The calendar said it was April Fool’s Day and yet, it wasn’t a joke. After two mildly unsuccessful haircuts I decided to try someone new. Heard good things about Kaitlyn so I decided to give her a try. Frustrating morning with work but I consoled myself with the fact that I’d have a snazzy new haircut to dazzle my partner with after work that evening.

I arrived at the salon looking like the harried mom of a toddler I am: hair tied back but still all askew, yoga pants, running shoes, and a purple fleece hoodie pullover. I could have been driving a minivan carpool in a sitcom in that getup.

When I arrived at the salon for my Friday afternoon beautification I found out there was a change in plans. Michelle informed me that Kaitlyn wasn’t going to be able to cut my hair. Apparently she was doing a blow out and flat iron on a woman with extremely long hair and she hadn’t been allotted enough time.But the good news, from Michelle’s perspective, was that she had time to do my hair. In retrospect, it’s easy to see that I should have run for the hills. After all, what kind of hairdresser is just sitting around waiting for a colleague’s leftovers on a Friday afternoon? Other than Saturday morning, Friday afternoon is prime time for a haircut. But I wasn’t really in my right mind. All I could think was, “Please make me pretty for I clearly am not capable of it on my own.”

As we walked back to Michelle’s station, we passed Kaitlyn’s chair and there was the woman with the crazy long hair. I do understand why she required more time. It was surprising to see a woman, with what I can only describe as sister-bride length hair, at a salon. She seemed more suited to nursing a baby or churning butter but there she was, in supposedly the hippest hair studio in town.

Michelle was a twenty-something heavily tattooed waif with jet-black hair with peacock green highlights.She looked a thousand times hipper than I’ve ever looked in my life and I was impressed that she didn’t seem the least bit put off by the bird’s nest of hair sitting in her chair.

With only the briefest of conversation about what I wanted, she whipped out the scissors. Again, in retrospect, this was a big warning sign: no flipping through magazines to find photos of my desired ‘do, no brushing through it and saying, “you want it like this or more like that?,” not even a moment’s attention to where I wear my part. But I was tired. I missed the warning. Instead, I closed my eyes and waited for a miracle. My greatest desire was to open my eyes when she was done and find that I had shampoo commercial hair, looked ten years younger, and was 15 pounds lighter.

For the first few minutes the speed with which she worked was heartening. After all, this quick haircut would leave more time for beautification at home. I could take a hot bath and maybe even shave my legs for the first time in, well, I don’t know how long. But after about ten minutes of hearing the snippety snips and feeling the hair glance past my neck on the way to the floor, my visual sense was aching for a look see. I slowly opened my eyes and – yikes- that wasn’t what I expected.But then I thought, “Quit micromanaging and let the woman do her job.” We’ve all had at least one of those haircuts that looked like a train wreck when it was wet and then viola, dry and gorgeous. This would be one of those, right? RIGHT?

I tried to close my eyes again and be zen but it was so hard. Twenty minutes in, after a couple more peeks, I realized that I was clawing my left hand with my right. I couldn’t take it any more. I breezily said, “You know, I’m looking at what you’re doing and though it looks like it’s going to be a fabulous cut,” I lied, keeping in mind that she has scissors precariously near my throat, “I’m thinking that it’s not really turning out the way I envisioned.” She, for the first time I realized, inquired about my vision and actually seemed to listen. I watched as the horror crept across her face. She composed herself and said breezily back to me that she thought getting a second opinion might be a good idea. I smiled and agreed.

She was gone a really long time. I honestly felt sorry for her.

The sister-bride and all eight feet of her hair had finally gone so Michelle brought Kaitlyn over as her second opinion. In and obviously fake sing-songy voice, Kaitlyn asked about what I wanted and how what Michelle had done seemed off to me. Halfway through my description, Kaitlyn got the same look of stunned horror on her face. She cleared her throat, and turned to Michelle with suggestions for what to do. But it was a blatant charade. We all knew there was no way in hell Michelle was going to give me what I wanted out of this mess. Kaitlyn then patted me on the shoulder and walked away quickly. Oh, how I longed for Kaitlyn in that moment…

Michelle, with a plastered on smile and much slower scissors, trodded along trying to fix the mess. I let her go for a few more minutes then cheerfully informed her that I thought it looked done to me. Her face betrayed both her utter disbelief and relief. Without speaking the words, we agreed. It was time to stop the bleeding.

