Life, Loss and Blow-dries

Almost losing her hairstylist forced Delia Ephron to confront her fear of change

by Delia Ephron
Photograph: Illustration: Eduardo Recife

I spend all my money on blow-dries. I have sacrificed my shoe budget, most of my clothing budget and some of my restaurant budget to hair.

Every woman has something that grounds her. I cannot think if I’m not happy with my hair. My entire life is programmed around hair appointments: In addition to twice-weekly blow-dries, there’s color and cut every six weeks. Looking back, I was never happy with my hair until I met Eugene Smith (by total accident, just walking into a random salon in my neighborhood and noticing a very cool stylist with Rastafarian braids). That was 10 years ago. It turned out he is a genius at doing my shortish, curly locks in such a way that I look “downtown” (but not too downtown) and in such a way that I look young but not too young (because I’m not). Short and curly is really hard.

Then, during the Christmas holidays, he said he was leaving. “To go where?” I asked.

And he told me. The new salon, Serge Normant, was a 50-minute walk from my apartment and not on any subway line. So, a taxi. A taxi both ways. So 30 more dollars twice a week, when my hair budget was already breaking my bank.

While telling Eugene how happy I was for him, I felt myself becoming deranged. When I left the salon, I’m surprised I didn’t get hit by a truck.

Everything changes. We all know this. And we have to be adaptable—we know this, too—if we want to survive, and by the way, women are really good at change or at least better at it than men, as I have read often. At this stage of my life, however, I think of change as loss. After the age of 60, that’s often what it is. Loss of friends or family—a body blow. Change has become synonymous with a gigantic trauma I have to survive. Which is not a good way to think about change. Not at all. Because change is also adventure. Opportunity. I have to hold on to that.

Not everything in the world has to be earth shattering to matter. The things that cheer and center me every day—such as my hair—are critical. They help me through the more difficult stuff. Besides, it’s dreary to go through life with perspective. If it’s not death or illness, I can’t freak out? Yes, I can. I can freak out if I want. It makes me feel young.

I carried on to at least six girlfriends about my hair crisis. They were all in agreement: I had to sample a lot of stylists located nearby. Which I did. I always do what my girlfriends tell me. But the truth is, I missed my old hair. I missed Eugene. And it was going to be spring soon, meaning a really long walk under blossoming pear trees might be nice, even good exercise. And then Serge Normant, by some miracle, lost its lease. By the end of the year it will be located near a subway stop. Near enough, anyway.

So it turns out I don’t need to change. I need only adjust. Adjust—I prefer that word. It’s less cosmic. Less ominous. Friendlier. Adjust—I can handle that, especially in this case. Because, for just getting me through every day in a happier way, is there anything more important than hair? Absolutely not.

Delia Ephron is a novelist, playwright, screenwriter and essayist. Her most recent book is "Sister Mother Husband Dog (etc.)," a memoir.

Next: In Praise of Imperfection

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First published in the June 2014 issue

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