When I got my first “professional” job after graduating from college, I decided to “grow up.” Growing up meant buying new clothes, clothes that I thought someone in my position would wear. Dark slacks, librarian skirts, button-down shirts, logo-free knit tees, and a real belt instead of the kind that comes attached to dresses, were suddenly a part of my wardrobe. I ditched my nail polish. I bought some cute heels. In short, I became a very dull person on the outside.
Of course, within two weeks of my new job I hated my sensible clothing. I can’t wear heels so trying to maneuver the hallways in those shoes, adorable as they were, was blistering and stupid. The shoes were the first thing to go — I put on some socks and my awesome Earth shoes and went to work every day with comfortable feet. The next thing to go were the fancy dress pants. I hated how there were no pockets, so I switched to jeans. (Luckily, my department was pretty laid-back about dress code, so I had no one to impress and I fit in better while wearing jeans than if I had on fancy pants.) The collars on my button-down shirts annoyed me so I put those away and wore a pleasant cotton shirt most days. Now I was a comfortable, albeit nondescript, employee.
The one thing that I decided to do — and to continue to do — was hire a hairstylist. I had gone to any salon during my college years and got my hair chopped for fifteen bucks by whomever had an empty chair ready when I stopped in. I’m very low-maintenance when it comes to hair upkeep (when it’s not bright pink) and I’m one of those girls who takes a brush to it in the morning and then more or less walks out the door without doing much else to it. So I told myself that whoever I chose to cut my hair would have to know her craft — that the hair had to keep looking good whether it was blow-dried or not, and it had to look good growing out because I am notoriously bad at going back to the salon in a timely manner. I researched Yelp reviews, picked a salon, met a stylist, and was lucky enough to adore her immediately.
I was a grown-up. I had a stylist. I had only one stylist. I did not stray from my stylist.
The salon was no Super-Cuts. It was covered in earthy tones and gave off an amethyst glow inside. The attendants at the front desk offered me wine or beer while I waited. I was used to having my hair spritzed with a spray bottle of water and then snipped; at this salon, my hair was washed and conditioned, my scalp was massaged, and when I sat down in the chair I was looking into a giant mirror with gold edges as the stylist — my stylist! — made sure she knew what I wanted. She’d snip at my hair as we talked about anything and everything. This last time I went, we talked about how we were both scared of bears in the Alaskan wilderness. Chatting with her is like talking with my sister. We joke about our boyfriends (well, husband, in my case), we discuss nail polish colors, we gripe about the state of the world. She cuts my hair, blow-dries it, shapes it, cuts it some more, and in the end I’m covered in little bits of hair and my head looks amazing. We chat a bit more, I pay, we hug, I go. I go home feeling like a million dollars and Walter looks at me and compliments my hair.
Let’s be candid now: This time right after the haircut — this time when my hair has been blow-dried by a professional, when I have tiny hair bits all over my nose and getting itchy on my cheeks — is the best that my hair will look until I see my stylist again. I wait just long enough that I can’t stand the hairy-bit feeling anymore (typically two hours) and I shower the bits off my shoulders, re-wash my hair, and towel-dry it. It takes on a pretty form but it’s not as perfect as it had been. My hair is not special. Its cut is not intricate, and it probably does not require a stylist’s expertise to tame it. I could walk into a Super-Cuts and get a haircut for fifteen bucks and it would more or less grow out looking the same.
So why do I go back? Why do I spend the money?
Simple: because I like my stylist. I like her. I like talking to her. I like knowing that she’s doing a professional job while being friendly to me. I like that she takes interest in my life. I like that we’re at ease with each other. I like that she asks to see photos from my wedding, and I like that I haven’t shown her a single one and she doesn’t seem to mind not having seen any. I like that she works and does what she loves and that I am paying her to continue to do what she likes to do.
This past week, all of our bills seemed to be due, our cats had their yearly exam, the car had to be serviced, everything everything everything that could demand money seemed to demand money. And yet I still went to see her, knowing that it would cost money we could have used somewhere else. Why? Because my hair was getting really long and gnarly, for one thing, but because I believed it was worth it.
I can only hope that people who come to me looking for wedding photography feel the same way. Sure, wedding photography is expensive. Yes, someone else could probably do it, and maybe for less money, or with less frills. But I hope that whoever comes to me can get to know me, to respect me, to enjoy my work enough to divert money from their Starbucks habit to support my business.
And to like me. As a person.