January 29, 2015 | Rome, Italy | °C

Life without Tyler

By Kissy Dugan
Published: 2015-01-29

When you have tortured relationship with hair, everything burns.
I

've always had a tortured relationship with my hair. Probably because I was bald until age seven. When my hair did arrive it grew in puffy little patches.

People quizzically asked my mother, "Did she have chemo?"

"No," she'd reply. "She just has really ugly hair."

And I did.

It didn't help that my three sisters had long, gorgeous locks, or knowing that every male member of my paternal family was as bald as a ping-pong ball.

I remember praying for long hair. And the Heavens responded in fifth grade when my hair finally reached shoulder length.

At that point my mother took my sisters and I to a local "salon" for a trim. "Do not ask for styling," my mother warned (a blow dry was extra in those days). "I'll do it at home. You will all be beautiful." Money was tight. The idea was to get a ghetto trim and leave with wet heads.

But the girl I got that day was lost in space. She cut one side of my hair twice and forgot the other. Since my hair was wet, no one noticed. I tried complaining but my mom was too busy yakking with another woman and trying to wrangle four girls into a Gran Torino station wagon.

My mother saw the damage when we got home. One side of my head was practically shaved, the other untouched. As I sobbed, she put us all back in the Ford and we headed back to the "salon" to get our $7.99 back.

"Look at her!" my mother screamed. "She looks like a shaved poodle on one side."

"We can cut the other side to match," said the manager, who then fired the stylist. (PCP and scissors don't mix.)

Four years passed before I was able to get another haircut and since then my relationship with anyone who cuts hair has been ... frayed. There was Cheri at Bumble&Bumble in New York, but she quit. There was Didier in Venice Beach, who always listened but then did whatever he wanted. Then came Tyler in West Hollywood, the only hairdresser I ever loved. But I had to leave the West Coast and Tyler wasn't budging.

In Rome, I couldn't find anyone I liked. Someone finally tipped me off to a Chinese place — no Italian or English spoken. The first experience was great. They cut like masters. But when I went back for color, the product they applied began burning and eventually made my scalp bleed. I ran out screaming. Moral of the story: do not let illegal immigrants color your hair.

I've had both my children in Italy, two boys, thankfully. The idea of female offspring with my bad hair genes wasn't appealing. With boys it was an occasional cut or combing. No muss, no fuss.

The boys also allowed me to focus all my follicular energy on me. And I've spent serious energy trying to find "the one." I've been a hairdresser-going whore. I've had plenty of one-cut stands without ever being faithful to anyone with shears. Cut after cut, I always left feeling empty inside.

Until last week when a friend with exceptional taste and good hair suggested I visit her stylist. "He'll know exactly what to do." I finally felt like I was ready for real relationship.

When I walked into a salon full of impeccably groomed gay men I felt was in good hands.

"We'll go short in the back and then... ZJJJJoooooo!" (Don't ask me.) He made noise and a hand gesture that suggested we'd go longer in the front. The gradated bob.

"Yes!" I replied in English.

He snipped away like Johnny Depp in "Edward Scissorhands," called his blow-drying assistant, and kissed me good-bye.

As I sat there with my wet hair I knew something was wrong. I was 10 again, but this time I'd paid a lot more than $7.99 to be butchered. I felt sick. My breathing turned erratic. "I will not cry, I will not cry," I told myself.

I finally stared in the mirror in horror. I looked very un-cool. Very middle aged. Very soccer mom.

"It's too short," I finally said in Italian.

"Ma, NO!" said blow-dryer boy. "Anyway, they will grow."

"Not mine," I said.

I then sent a picture and a text to my friend. "I don't want to look like a middle aged soccer mom!"

Her reply: "You are a middle aged soccer mom."

So I sat in my Volvo station wagon and sobbed: different station wagon, different cut, same feeling.

Then I picked up my kids (to take them to... soccer). My little one noticed something was up. "What's wrong Mommy?"

"I got my haircut and I don't like it."

"Looks the same to me," the bigger one commented.

"We will never have that problem," the little one chimed in, and then added, "Because pretty soon we'll be bald."

And they will.

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