I’m one of those lesbians who is most comfortable in faded jeans, a t-shirt, no socks, and boat shoes; who wears no makeup and is almost totally grey; who has never had a mani-pedi or massage; who is often called “sir” and enjoys sporting very short hair.  I have thick, wavy, and unruly hair – like its owner, it does what it wants when it wants.

I’ve been “out” pretty much forever and I stopped going to women’s hair salons about twenty years ago.  I switched to barber shops for several reasons: I was pissed that salons charged me twice what a man paid for a haircut even though I had short hair; salons were much more expensive regardless of the service performed; salons required an appointment so I couldn’t just swing by when I was out running errands; salons took forever; and most importantly, every woman stylist with whom I’ve interacted has been very uncomfortable cutting my hair the way that I like it – short, like a guy.

I live down the shore in New Jersey but I moved in with my mom in Connecticut this summer to be her caretaker following a health crisis. My hair kept getting shaggier and I wasn’t going to pay $60+ for a haircut (everything here is so expensive!) so I found a Groupon and off I went yesterday, when mom had visitors.  I popped into the salon and was greeted by a gorgeous woman who was dressed to the nines; she looked me up and down and wasn’t at all sure what the hell I was doing there.  I asked if anyone had time to do a walk-in.  She looked at me.  I tried again and explained that I had no appointment but I did have a Groupon and I asked if someone had time to cut my hair.  Still she looked at me.  So I shut up and I looked at her.  Then finally she announced, “I do you,” like she had decided to accept the nearly impossible challenge with which I presented her.

Her name was Angelica and she didn’t speak English.  In fact, that was the case with everyone in the salon except for the owner, who was bilingual – the women who worked there as well as the clientelle were all Spanish-speaking.  Two strikes against me: compared to Angelica I looked like I just rolled out of bed and I only spoke English.  The third strike was coming soon.

My Groupon was for a wash, cut, and style so Angelica washed my hair and then marched me over to her chair.  I dug my phone out of my pocket and showed her a photo of how I usually look right after my barber finishes with me.  She put her hands on her hips and was not at all pleased.  Angelica called the owner over.  I showed her the picture.  The owner and Angelica went back and forth in Spanish and I kept hearing the word “masculino” in the mix.  I chuckled.  Finally, the owner turned to me and said, “She’s a very talented stylist and she’ll cut your hair but not as short as you’re used to –  you’ll like it, I promise.”  So, in spite of the three strikes against me, Angelica and I took a leap of faith together.

I removed my glasses, without which I can see nothing, and I put myself in Angelica’s capable hands.  She took a deep breath and began.  Angelica was meticulous – an artist at work on a masterpiece.  No buzz of a razor here; she used three different scissors, two brushes, a comb, a spritzer, and a blow-dryer.  She turned me this way and that.  She walked around and around me, snipping as she went, hands and scissors flying, with lips pursed and her face reflecting an expression of intense concentration.  Finally, over half an hour later (the barber takes eight minutes – insert inappropriate sexual joke here) we were finished.  I put on my glasses and Angelica showed me all sides of my new doo.  We were both very happy with the result:

I gave Angelica a very generous tip, a great deal of praise, many thanks, and a big smile.  Angelica returned my smile and gave me a really wonderful haircut that was short but not masculino.  It was a victory for Angelica and a lesson for me: I’ve been forced out of my comfort zone a great deal over the last couple of years and often it’s been just the push that I needed in order to move on to something better.  Taking risks and embracing change are both very difficult but have consistently resulted in a happier and healthier me – and now in a slightly less masculino me as well!  Will I return to the barber when I eventually move back home?  Yes. But Angelica and I will always have Norwalk.