I guess I could have declined the blow out but frankly I was holding out hope that somehow this was one of those miracle haircuts that looks so good in the end. Of course, this was not to be and when Michelle, inexplicably, curled my bangs with the flat iron I had to stifle a laugh, or was it a cry? I paid (why the hell did I pay for this mess?) and practically ran out the door.

All the way home I kept looking into the rearview mirror and laughing uproariously. I just couldn’t keep it to myself so I called my best friend Ronlyn. I described it and told her that as soon as I got home I would take a photo with my phone and send it to her. I took a couple of shots laughing and then decided that the face just didn’t match the hair. I was finally able to squelch the laugh long enough to take a shot where my face was congruent with the hair. It is without a doubt the most unattractive photo of me ever. It looks like a mug shot, and really bad one at that. Don’t believe me? Take a look but don’t take a sip of water before you scroll down to it.

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before

I kept wondering why I wasn’t crying. I honestly think that if it had been slightly less bad I would have cried my eyes out but this was so utterly horrible I had surpassed upset and flown right into hysterics.

After a ridiculously long time waiting for the photo, apparently Verizon wasn’t having a much better day that I was, Ronlyn called me a declared the haircut to be “positively medieval.” Yep, that about summed it up. We laughed and made monk jokes.

This, after all, is the primary responsibility of the best friend: to laugh with you when you’re trying not to cry.

After my brief friend therapy, I jumped in the shower, determined to do something, anything, to improve the situation, even just a little. When I got out and combed it I saw that there were some areas that definitely needed to be fixed but that the overall shape wasn’t actually that bad. I trimmed a couple of spots and then went about blow-drying and flat ironing that bitch as if my life depended on it.

A second photo reassured Ronlyn that she didn’t need to start sewing that brown burlap dress I was going to need to convince people that medieval monk was the newest retro look from New York. Instead, I was back to looking pretty much like me. Or, me on a day when I have a chance to take a shower anyway. Turns out maybe I am capable of making myself pretty, or at the very least, prettier than a mug shot.

after

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Alison Aucoin is descended from people who spent their weekends dressing up in costumes and taking silly photos of one another to send to relatives who were serving in the Pacific during WWII. She makes her living as a freelance grant writer but is much happier squeezing playdough with her two year-old Ethiopian daughter, creating photography/audio projects, crafting manifestos on her blog (http://endebetehyemhoneyelem.blogspot.com) and making costumes with her trusty glue gun. She is one of only about a half dozen Cajun Jews in existence.

43 responses to “April Fool’s Day: A bad hair day but it wasn’t a joke”

  1. Faye says:

    I have always loved reading your work and today I just had to comment. This story made me remember all my bad haircuts over the years. I was amazed in how you made it work in the end. If I may say, I think it looks very flattering now.

    • Thanks for the compliment Faye and thanks for reading my stuff. It’s nice to be reminded that there are quiet folks out there who enjoy what I’m putting out there.

  2. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    Oh man, that STILL cracks me up! I stick by my original description. I can’t think of anything else.

    Wait, is there a saint of haircuts???? Surely, there must be a patron for barbers. Perhaps a trip to a local Catholic gift store will yield a card to clutch during the next salon visit.

    XOXO

  3. Zara Potts says:

    I’m still laughing over Ronlyn’s description – in fact, I spluttered my vitamin water over my keyboard when I read that. ‘Positively medieval’ is perfect. And your expression! Priceless!

    But seriously – a bad haircut is just horrible. I don’t love hairdressers at the best of times but when they manage to mangle a simple cut – it drives me insane. I once had a terrible haircut (razor cut, if you will) that was so bad I had to buy a wig until it grew out. The offending hairstyle was in ‘vogue’ apparently, but the hairdresser hadn’t bothered to think about the fact that while it might have looked amazing on a six foot tall, angular of face, model – it looked hideous on me.

    I’m so glad you managed to sort out that cut, Alison! It looks nice in the second picture. I can’t believe they made you pay! I hope they gave you a discount at least…

    • Ronlyn Domingue says:

      Seems like the saucy side of you could have pulled off a razor cut. I’ve had some questionable cuts in my day, but none that required a wig. Ack!

