I'm sure you can relate. You go to get your hair done and the end result makes you cringe, cry or both.
My experience still makes me shudder. I was in the fourth grade, Farrah Fawcett's wings (the layered hairstyle) were hot and I was convinced I needed to have that exact haircut to make my life complete.
After enough whining my mother finally succumbed and off we went to the salon. And boy did I get some wings. They were so wide I practically needed my own runway. The only problem was the next day when I had to do the do myself; my coif ended up looking like a stringy, half-cooked mass of wet noodles.
I was not a happy elementary schooler. I spent the rest of the year growing out the bazillion layers.
Of course, there were several other haircuts from hell.
The experiences, however, convinced me of the importance, the absolute necessity, of establishing a very close relationship with my hairstylist. In fact, my salon experience has become a ritual, my bond with my stylist a vital link in my life.
Okay, I know that sounds cheesy so let me explain: I love to get my hair cut, not only for the vanity of it, but also for the emotional boost and catharsis. My stylist, Kuki Morgana, has supported me in many of my life traumas and subsequent joys.
I've found out I'm not alone. Many of my friends also have this kind of relationship with their hairdressers. "Kuki knows more about my life than some of my friends," says my roommate, Stefanie Tompkins, who also goes to her K Street salon.
Why such a connection? Stef says "Kuki is easy to talk to -- it's like a mini-therapy session, an ego-boost."
My pal Julie Rutherford, who lives in Charlottesville, says she loves her stylist, Glen. "Getting my hair cut is one of the highlights of my month, and a large part of it is because he's so hilarious," she says. "He's like my social counselor. I tell him all my stuff about bachelorette parties, anything -- dates, new boyfriends, fashion, vacations, anything having to do with my life."
My friend Jill Salp had her hairdresser, Beth, as a guest at her wedding.
I decided I needed to do further investigation. Am I and my contingent of friends just a little wacko for spilling out our hearts every time we get our 'dos done?
The last time I had my hair cut, I asked Kuki about her thoughts on these relationships. "If you talk to other hairdressers, they all feel the same way. They all have similar relationships with their clients. In fact, with eight out of 10 clients, I am friends with them," she says. "Clients become part of your life and you become part of theirs. You hear about breaking up, marriage, kids . . . their successes."
But, why do so many women feel compelled to tell all while they're being snipped, dyed and blow-dried? Kuki says women come in with the mentality of `I'm going to relax,' and so they do." She says there's no pressure to act a certain way and people just open up.
So, it's no surprise that hairdressers can end up like therapists for a lot of people. Kuki says she's noticed that a good 50 percent of her clients have a problem with self-esteem, for various reasons, but most of the time it's men. Go figure.
She also notes that this workaholic town can be a big contributor to our neuroses. "Sometimes [self-esteem problems] are because of work, which can be overwhelming. It's common in this city to get so much stress about a job," she says.
Kuki's sister, Eliana, also a hairstylist, says when there is a self-esteem problem with the client, she and Kuki have to work that much harder: "It's harder to please them, so that's a big responsibility for us."
And men? Do they use the salon chair like a psychiatrist's couch? "You'd be surprised about men, because most people think they come into the salon, get a haircut, pay and go. But they end up sharing a lot of the same things. We give the same advice," Kuki says. "The difference is for men, a haircut doesn't make them. It's not their image as much as it is for women," she says.
Okay, so that's the story for us everyday John and Jane Does. What about famous TV stars?
Richard Esposito has been doing hair for professionals in the entertainment field for 20 years, including the actors on the ABC-TV's soap opera "All My Children" for about five years. He says with some people, you have a great friendship, while with others it's strictly professional. But it's completely different working in a studio than in a salon.
"If you're doing hair for an actress," he says, "it's part of their character and it reflects part of their personality. Very rarely do I ask if they like it because it's character-driven."
And as far as the hair/self-esteem equation goes, Richard says show business personalities really aren't very different from the rest of us -- the same cliche applies: If you look good, you feel good.
I asked Richard why he thought a lot of people open up so much to their stylists. He says "it's a very touchy-feely type of a relationship. We touch you, we talk to you. There is something very sensual about having someone run their fingers through your hair. It sets off a thing in people's heads: Open up and talk."
Maybe I'm being too optimistic or naive, but I think we as a nation would probably save a lot of money on Prozac if everyone could just find a good hairstylist.