© St. Petersburg Times, published February 14, 2003
I CHEAT on William. It isn't the first time.
I drive up North Dale Mabry Highway and meet another man, a stranger. He greets me at the door and leads me inside. Two hours later, I leave, my hair heavy with his scent.
Eventually, I come home to South Tampa, stammering excuses.
William looks at me and knows.
I call my friend Jamie Moore to gauge whether I am evil incarnate.
I tell her I am writing about hair stylists and she guesses the rest.
"On how we cheat on them, and then we go back?" she asks.
"On how we lie?" she asks. "On how we say, 'My friend's sister is in cosmetology school'?"
ON HOW WE first feel rebellious, then guilty, as if these relationships are more than financial transactions.
Does the dry cleaner pout when we hand wash? Does the yard guy gripe when we weed? No.
Yet hair stylists mourn the bangs that we trim ourselves. They sniff at boxes of do-it-yourself color. They get bored with us.
And so we stray. We lie back in strange sinks and close our eyes.
And then expect understanding later.
YOU WERE too booked, we say.
(You didn't have time for me.)
I was in New York and noticed the roots.
(I was out of town and lonely.)
Can you believe this awful cut?
(It was all a big mistake.)
We come back to them because, in our hearts, we know: If our hair stylists cannot love us, no one can.
JAMIE guesses why we stray.
"We all want to look like Ashley Judd," she says. "And in the beginning, we think it's possible."
In the springtime of love, all things seems possible. There is no waiting in the lobby while he finishes a walk-in. No mysterious phone calls interrupting the cut.
He shows us off to other stylists.
"Girl, I hope you have a date tonight," they say.
THAT'S HOW it goes in the beginning.
Then, dryers fall silent.
"It's like dating," Jamie says. "The first couple of haircuts are great.
"And then the magic just goes away.
We feel taken for granted.
Passed off to the shampoo girl, clip, clip, clip, then to the assistant in charge of blow drying.
It happened once to me, until William saw the horror on my face and came to the rescue.
"She doesn't know your hair like I do," he whispered.
I AM in the office, and a co-worker takes her seat, sad-faced.
She had left to get a hair cut, yet returned without one.
"I broke up with my hair stylist," she says.
It happens, more than we care to admit to ourselves.
He was late again.
He made her wait.
If he really cared, he would have been on time.
-- Tampa's Kennedy Boulevard was once called Grand Central. Now Grand Central is a weekly City Times column. Writer Patty Ryan can be reached at 226-3382 or firstname.lastname@example.org .