The damage is done!

When I first heard about her, she sounded great. The haircut she gave looked good, and she charged a dollar for every year of age. What could be better? Our current hairdresser had gotten another job, but would cut our hair on her day off at the old salon. I had to call her directly to make an appointment, and wait for her to call back. Although I found the setup pretty inconvenient, it worked for a little while, but the hairdresser and I were both tiring of it. And this time she didn’t call back at all.

So I made an appointment, for Rose and for me. We always get our hair cut together. It’s easier than making two trips and trying to find a babysitter so I can go by myself. I knew the risks. I can survive a few weeks of a bad haircut, if that should happen, I thought. I just hope she gives Rose a good cut. Rose should be fairly easy, I thought. She has good hair and her cut is simple. It will be fine.

But if it wasn’t fine I worried about what would happen. I’d just signed the kids up to be models and they hadn’t gotten any work, but I figured if Rose got a bad haircut, offers would start pouring in. I can always get it fixed, I thought.

So we tried the new salon. We went just after Rose finished camp, and when I picked her up, she was in her backup outfit with no shoes. The teachers explained that she’d had a potty accident and soaked her shoes. So I carried her to the car and we drove to the salon. Her sneakers were still wet, so I brought her to the door without shoes. The hairdresser greeted us with, “She has to wear shoes. I have to observe the health codes.”

I explained that her shoes were urine-soaked, but I’d be happy to put them on. The hairdresser said I had to go get them. The problem was that I’d carried Christian in his car seat and the walk back to the car was pretty long for someone carrying 30 pounds on one arm. But we went back to the car. I picked up her shoes with my fingernails and she put them on. We got back up and washed our hands in the bathroom.

The hairdresser seated Rose in her chair and I had my doubts already. The hairdresser had curly blonde hair, cut short in the front, with a ponytail in the back. A mullet. At that point, I should have canceled. I should have said we’d changed our mind and gotten the kids out of there. But for some reason, I didn’t.

The hairdresser had a bunch of toys for the kids, since she did a lot of kids’ haircuts. She listed several rules for the toys. “You can play with this box, but not with this box. You can play right here, but not right there. That toy is not to be played with. It’s mine.”

And then she wet Rose’s hair with a spray bottle and got to work. She chatted about her kids, and how her daughter once cut her own bangs too short to fix. She told us she’d been at this location for more than 20 years, and that her kids were now in their twenties. She guided Rose’s head and demanded she sit still, and I watched silently as pieces of hair fell to the floor.

Usually I am very hands-on when Rose gets a haircut. I tell the hairdresser how it should look and that she doesn’t like to brush her hair so we keep it short. I tell her that it gets stringy because Rose doesn’t let me brush it either. I tell her that even though Rose’s bangs are straight, they shrink about a quarter of an inch when they dry.

But this time, I didn’t. I don’t know if it was because I felt this woman was unapproachable; or I was intimidated by her obvious need for control; or because I couldn’t see the mirror as she cut it, but I didn’t. And when Rose was done, and she turned the chair around, I didn’t say that I didn’t like it. But I didn’t. The truth was, it looked like a shag haircut right out of “Laugh-In.”

“This’ll work better when she doesn’t brush her hair,” the hairdresser assured me. I didn’t say anything.

Then it was time for my haircut. I plodded to the gallows as she readied the cape. I should have left, but I didn’t have the guts. I told myself it was just a trim. If she followed the lines already in my hair, it would be fine. We talked about it being just a trim. But when it was over, it wasn’t a trim. It wasn’t as bad as Rose’s hair, but it definitely looked like a cheap haircut. My curls hid most of the butchery, but my stylish bob was gone.

When it was over, we paid. Twenty-five for me and $3.50 for Rose, because I said she was three-and-a-half. I thought it was a little ridiculous that she charged the extra 50 cents. As we walked out, Rose, who loves haircuts, said, “I don’t like getting my hair cut, Mommy.” My poor baby.

I said, “Well, Baby, we’ll never come back here again.”

“Okay, Mommy,” she said solemnly. “I don’t like my hair.” We drove home in silence.

Looking back, I don’t know why I went to this woman in the first place. I think I was just desperate because no one around here will recommend a good hairdresser. The woman got great online reviews, but as my best friend, who is also a hairdresser, told me, those are usually written by friends and family. Rose’s preschool mate got a good haircut, but Rose has about three times the hair that her friend does, so it’s harder to cut.

Obviously it was the “bargain” that attracted me. Growing up with my dad’s stinginess, I learned to appreciate bargains. Luckily I eschewed his extreme frugality, but I don’t like to spend more than I have to. I love deals. But this was no deal. A bargain is buying something of quality for a low price. These haircuts were definitely quality. Poor quality.

It’s not a new lesson, but for someone like me, it’s something I must learn over and over. You get what you pay for. And if it sounds too good to be true, it is.

Can anyone recommend a good hairdresser? Money is no object.