks shorn from thousands of other heads, is wending its way to the crime scene in the Gulf, where it will sop up some of the oil from BP’s spill. Purely by accident I chose the right day for a haircut.
A Matter of Trust, an environmental group that collects hair for this very purpose, yesterday made the rounds of barber shops, hair salons and beauty schools, gathering up scraps to stuff into nylon pantyhose and throw into the Gulf, where they’ll absorb some of the muck and mire. High tech solution, huh? I can’t wait to see if it works.
I hadn’t had my hair cut in almost a year, and it was seriously interfering with my freedom of movement. It got hopelessly tangled, it made me sweat at night, all my hair bands snapped, and the teeth of every plastic doodad I used to keep it at bay broke off under the strain. The trouble was, the woman I’d been going to for nearly five years had begun pestering me to resume coloring it. “You look old,” she said, sparing no feelings. “I can make you ten years younger.” I gave her fair warning, told her if she kept it up I’d find someone new. She thought I was joking.
Who’s laughing now? I Googled haircut schools and found The SF Institute of Esthetics and Cosmetology. One of their delightful students did a fantastic job, much better than hers — and he seemed to like the gray. He even suggested a purple shampoo made especially to brighten up white or silver and tone down any yellow. Young enough to be my grandson, he accepted my gray hair because it’s what I want.
When I first walked in I was momentarily jolted: What on earth made me think I’d be comfortable in this place? Dozens of hip young men and women clad from head to toe in black buzzed around the room with shears, towels, or bottles of goop. The women’s hair was straight, mid-length, and cut at an angle. Every hair color both known and unknown in nature was represented. The men’s hair was short, curly, and bleached a gleaming yellow-blonde. The situation was one in which I could have easily felt out of place; between my long messy gray hair and purple t-shirt, I definitely stood out.
And yet, minutes after Joshua led me to his station and began discussing my hair, I felt completely at ease. Not for nothing is San Francisco known for its atmosphere of acceptance. I was reminded of the early days when I first came to this City from the East Coast, and realized it was a place where I could be myself, where I didn’t have to hide a thing. I seriously doubt that in a beauty school on Long Island, where I grew up, the presence of an older woman would be seen and treated so casually.
Joshua consulted with his supervisor, one of the wispy-haired women, repeating verbatim what I’d told him: “Two inches off and a little layering.” She nodded in agreement. “Make it low maintenance,” she said. I don’t know if these kids were stereotyping, or if the gray tipped them off that I don’t play with my hair, or if they just plain got me – but it didn’t matter. For 20 bucks I got a great haircut, some interesting conversation, and even read my book during half the process. It took longer than my haircuts used to, what with a deep head massage during shampoo, and slow careful cutting – she used to make those scissors fly – but needless to say I didn’t mind.
That my hair’s ultimate destination is the rescue of pelicans is icing on the cake.