Hair and Power

Since my guest column about hair ran on, I’ve received a ton of emails from women who say they have the same experience I do when they’re in a hairdresser’s chair. Some of them have been hilarious, a few a little bit sad. A lot of women have written to say they had so many horrendous experiences with hairdressers that they just gave up and do it themselves. One woman said she has tried several times to go into a salon and then lost her nerve at the door because of old bad memories. Several people have recommended showing the hairdresser a photo of the style I want, others have confirmed what I’ve found: the photo idea doesn’t really work. The interesting thing was that every woman said she never spoke up, even while watching her hair being cut in a way totally different than what she’d asked for. Women who fearlessly lecture to classrooms, mixed audiences, and business meetings become mute wimps when they get their hair trimmed.

Hair has always been synonymous with power. Samson lost his power when Delilah shaved his head, but his power returned when his hair grew back. When we sit in a haircutter’s chair, we’re not only relinquishing control over the outcome, we’re also symbolically giving up our power. Searching for the right stylist probably isn’t just a matter of how we want our hair to look, it’s a matter of having faith in the person to whom we give our power. I’ve had that faith in a stylist only once. When I started going to him, his name was Tommy Galmiche — pronounced Gal-meechy. As his reputation grew, he became one-word Galmiche — pronounced Gal-meesh. Under any name, Galmiche was the Michelangelo of hair. His  clients humbly waited, lined up with their damp hair wrapped in a towel, while he took as much time as he needed to do his magic. He used teensy curved scissors and snipped away everything that didn’t belong. When he was finished, your hair didn’t need blow-drying or gels or spray to look terrific, it just fell into natural perfection. I will always hold Galmiche as the standard to which every other stylist gets measured, but I imagine that, like Michelangelo, Galmiches only come along once in a lifetime.


One thought on “Hair and Power

  1. My very worst experience was with a perm that fried my hair so badly that it would break off at the least tug. I conditioned it profusely until there was enough new growth to allow a cut and a fresh start. One of my African-American students felt my hair, her own hair, and the hair of all the other students in the class and declared mine the “nappiest . . .and you PAID someone to do this to you?” Yes, I paid for that destruction — why? I don’t know. The students had wonderfully violent suggestions on how I should have dealt with the situation, but I told them I didn’t think jail would be much fun. I do think, on reflection, that I should have refused to pay . . .

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