      • Zara Potts says:

        No, no! It was truly awful. Even my mother said it was terrible.
        The wig was pretty great though. It was a sleek bob. I though I looked just like Agent 99 in ‘Get Smart’

    • If I hadn’t been able to fix it, the wig was my next option. Then I could change style and color everyday. On second thought, I might just start the wig rotation for the hell of it. Beauty World here I come!

  4. Irene Zion says:

    Alison,

    Okay, I got a haircut story for you.
    I don’t like hair on my face and I had bangs. They were growing out and obviously I had to deal with hair in my face until they grew out.
    But I asked the hairdresser:
    “What would happen if you just cut the bangs down all the way?”
    and he said:
    “This,” and he cut them down to my scalp.
    I had a buzz in the front of my hair.
    I, also, paid him.
    WHY DO WE PAY THEM?
    It took months to grow out.
    I never went back to him.
    Duh.

    I think you did a very nice job cleaning up a very bad haircut.
    You look lovely in the second picture.

    • My chick was just a bad hairdresser. Yours sounds like a bad person, and quite possibly seriously mentally ill. They do background checks for so many professions. Seems like person who uses sharp instruments and has the capacity to destroy your life, at least for a few months, should be a candidate for some serious investigation.

      • Irene Zion says:

        You know, Alison?
        I always thought that what he did was quite mean.
        It was my first, and last, duh, appointment with him.
        He was the favorite of a friend of mine.
        She suggested him to me and was actually there.
        I have some thinking to do about this, now that you’ve started the gears moving.

  5. Matt says:

    I never leave the barber’s feeling satisfied. My expectations of what my new haircut must defy reality or something, which is not a good thing considering my hair is notoriously difficult. Four – four! -cowlicks.

    My current barber is the best I’ve ever had, and his shop is stocked with beer, cigars, and Playboys for while you wait, but I’m still hesitant to schedule an appointment, since I dread that feeling of disappointment. I’m overdue at the moment, and am sporting a pretty good 70’s shag at the moment. I’m this close to throwing in the towel and just growing it out long again.

    • As a girl, porn in the barber shop was a new concept to me until a few years ago. My boyfriend at the time worked on one side of downtown NOLA & I worked on the other. We always met for lunch when he had an appointment with his barber as the shop was near my office. He was always very specific about what time I should meet him & he was always waiting for me outside. One time I was running a bit early or barber was a bit late. Anyway, I saw him through the window & made my way inside. The look on his face was nothing short of horrified. I couldn’t figure out why until I sat in one of the chairs & glanced down at the magazines on the table next to me. You could have heard a pin drop.

  6. You look completely adorable!

    I’m the queen of trying new things with my hair. But, I’ve grown very prudent in my old age, as to who I will let transform me. And, I, like you, have limited time for days of beauty.
    And I’ve so been there, where you don’t want to micromanage what they’re doing. Cuz there’s nothing worse than wanting to burst into tears because of an unfixable do.

    I think my worst experience was what should have been platinum blond streaks that were more of a shade of green/silver. I made the mistake of going to a place that tried to bleach hair with environmentally friendly hair products. No. I should have known there would be a problem when she mentioned blue corn husk powder. It’s gotta be toxic to work!!

    • Irene Zion says:

      @ Stephanie,

      You are not even close to old. The thing is that kids make you feel so tired that you are just equating it with old, but you’re wrong. You are a spritely young mother.
      As to things needing to be toxic? They took the phosphates out of dishwasher detergent and now I have to prewash my silverware and dishes before I put them in the dishwasher or the silverware comes out with bits of food on it and the dishes still have dried food stuck on them. I need my toxic phosphates back!

      • Oh, lovely Irene.
        That’s very kind of you – I love that you say I’m a spritely young mother.
        I’m actually deep into the advanced maternal age category that they lump you in
        at the doctor. But on a good day, I can pass for spritely, I suppose.

        And I have definitely stopped using my health food store toilet cleaner, as well.
        Cedar and lavender oil are no match for those “scrubbing bubbles” that
        “work hard so you don’t have to!!!!”

        • Motherhood, especially later in life, does not allow for spending time on sh*t that don’t work, no matter what it is. Haircut that seems boring when you’re 20 is much preferable to haircut that is so ugly you have to spend twice the amount of time fixing in the morning. All a cost-benefit equation: cleaning toilet with fancy organic stuff is good for baby’s environment but maybe not worth it if baby must watch more tv so mommy can scrub twice as long.

