Sitting in a chair, immobilized by a giant sheet strapped to my neck while a stranger wields sharp scissors by my head has never ranked among my favourite pastimes. On my shopping trips to Whitehorse it is always easy to rationalize not getting a haircut - there simply is no time. But after years of snipping away at my hair with the kitchen scissors, professional intervention was sorely needed.
So while visiting my parents in the big metropolis back east, I decided to hike to the hairdresser. Used to daily exercise in the form of carrying water buckets, mucking out the chicken coop, gardening and walking the dogs, I was feeling more and more unbalanced. It was so hard to find time alone, to vent some of the stress brought on by the constant onslaught of noise, fast movements of traffic, blinking lights and the bustle of so many people.
Physical work helps a lot to get rid of excess energy and to counterbalance stress but in the daily life of my parents, there was no more heavy lifting, splitting and walking to be done. Instead, I chose to walk to stores, even if it took me hours. The bad air, noise and constant dodging of people on the sidewalk still got on my nerves, but at least I could use my leg muscles.
Electronic gadgets in nightmarish variety dangled from pedestrians’ ears and hands, beeping and chirping like a flock of electrons gone mad. Young men and women talked into space as they strode purposefully along, sometimes breaking out into laughter. It was like a scene from a psychiatry ward. I realized that I had no clue what most of these gadgets were. Some sort of berries and pads, i this and e that. Living remotely has apparently aged me well beyond my years.
At the hairdresser’s, the stylist soon had me ensnared in a chair. Only my head and feet still poked out unprotected into the cloying atmosphere of assorted shampoos and conditioners, creams and gels. I gripped the armrests.
“And what are we doing here today?” The young woman eyed my frumpy hair, then halfheartedly ran a comb through it.
“If you could just cut it so it looks a bit more uniform. It’s all different lengths everywhere. I haven’t had a real haircut in ages.”
“I see ... What kind of style do you have in mind?”
“Style ...?” I helplessly glanced at the hairdresser in the mirror. She did a good job of suppressing a sigh and tacked the kind of smile to her face that you use for communicating with people who are a tad slow. Should I confess that I don’t even own a comb or brush and that to dry my hair, I just bend down over the woodstove? Would this trendy, pierced and tattooed creature even know what a woodstove is? Better not admit to the eccentricities of my one solar panel and outhouse lifestyle.
We settled on a cut that would be easy to care for and I managed to dissuade her from camouflaging the sprinkling of grey hairs by means of colour and highlights. Although the tube of green hair colour reminded me with a pang of my teenage years when I had craved green streaks in my hair and never dared to dye it. Would my parents be more tolerant of a green-haired daughter today? I decided not to find out.
As snippets of hair fell to the ground, the stylist skillfully extracted the information from me that I was only visiting. From up North. The Yukon, actually. Indeed, I lived in a log cabin. No, we didn’t pan for gold. No, it wasn’t a Yukon hairdresser who had done the hatchet job on my hair, that had been me. Well yes, we sort of did know some bears and moose by their first names.
As I replied to all the usual questions on autopilot, I secretly marvelled at her exotic life, full of trends that must be followed or abandoned, painful adornments of select bodyparts (why a piercing in your lip but not on the back of your hand?), but mainly her resilience to withstand all the noise and pollution, to tolerate these millions of people living cheek to cheek with her - and to thrive.
When my hair was finally suitably coiffed, I emerged onto the street a woman transformed. Trailing a sweetish odour after me that put me in mind of bear bait, I giggled out loud and kept patting my smelly strands. A casual observer would have thought I was talking into my Bluetooth device. Or blueberry. Or whatever. Finally, I was adjusting.
Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of
the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.