About three times a year, I go to a salon to get my hair cut. This, I believe, qualifies me as a semi-low-maintenance woman, at least when it comes to hair. When it comes to dark chocolate and compliments about how my very presence eases any interpersonal situation, however, I am high-high-maintenance, requiring a steady influx of both.
My favorite thing about going to the salon is when the stylist drizzles a little fragrant oil on my scalp and gives me a five-minute head and neck massage. My love for her, during those moments, surpasses my love of Tina Fey, and that is immense.
My least favorite thing about going to the salon is the inane small talk. I do not see the same stylist each time (spreading the love is one of the keys to my profound interpersonal success), so I have no ongoing relationship with the person cutting my hair. I do not want an ongoing relationship with the person cutting my hair. Outside of the fact that I am wearing my hair and he/she will soon be wearing bits of my hair, we generally have nothing in common.
I’ve tried bringing a book to use as a “no conversation, please” prop, but without my glasses on, I am unable to find my nostril with my finger, much less read a book. I’ve tried shutting down conversation by saying things like, “My meditation hour this morning was cut short by my preschooler hollering ‘Wipe me,’ so I think I’ll just take a little quiet time right now to cleanse my inner being and remove all spiritual traces of poo, if that’s all right with you.”
But the chat engine still revs up, and before I know it, I’m discussing the weather–yes, muddy, yes, brisk; whether I have children–yes, two, three if I count myself; and at what moment Chantal or Philomena or Tess first knew she wanted a career in cosmotology–usually when she received a “D” in biology in high school.
>Despite my efforts to look distracted or sullen, we end up doing. Indeed, in addition to knowing how to point cut, stylists have the gift of gabbaliciouness.
This past weekend, then, when I clomped into the salon, I was braced, resigned to tumbling under the onslaught of Small Talk. If it meant getting rid of my split ends, I could feign enthusiasm about sap moss shampoo and the fact that my stylist had just gotten her own apartment.But I wasn’t prepared to be met with such a hearty and jovial handshake by my stylist. She fairly raced towards me, as I paged through OUTSIDE magazine in the lobby, trying not to topple off the modernist squares that doubled as furniture. “OH. MY. GOD. Your name is Jocelyn?!!! You’ll never believe this: MY NAME IS JOCELYN, TOO! OH. MY. GOD.”I managed a tepid, “Wow. What are the odds?” while she tugged me to her chair and plopped me in. As she began strangling me with the frontal cut-cape, arranging the velcro ever-tighter around my neck, Jocelyn the Shearer continued: “My whole life, I’ve, like, hardly ever met another Jocelyn, like maybe once. Ever. And then here you are…”
Strangulated Jocelyn (aka me) gave her a “Yes, there aren’t too many of us” before Shearly Jocelyn raved, “But, wait, get this. Okay, so yesterday, I HAD ANOTHER JOCELYN HERE, AND I CUT HER HAIR, TOO. SO, LIKE, WHEN I SAW THAT I HAD A JOCELYN TODAY, TOO, COMING IN, I THOUGHT, ‘WHAT IS EVEN GOING ON? IS THIS, LIKE, THE SAME LADY AS YESTERDAY, AND SHE JUST WANTS ME TO CUT MORE?’”
I choked out a quick, “Now, that could either have been flattering or a problem, right? You probably wondered why she was coming back so soon?”
Shearly Jocelyn, surfing atop her momentum, squealed, “BUT WHAT WAS SO WEIRD WAS THAT THE JOCELYN WHO CAME IN YESTERDAY HAD JUST TURNED 30. AND, GET THIS, I JUST TURNED 20. SO I’M ALL FREAKIN’ OUT.”
Right about here, I perked up. And under that frontal cut-cape, I cracked my knuckles and warmed up for some fun: “Um, Jocelyn? Hi, it’s me down here, the other Jocelyn? No, not the one from yesterday…I’m today’s Jocelyn, the one who’s here right now with you? Hold on to your rat-tailed comb, but I think I can make you really gape: I, the Jocelyn here in front of you, JUST TURNED 40. It’s as though all the Jocelyns in the world are spaced a decade apart, eh?”
Shearly Jocelyn dropped her arms to her sides, limply, aghast at the wondrous world of possibilities that had just opened up in front of her. “This is just, like, the most incredible thing I’ve ever heard. I can’t even believe how weird this is.”
I egged her further: “And you know, I’d be willing to wager there’s another Jocelyn somewhere in the world who’s 10 years old right now. And, for a large amount of money, I’d even be willing to search out one who just turned 50. We’re everywhere, I’d guess.”
Yes, Shearly Jocelyn. There’s a startlingly large world out there.
Having warmed up, I moved in for the kill: “And don’t you love that all the Jocelyns of the world, no matter their age, are named after a French opera? And, even more, after a lullaby in that opera?”
Shearly’s eyes crossed, and she heaved a big sigh: “Um, like, what do you mean?”
“Well, that’s why my parents chose the name. It actually comes from Old German, and it also means ‘cheerful’ or ‘light hearted’ in Latin. In fact, it started out as a masculine name that now has traversed genders to become a feminine one.”
“So, er, huh?”
“It’s all neither here nor there, really. I’ve just always found the meaning of names interesting, and my parents chose the names of their kids pretty deliberately.”
“Like, on purpose? All’s I know is my mom had heard the name Jocelyn somewhere, and it fit in with the rest of my family, with Jamie and Jessica and Jory and all.”
And, with that, I realized our conversational thread had completely unraveled. Time for me, with no book in hand, and an entire haircut left to get through, to redirect:”It sure is sunny out today, isn’t it? Are we going to wash my hair now? Do you have any of that sap moss shampoo? How about you do a little texturizing today? Do you like to use a razor when you cut? What’s your favorite service to perform here at the salon? Do you ever get to do nails, too?”
Forty-five minutes later, I staggered out of the salon, exhausted from the effort of diverting attention away from our common name. But for the rest of the day, blinded by my shiny, bouncy, newly-revived locks, no one noticed my inner depletion. And isn’t that the point of a haircut, after all?
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