Breaking Up Is Hard To Do – especially when it’s your stylist, manicurist, housekeeper, etc.

A dear friend writes:

“A couple of months ago, I decided I was tired of paying $100+ for hair color every four weeks (for one-process color, no highlights or anything exotic!) So I started doing it myself and actually my hair seems healthier and I love the color. When I went for my next haircut, I told my hairdresser that I just couldn’t justify paying over $100 for hair color. I told her I wasn’t going anywhere else, just doing it myself. Of course, she copped an attitude and I got a really crappy haircut. I thought, “Hmmmm…I hope she isn’t being spiteful.” Then the next month, I got an even worse haircut! This confirmed it for me and I won’t be going back, but I haven’t called yet to cancel my next appointment. What do you think? Have you been thru this???”

Yes! And more than once.

When I lived in New Jersey I regularly went to one salon for haircuts, color, skin care, manicures and massages. For a long time, a woman I’ll call Lisa cut and highlighted my hair and did a terrific job. I was willing to overlook the increasingly bizarre stories she’d tell about her relationship with the boyfriend who didn’t want to marry her. But after a while it became too stressful to listen to her tales of woe when all I wanted to do was relax and get my hair done. I was also hearing from my facialist that Lisa was driving her co-workers and other clients crazy; it wasn’t just me. I finally cut the cord, switched stylists, and eventually Lisa was fired. I always felt badly because she was clearly troubled, but I had to make a change.

About two years ago I had another unfortunate experience. Out in Oregon I had a good haircut and decided to have “Alice” touch up my highlights the next time. The result: wide, orangey, hideous streaks. After two tries, she was able to tone them down but the color was still way off.

When I got back to Austin I immediately went to my regular salon for help. A new colorist (“Casey”) decided to apply overall color (which I don’t need since I only have scattered grays) to blend everything in. Unfortunately, it was much warmer than my natural shade. And now I had a whole head of it! The only remedy was for everything to grow out, switch to yet another colorist (who, thankfully, is much more knowledgeable) and wait a year for my true base color to emerge. It was awkward having my hair done by someone else when Casey was in the salon but luckily she has now moved away – turns out she’d f’d up several other clients’ hair as well. It’s not me; I swear!

So here’s what I’ve learned: 1) We’re entitled to get what we pay for, but 2) many of us have trouble ending these relationships and feel anxious making up excuses.

Why is this so hard? Let me count the ways.

  1. We don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.
  2. Nostalgia. We remember that one perfect haircut, color etc. and know they have it in them to do a fabulous job.
  3. Fear of retribution. Unless we’re moving or planning to change salons and never come back.
  4. Fear of confrontation. Few of us like it.
  5. History. We’ve been together a long time; often they’ve been a confidante and friend.
  6. We worry about being premature or unfair. What if it’s a phase and he/she is going to be great again?
  7. Laziness or low self-esteem (a subconscious feeling that we don’t deserve “great”).
  8. We feel guilty, as if it’s somehow our fault and we’re too demanding.

Repeat after me: It’s OK to move on! Once you are ready to break up, here are some suggestions:

  1. Decide if you’re done with the salon or just the stylist.
  2. If you don’t like the salon anyway, ask friends or co-workers with similar hair texture where they get theirs done and then ask their salon manager for recommendations.
  3. If you like your salon and the problem is the stylist, talk to the manager. Be honest and specific and ask for someone new who’s good with your type of hair.
  4. Never settle for a bad cut or color! A reputable salon will have someone fix the problem as soon as possible at no charge. After all, they want to keep you as a client.
  5. Try a different stylist at your current salon on your old stylist’s day off.
  6. Make sure you try the new person a couple of times or until you’re comfortable.
  7. Once you have transitioned to your new stylist, tell your soon-to-be ex you need(ed) to go in a different direction (“It’s not you, it’s me”). No long explanations! If you have been seeing him or her for a while, or if you get other services at the salon, you may want to give (or leave) them a little thank-you gift with a note so you won’t feel totally awkward when you run into them.
  8. Most important: Do not have make-up sesh! You will get a revenge cut!

Next time: How to break up with your housekeeper. (Or should you?)

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