  7. This made me laugh with you because I’ve been there. Two years ago, I grew out my hair for a really cool, shaggy, rock and roll shoulder length cut I wanted. I had the photo and had been growing it out in anticipation for months. Like yourself, I was assigned the stylist sitting around with nothing to do at the salon. Like yourself, I ignored this warning sign.

    Despite the fact that my desired haircut picture featured hair to the shoulders, the stylist gave me an odd, just-below-the-ears bob with crazy, choppy layers (some layers on top of my head were cut less than two inches long! What?) that can best be described as an Insane Little Lord Fauntelroy. It was heinous. With massive amounts of straightening iron time and product, it could be turned into something that might pass for ironically edgy in the right outfit, but I’m a mom. I don’t have the time or energy to spend an hour on my hair every day. I finally gave up, found a recommended, expensive stylist, and got the really short pixie cut I have today. And I will trust no one with my hair except my current stylist ever again.

    I think you look adorable in the second picture. Way to stay positive thoughout your haircut ordeal! I’m impressed. (:

    • In addition to Ronlyn’s description of it as positively medieval and a friend on Facebook who compared it to the look of peasants in mud in Monty Python’s Holy Grail, insane Little Lord Fauntelroy/Prince Valiant is about right. Those who can rock a pixie should. I am not one of blessed few so I shall sally forth with my quest for perfect bob.

  8. angela says:

    you did a GREAT job fixing that cut! you look adorable.

    man, have i had bad haircuts. i think people look at me and assume i have that typical soft and silky Asian hair instead of this thick, rough, cowlicky stuff. i’ve had at least four haircutters just cut my hair any which way (and two were Asian women), and let me tell you, it was HOT MESS each time afterward.

    i finally found a hairdresser who understood my hair had to be sculpted, to be shaped and textured and carefully cut. to be lessened to avoid that poufy, what my boyfriend calls, “first lady look.”

    after moving to SF, my first stylist was scared to cut hardly anything, and for some reason thought bangs would be bad for me, although my forehead is more of a five-head, and my bangs curl adorably when short. the only thing i liked about Charles was that he had a lovely French accent and we both loved scifi movies.

    now i’m with Jar, who hates movies but knows what he’s doing, which is a good trade-off, i think.

  9. First of all, I MUST say that in the second picture you look really pretty and sweet and that there’s NOTHING to be embarrassed about there!

    Now, I must tell you when I scrolled down and got to the first picture I BURST out laughing. Like, really, really laughing. It’s an unimaginably bad cut. It doesn’t even make sense. And the sort of gloom in your expression is so sad but so funny.

    You are wonderful to actually post that picture! This is such a great story. And, seriously, you’re gorgeous is pic. no. 2!

  10. Alison Aucoin says:

    I ran into a friend yesterday who accused me of making it worse before I took the first picture. I swear I did not. That is exactly the way I looked when I exited the salon. If it had been slightly less bad I wouldn’t have posted the photo but it was so utterly horrible I couldn’t help myself. I am, however, sad to report that my success with styling it in the second photo has not been achieved again. I’m a mess but not as bad as the first photo.

    • I’m distressed to hear you haven’t had styling success again–the second photo truly is adorable! Have you tried a Mary Tyler Moore headband? Might be cute, no? I think you need to do regular posts to update us on this “do.” Let us all see how it grows out. Did you TIP her??

      • Alison Aucoin says:

        Maybe this haircut needs it’s own blog. Yes, I tipped her. F*ck me and my occasionally co-dependent personality…

  11. Oh you are so brave….I feel your misery in that first picture. For better or for worse when we look in that damn mirror every morning we are our hair, we cannot escape the hair! This has been made so clear to me recently when a close friend had to have brain surgery. She had a gorgeous head of thick wavy hair — not kinky, not curly, just natural waves. All of it now gone. When I went to visit I was struck by how beautiful her head was shaped and I told her. Immediately she pointed out dents I could not see and of course, the comma shaped scar she now bore from surgery. And then the absurdity of what she said hit us both and we laughed so hard I was afraid she’d pop a stitch: even with every hair completely gone, she was not happy with how her head looked….
    You did a fantastic job on your “new” hair…

  12. Mary Richert says:

    Good job saving it. I hope you do manage to style it the second way again! And thanks for the reminder of just how valuable a good hair stylist is. Speaking of, I’m due for an appointment with mine …

  13. Gloria says:

    I’m so pleased to hear that Ronlyn didn’t hold back. I have a Ronlyn named Tree and there was a haircut I got about a year ago – almost the exact same scenario you describe above – where she laughed while I cried and then I laughed while she shook her head in horror and said, slowly, “I. Am. So. Sorry.” Not only did I pay – but I tipped. Ugh.

