Last week, my grandmother pressured me into going to the salon to cut off my split ends. I had worked so hard to grow it back after a dramatic stint two years back when I foolishly decided to cut it all off into a bob. Knowing she’d make me feel bad until I did it, I called the salon in my small town and got a same-day appointment.
All of the women in my family go to the same salon I was going to. In fact, almost every woman in town went to this salon and the gossip ran high during monthly highlighting appointments and pre-wedding blowouts. I made it a point not to talk to the stylists about anything personal that I didn’t want my aunts or grandmother to know about.
When I walked in, I was handed off to a woman I hadn’t seen there before. She sat me down in her chair and started asking me when my last haircut was, guilting me further about my ends. She started cutting them and we began our hair salon small talk. She told me about her other jobs cutting hair in NYC and I told her about my graduate program. She complimented my watch, which my boyfriend had gifted me for Christmas/Chanukka (it depends who you ask).
My boyfriend is from Sri Lanka and is not Jewish, which no one in my family paid mind to, though most people in our community do not marry outside of it. The one person we swore never to tell, however, was my grandfather, the most traditional person any of us knew. I was not to date anyone he hadn’t personally chosen for me. At the hair salon, though, I assumed I was safe. After all, my grandfather didn’t cut his hair at a women’s salon.
Twenty minutes into the haircut, my stylist began asking about my family and I told her our family name, or my grandfather’s last name. “That’s funny,” she said. “I know an older man with that last name who lives in my building!” She laughed and I almost threw up. She told me which building she lived in — the same as my grandfather. “He’s a sweet man,” she said. I asked her not to share our conversation with him and she assured me she would never. I believed her.
She finished blowing out my hair and I swore off small-town haircuts forever.