I arrived early that morning with the phone lines ablaze and hurriedly answered the three blinking lights as quickly as possible. As I answered the third line I could barely get out “Please Hold” before she began speaking in a rushed desperate hysterical tone. I forced out the “please hold one moment “ while she continued to talk, took care of the other two lines that were still on hold and when I returned after a couple of minutes, I realized that she had never realized that I had left her on hold. She still spieled off words in one continuous conjecture of sentences. While I tried to understand and comprehend what she was trying to get across to me, I had to loudly interject “Slow down and take a deep breath and repeat slowly to me what you are trying to ask”. The shock from my aggressive overtone took hold and she was silent for a moment and then began to tell me her story as to why she was calling and what she wanted to have done. I could tell immediately that she had made her “hair” decision and was very ready to act immediately and wanted an appointment as soon as possible that day.
It was imperative that she got her hair done that day as there was a pending business dinner with her husband that she had to attend and did not want to go looking like a woman who had just had a baby recently. She readily explained that her pregnancy had been long and arduous which coincided with many nights of no sleep that had left her feeling unattractive and miserable. Getting an appointment was to be the miracle cure that she wanted and today was the day as her Mother was going to babysit the baby. Since she would have limited time to get a new dress and have her hair coiffed, she acted swiftly and manically.
After getting her information and hearing the desperation in her voice I made room for her appointment knowing that I would need more than a couple of hours with her in order to soothe her panic. This would be my first post pregnancy emotionally shattered mother. I would later come to realize that this same scenario would reappear over and over with all new mothers that have been deprived of sleep, personal time, husband encouragement and compliments. It was to be my first introduction into postpartum depression. At this particular time there was not a medical diagnosis name for the symptoms but it has now been diagnosed as a common problem with many post pregnancy women and has given light to a new awareness that was long overdue. Now when I am in a client situation that has all the familiarity of postpartum symptoms, my awareness allows me to have a much better understanding and sensitivity to their mood swings and inability to make decisions on their choice of style or color.
After speaking with her, I had a mental vision of what I assumed she would look like when she arrived however my mind’s picture was way off. For some reason I pictured a woman with no make-up, a little post-delivery added weight and totally unmaintained oily dark rooted hair. However what stepped out of the Mercedes was an attractive svelte young woman, who was made up to the hilt. She hardly looked like she had just had a baby and as she closed the her car door, she caught her Louis Vuitton purse in the door and was having a panic attack trying to unlock the door to free the purse. It was obvious to me that it was already adding another crisis to her day so I quickly ran out the door to help her before she melted into a tearful mess. As she struggled to pull the handle strap free from the door, I could see the tears welling up in her eyes. I came up to her and asked her to let me take care of this, surprisingly she gave in and let me release the strap caught in the shut door.
After freeing the purse I calmly shut the door and handed her the newly contorted strap and purse, to which she gratefully acknowledged a big thank you. On our way up to the salon door she dabbed at the tears that had now wet her cheeks. I could feel immediately that this was going to be more than I really had prepared for as the frustration that now surrounded her was beginning to surround me as well and the atmosphere had now changed inside the salon the moment she had entered the doors.
Carefully I scanned her being noticing how put together she was. In no way could one have ever assumed that she had just had a baby six weeks earlier. She was quite attractive with dark blond hair and a maze of frosted blond hair that blended throughout the orb that sat on her shoulders. Despite the fact the she was still wearing the shag haircut that was a duplicate of “Mrs. Brady” she was demurely put together. Her rich navy blue Bobbie Brooks slack suit was pristinely pressed down to the stitched seam on her pants. The low heeled matching shoes coordinated with her overall look and made the statement that her trousseau was filled with a Saks Fifth Avenue aura. She held her petite framed body upright and the spring in her step showed me that this was going to be a no nonsense woman who had a goal to reach. I realized more fully at that moment that I was going to represent the final touch-down; I just was not sure how to maneuver the field goal yet.
I took her back to my styling chair and as she turned facing the mirror my eyes locked dead on to the most piercing golden eyes that seemed to latch on to my very core being. I found myself staring into them as if I was being hypnotized with each second that passed. She began speaking in the same desperation as she had on the phone earlier that morning. Luckily it broke the spell of visual intensity and I asked her to please stay calm as it would not help her to be so frantic. Softly I pressed my hands upon her shoulders and tried to reiterate in my own words what I had pieced together from the information that had been desperately spoken. As I tried to speak she frequently tried to interrupt me but I did not give in to her attempts. By the time I had finished speaking I saw that she had given in to allowing me to speak and I could tell that I had made a connection with her. She agreed that it was time to banish the “Shag” haircut and to treat the darkness that had grown out. We discussed some haircut ideas but she had nothing definite except to want to stand out at the evening affair that was planned for later that evening with her husband. I took a chance and asked her how daring she really wanted to be and if she wanted to risk a completely new look as I had already concluded in my mind what I truly wanted to create. She stopped and started to speak a couple of times and then blurted out that she would let me do what I thought was best, and finished, of course those lasting words ”As Long As I Look Good”. Those fleeting words that stylists always hate to hear from clients, as if we love to create UGLY.
