Here's to the hairdressers, long may they wave--and perm, cut, curl, style and spray.

A woman would sooner turn in a good husband than a good hair dresser. After all, a husband is just a husband, but a hairdresser is an alchemist--capable of turning an ordinary head into beauty or the beast at will. And a good haircut is hard to find.

To begin with, a woman's relationship with her hair is never cut and dried. We believe that our crowning glory is anything but glorious--it should be curlier or straighter, longer or shorter, lighter or darker, thinner or thicker.

The only time we are truly happy with our hair is the very day we are scheduled to have it restyled. By then it is too late to change the appointment.

We approach beauty salons with a mixture of trust and trepidation. Some women clutch photo clippings like talismans to show the stylists what look they want to achieve. Others tear frantically through magazines in the waiting area, hoping to find a photo at the last minute. Still others prefer their own descriptions--"Like Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People" . . . "Like Lady Di before the wedding but longer in the back."

There is just one problem with all of these approaches: a stylist can duplicate the hair style in the photo, but not the face under it.

Still, hairdressers do their best to breed confidence in the creative process by adopting an imperial "we" form of speech. They make it clear that beauty is a partnership and you cannot achieve it if you insist on calling your head your own.

"What are we going to do today?" the hairdresser asks. "Are we ready for a real change?"'

Despite a confident command of the curling iron, the hairdesser always hedges his bets. Even a master cannot promise the desired results, considering the obstacles we place in the path of beauty--our faces are too round, our ends too split, our color too uneven, our ability to maintain the creation too uncertain.

This is a wise approach considering how women react to new hair styles. For every woman who walks out of a salon believing that her new "do" does everything she dreamed it would, there are three racing out the door to wash, brush, push and pull at their hair before they can call the new style their own.

Even the style we swear we will wear for a lifetime gets boring pretty fast. Then we start looking for a new look, or--the ultimate heresy--a new hairdresser. We find ourselves asking the owners of attractive heads at work and at parties, "Who does your hair?" Sooner or later we will sneak off to a new stylist, without so much as a wave of a comb to the old one.

We pay a price for this disloyalty. We enter an unknown salon where we can't even find the shampoo room and we find out too late that this hairdresser's definition of "short" is two inches higher over the ears than ours.

Meanwhile, back at the old salon, our friends are lying through their teeth about our whereabouts. One woman swore that I had adopted hats in place of haircuts, rather than admit I had taken my hair elsewhere.

When I eventually went back to the shop, my old hairdresser welcomed me with open scissors. Like any artist challenged on the authenticity of his art, he produced a masterpiece that I hardly recognized as my own head. It was magic.