I had my tri-annual cut and highlights appointment last week. I go to a neighborhood place in Queens rather than a salon in the city, because the price difference is staggering, and the quality is just as good.
I am committed to a stylist I'll call E. She has deeply tanned skin, absolutely enormous breasts, and long skinny legs like two sticks of sugar cane. She speaks in a thick Brazilian accent and alternates between calling people "mi amor" and "you bitch". She is brash and uncensored and seemingly fearless. Basically, she is everything I am not, which always fascinates me.
We kiss cheeks, European style, and she says, "Hey married lady. What's your new name?"
I tell her, and her reply is, "Ugh. Why'd you change it?"
I should have predicted this response.
It reminded me of the time she asked me what I did for a living, and when I told her I was a therapist she said, "Oh god, really? Who would want to talk to crazy people all day?"
It appears she lacks a filter or a fully-functional sensitivity chip, and she's totally comfortable letting it all fly in front of her regular clients. Before exiting the salon, the customer right before me warned: "Don't let her be mean to you." I appreciated the tip, but also understand that E is one of those people who is mean to you because she likes you, and I knew I had hit some kind of new status at the salon when I was one of the people she started calling bitch. As in, "Get up you bitch--it's time to get shampooed." Although most of the time, she just points her finger to show you where she wants you to go, like a puppy being led to its wee-wee pad.
The other stylists, while not quite as brassy as E, are equally gossipy, and spend their time between clients taking smoke breaks, texting and catching up on breaking celebrity news. They wear really tight pants and really tall boots, and spend an inordinate amount of time checking themselves out in the 15 or so mirrors lining the salon's walls. It's like Truvy's shop from Steel Magnolias is still expanding, and this one landed in Queens.
My job can be pretty isolative in comparison, and it always strikes me how much fun all the stylists seem to be having. "You all look like you have so much fun working together," I say, mid-blow-out.
"Oh yeah. We are all friends. We never fight," says E. "You know... we always stick up for each other and the customer's always wrong." Then she throws her head back and cackles like a cartoon villain.
She spins me around in the chair and I take a look at myself. She's so unprofessional, but damn, that girl does good hair. It is sleek and shiny and bouncy, and to confuse me even more, she tells me again and again how pretty she thinks I look. This is definitely an unhealthy relationship.
"You're really great at your job," I say, handing her a 30% tip.
"I know." she replies. And then that cackle.
Just think how she'd talk to me if I tipped the standard 20.