    To Ronlyn.

    I love what you did with it, though. You sassed that bad haircut up like no one’s business.

    Just remember – the only difference between a bad haircut and a good haircut is a month. Good luck. 🙂

  14. Alison Aucoin says:

    WHat the hell is wrong with us? I tipped too! Arrggghhhh!!!!

  15. Oh, that’s awful! That’s the Friar Tuck! I know it intimately because I spent grades 1 through 3 with the Friar Tuck. I mean, no bald circle at the crown, but still. And look how you made it your own beautiful thing in the end. Such a fun read, Alison.

  16. Dana says:

    “I tried to close my eyes again and be zen but it was so hard. Twenty minutes in, after a couple more peeks, I realized that I was clawing my left hand with my right. I couldn’t take it any more. I breezily said, “You know, I’m looking at what you’re doing and though it looks like it’s going to be a fabulous cut,” I lied, keeping in mind that she has scissors precariously near my throat, “I’m thinking that it’s not really turning out the way I envisioned.” Uh oh!

    Oh Alison! The first picture is hysterical. And I was giggling all the way through this because 1.) I have so been there (repeatedly), and 2.) my best friend had a very similar experience about 3 months ago.. it was just so random! Here a snip, there a snip, everywhere a snip, snip… Luckily you both have great senses of humor! The 2nd picture is adorable.

    How ridiculous that all of us TIPPED the people that abused our tresses.

    • Alison Aucoin says:

      I’m just off the phone with salon manager. I could stand it no more so I requested a refund. Apparently they had pow wowed about the situation right after I left. Refund granted. Sadly, hair not restored.

  17. M. Meeker says:

    You inspire me! Having just received one of “those cuts” myself. Every time I get a haircut, I walk in and describe that I have been growing out and don’t want to lose much length just a “little shaping up”. And walk out ($25+ poorer) with a “cut to the in-between stage where it won’t do anything” but the stylist insists “you will be able to do so much with it, Enjoy!” I’m reminded of the Wendy’s commercial “Enjoy what?” If I had the knack and expertise to do “so much with it” why would I cut my hair for easy care? I balm myself with only going to salons that offer a discount and my mantra is ‘It’s on my head and will grow back’. The true knacker is everyone who sees my haircuts thinks they are the cutest thing ever; until I regale them with the rest of the story. Unite scissor sister! You are not the only one having a psychotic event under the cape. There needs to be a 12 step program for hair trauma victims.

    • Alison Aucoin says:

      Sometimes I think it would be helpful to have some sort of English to hairdresser translation device. I will say a little prayer for your next haircut.

  18. Seth Pollins says:

    Oh, Alison, I’m so sorry to hear about your haircut disaster. When I read about it I felt much the same way I feel when I hear about another guy getting kicked in the you-know-what: my body, my hair, actually started to hurt. I’m a bit Sam Malone-ish about my hair. Luckily, my best friend’s wife owns a hair salon (called Barberella, after the Jane Fonda movie), and she really is the best.

    Haircuts can be consciousness-changing–they can literally change your outlook on life. Of course, it’s assumed that the change will be positive–but hey, I really like your second picture. I think you did a good job fixing it up.

    I think I’ve noticed a general theme between my post, Cynthia’s recent post, and your post: finding enjoyment in other people’s disasters. It’s not the disaster itself, of course, but the telling of it that seems triumphant. Kudos.

    • Alison Aucoin says:

      “It’s not the disaster itself, of course, but the telling of it that seems triumphant.” Absolutely! Thanks

  19. Ashley Menchaca (N.O.Lady) says:

    Oh my goodness, Alison!
    I’m impressed with your talent with the scissors. You did a fantastic job!

    My recent haircut was nothing like your experience. I needed a haircut and at the last minute I decided to get rid of my length. Before I had a chance to think it over, 10 or more inches were on the floor. The cut is cute and I like it but it kind of shocked me a bit.

  20. Alison Aucoin says:

    I’m big on the (intentional) drastic haircut. It’s so liberating! At least it wasn’t a bad tattoo!!

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