I’ve never been one to think about my hair. When I started working in a hair salon, it became well known I did not know what I was doing with my hair, I barely knew how to curl my bangs. (thats a lie, Thelma showed me how to properly do my bangs and I still suck at it)
But I love watching stylists do hair. It’s magical. When I’m not working I’ll often sit in one of the chairs and observe. I call it supervising (huge joke here). Its like watching the food network without calories or fat. Women come in one way, and leave looking brand new, put together, feeling fabulous, gorgeous, maybe even younger. They get a new cut, a new color, something different, something exciting. They’ve visited their favorite stylist, told a bunch of stories, caught up on whats new, laughed and been pampered. It’s a service beyond anything else. Women seem to love it! I certainly have grown to enjoy sitting there and being part of it.
The relationships I’ve witnessed between a stylist and her client when cancer appears is like none other I’ve ever seen. It’s a soft, supportive holding of space. A helpfulness, a guide what to do when you’re losing hair. How to cover the thinning hair. How to look your best when you’re feeling your worst. When should you shave your head? How to pick out a wig that looks natural. How to wash your head, and take care of your wig. Questions asked, and answered. Its a dance of words mixed with tears and shaking voices and hugs and hand holding and strength often some laughter.
It’s not the stylists first time, its the clients first time. (or maybe their second, or third, or maybe their last)
It’s watching the salon come together to surround this woman either in person or in spirit. You feel it. It feels like threads of support binding and weaving and protecting her while she is in that chair.
She is safe.
She is not alone.
They know what they are doing.
She is in good hands.
She is supported.
Not just by one stylist. By everyone in that salon.
There are women who see their stylist for years, 20, 30 years. They have a personal relationship with her. I’ve never had that. I envy this now. It’s beautiful. This bond, this deep friendship women manage to cultivate with their stylist, it’s who they want to see when they are going thru happy times, or difficult trauma. I’ve seen women lose someone and immediately say they need to get their hair done. They need that appointment. I’ve known stylists to open early, and stay hours late to make sure their client, their friend, gets what they need. I’ve seen stylist hug their clients goodbye, crying along with them as they go.
It’s a bit of a miracle when the peach fuzz of hair begins to grow again. I believe hair growth must feel like health returning. To me it would feel like normalcy is coming back. I notice when it begins growing back people tend to want to touch it a lot, like saying hello to a friend thats been away for a long time. Time again to get to the salon, a nice shampoo, a good trim, some color, oh the joy and fun of having hair again! Just to play a little. Throw in some purple, why not! The smiles and happiness on the faces of everyone when the healthy client comes back into the salon recovered of cancer. The relief. ? It literally is a celebration when this happens! ?
I’ve never given my hair much thought. Until I started studying Oncology Massage and really began looking around. Suddenly a lot of women missing hair started appearing around me. It made me wonder, if my hair has never meant much to me, would I miss it? I’m sure I would. I’m sure even tho I rarely get it done, it would be traumatic to have it fall out. It would be traumatic to shave my head.
To feel just skin and under skin bone. To see my head bare. To not have that covering. It would feel cold, and vulnerable, and alien. I’m sure I would hate it. I think about that more now.
Since taking my class in Oncology Massage, I’ve often wondered, how will I do massaging someones head who may be losing hair, or have none at all? Being an Esthetician for so long, head massage has been a long time friend of mine. I massage the face, ears, neck, I involve the hair, and really love to make a huge mess it. Since getting my LMT, I’ve just expanded on that even more! It feels amazing and I know it feels amazing. How will it feel minus the hair? Not for me, for her I mean. Or for him for that matter. I worry how I will approach it in my intake, what words will I use? How can I say it without making it seem uncomfortable for them? I’ve noticed that I have to learn to be more sensitive with my words. Before, I could be more blunt. Now sensitivity is needed. It’s a skill I have to learn.
This is why I observe so much. Because I learn so much. Not really about hair, that’s a skill far beyond me. I’m learning about people skills, how to word things, how to ask a question without sounding invasive or rude. I can hold a space in a massage room where there is quiet and peace, but speaking? Using my words? Sometimes, believe it or not, that can be difficult for me, especially when it involves difficult situations or sensitive subjects.
So I watch stylists and their gifts and am grateful that women who have hair and do care about their hair, have a wonderful places to go. More importantly, women who have cancer, and are going to lose hair, have support, humor, kindness and will leave there being well taken care of.
I continue to just be a witness and learn.