Prepping for my first hair show. And struggling to make sense of bad news (and should you talk about it with your clients?)

October 7, 2017

As I write this, I’m preparing for my first hair show. Well, the first hair show I’m working at, and not just attending as a spectator. I’m busy packing, and double checking I’m not forgetting anything, and buying proper fashionable outfits (anyone who sees me as a client knows I’m a jeans and polo type of guy, so this must be a big deal to get me to dress in all black), and studying all my haircolor literature, and confirming reservations, and planning routes….and PHEW. Breathe. There’s so much to do! I want this to be a success so badly…. I feel like this is a real turning point in my career (both behind the chair, and as an educator), and I’m trying to not let anxiety derail my focus. This isn’t my entry into the realm of education…rather, it’s the return to it. The creative boost I get from educating is reflected in my work behind the chair. There’s a very different kind of satisfaction when you see that “Ah ha!” moment look cross someones face, and I’ve really been missing that.

And then, smack dab in the middle of all this…. I’m reminded by the universe how utterly miniscule my problems are. Reminded how mind-blowingly inconsequential getting your hair done is, in the grand scheme of things. Reminded how complex issues have a way of simplifying your crap REAL QUICK. Cuz my poppa has cancer. And he’s got a real struggle in front of him. And he’s already struggled so hard.

When the poop hits the fan (hey…. I told you this blog was gonna be all real talk, all the time), funny things start to happen with the way you process things. At least, they do for me. I’m an anomaly…. but I don’t think so. When we first got the news of the latest developments, I only remember blind panic. The doctor just threw out this information, and then kept on going, as if he hadn’t derailed our whole lives. I remember thinking “Wait. Hold the phone. WTF did you just say?!”. We knew it was bad, but we didn’t know how bad. I remember I couldn’t hear anything the doctor was saying…. I could just feel my pulse across every square inch of my skin, and I could hear the most tremendous rushing sound in my ears….to the point I was having a tough time hearing what the doctor was saying. I could feel my facade starting to crumble, and there wasn’t anything I could do to stop it, even though I was trying so hard to be brave for my parents. I cried. None of this makes any sense. Nothing like this should happen to people we love. It felt like I was just snatching breaths out of the air, but oxygen wasn’t quite reaching my lungs, and for a minute I thought “Oh…. this is what it feels like to pass out”. And then something…. shifted. I could see the looks on my parents faces, and I guess that snapped me out of it. I wasn’t the only one going through this…and I needed to get my stuff together and be helpful. So, the doctor passed me some tissues, and I got my face together, and could tune back in to the information being given to us.

As I left the doctors office, I was struck by how NORMAL everything around me was. It was a beautiful day…not a cloud in the sky, a perfect 76 degrees with zero humidity, and lots of folks were milling about enjoying their lunch breaks in the sunshine. The world was still spinning, while mine felt like it was spinning out of control. My family has always had an attitude of “Just get on with things” when faced with adversity, and damn it…. we’ll just have to do it again. We have challenging times in front of us, but I refuse to give up hope. I have to believe that my beautiful poppa can overcome this latest obstacle…mostly because I’m as stubborn as he is. If there’s just one thing I’m grateful to my poppa for, it’s for instilling that mulishness in me. It’s served me well in striving for things that might feel out of my reach, as well as getting through tough times.

So, all this got me to thinking…. what’s the best way to handle a situation like this in the salon? When I was a baby hairdresser, I was taught that a clients appointment should always be focused on them. But when your clients have been in your life for upwards of a decade (or more…cough, cough), there’s a sense of ease and familiarity that connects you beyond just beauty pro and client. You’ve been a part of each others’ lives through major moments, both happy and sad. You’ve been there for marriages, divorces, birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, the births of their kids, graduations…. even deaths. I really feel like many of my clients are beyond clients…that’s why I call them guests. I’m happy to have them in my home-away-from-home, and I really love the fact that they view my salon as a refuge.

Until now, I’ve kept this mostly private except from a few select people who I thought should know, just in case I have a difficult day. I may post inordinate amounts of content on social media, but I’ve always been a private person when it comes to stuff like this…. I learned a long time ago that clients don’t come in and pay as much money as they do to hear sad stories about personal issues. I’ve learned to compartmentalize my personal life…. almost to an absurd level. I just got this news today, and here I am at work. I’m still planning on going to the hair show this weekend. Most people I know would not. I wonder how regular people (or as seasoned beauty pros call them “civilians”) get through a day when stuff like this is happens. Every seasoned beauty pro I know lives life like this…. we don’t get sick days (or even vacation days) or sad days, or even just “off” days without the risk of losing clients. We must always be “on” and ready to perform beauty miracles…so we just suck it up and go to work and make people pretty. But…is that the best way? Sometimes I think clients do an excellent job at dehumanizing us (even if they don’t mean to) because…let’s face it…they’re paying a lot of money to come in and get pampered, so it should be all about them. But beauty professionals are still human, and we still have lives, and terrible things still happen to us. Shouldn’t we be allowed to have this “human-ness”, without having to worry that our source of income will be affected? Maybe so, but we still all live in the real world. So, I’ll be back to work tomorrow, with a smile on my face, ready to beautify the world, when on the inside, I feel frantic and anxious. I’ll act my face off this weekend at the hair show, because it’ll be a worthwhile distraction that will benefit me in the long run, and hopefully take my mind off this insanity the universe is throwing at my family. And I’ll do my best to keep positive thoughts in my mind as much as possible, both for my own sanity, as well as for the sake of my family. And in between, I’ll lean on my partner and my stellar group of friends, who have been my life-line to sanity, and spend as much time as humanly possible, loving on my family. I hope you all do the same. Go hug someone.

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