I sent her off to change into a dressing gown so that I would not get anything on her clothes and I began my color preparations. When I returned she seemed very relaxed and as she sipped on her cup of coffee we began the conversation that would spill the details on the outline of her life. This has always been my favorite part of a new client situation because within five minutes of conversed information I can determine the personality that I am going to be dealing with. Those newly revealed sentences set the boundaries of communication as well as determining just how much freedom I can have with the client. Those first few minutes of connecting will always be my guide to the future of client retention.
It was apparent that I had scored a touchdown so far as she began to open up with her conversation as I began the coloring process on her hair. Within the first twenty five minutes I knew how old she was, when she got married, what her husband did for work and how she was ill prepared for motherhood and she flatly told me that she did not feel she was cut out to be a mother. She explained that she did not even feel bad for leaving her newborn that morning and that she was not looking forward to having to return to her home and deal with the baby again. Selfishly she made it clear that she had no time to herself anymore and missed not sleeping later. Due to a lot of traveling in his work her husband did not seem to want to help much. Marriage was not what she expected and it was beginning to be clear to me that being a Mother was not what she expected either. As she spoke I could feel that something was missing within her demeanor to feel or hear what she was saying to me. When she asked me if I thought that she was a complete “bitch” I interjected that I did not think that she was, but I did feel that she needed to research her emotions and try to find the time when everything seemed to split apart. At that point her cold stare gave me a twinge of uncertainty that I may have stepped over her line, but then she replied that she never would have thought of doing that and that the advice would be well taken. As for being the right thing to do, I really had no clue, I just instinctively knew that at one time there must have been a happier time when her life would have competed with Cinderella’s at the ball.
It seemed to me that it was hard for her to keep from talking as she spoke continuously while I continued to do my color work. In between bated breaths she would expound on an alternate topic that was not on the same track as we had been talking. As quickly as she jumped the conversing track we had been on she would jump back and pick up the talk as if she had never left the track. I found it hard to be able to say much due to the frantic pace at which she spoke. I would truly have to say that she was not aware of half of what she was saying and just seemed to vent her frustrations. It became very clear that her home situation was very tense due to the changes that had occurred with the baby’s arrival.
Her assessment of her family life was not a pretty one despite acknowledging that she never had to worry about anything and that money was never going to be a problem for her. She was able to spend as she pleased, yet because of that, she felt lost and empty. She had never held a job and just went from her childhood home, into marriage and now a child had added the extra pressure that she was not ready to fulfill. I spoke in sensitive terms and told her that I felt that time would make things better as the baby would soon be sleeping through the night and more time with her husband would come as the baby got a few months older. She turned a deaf ear to what I had just said to her and made absolutely no response back except to elaborate further on how miserable she felt.
I continued my work and decided that I should just dedicate the rest of the conversation to making her feel secure about the changes I had started to do with her hair. Encouragingly I continued to speak in positive overtones that were directed at the unhappy ego that surrounded her. It was obvious that the more I focused my attention directly about her, the intense aura she came in with slowly started to fade away. I could feel my demeanor start to change toward her and knew that we had made some kind of connection that had yet to be determined.
The color processing and a couple of self-directed hours of conversation finalized with the new haircut would further open the “insecure” door that she constantly opened during our previous hours of conversation. I had made the decision to update her haircut to the trendy new wedge haircut that had been popularized by the Olympic skater, Dorothy Hamill. Jackie’s hair texture and natural movement was very well suited for that style. I felt instinctively that haircut would supersede her expectations and would create the complimentary sensation that she most assuredly wanted. The illumination of the new blond color streaks and the line and movement would make for quite a stunning hair renovation. As I did my work I kept her turned away from the mirror as I did not want to deal with image insecurity as I applied the color and wrapped the foil. Any woman who has a color process criticizes herself for the way she looks during such a process and I already had enough of her insecurity resonating from my styling chair.
When I completed my cutting and the blow-dry I carefully turned her chair to face the mirror and expected the worst scenario to happen. You could have stabbed at the tense air as it was so thick of fear and trepidation…….I watched as her eyes filled with tears and awaited the worst, however the worst never appeared……quite the contrary. The tears that fell were tears of joy and appreciation that I had made her look and feel better and she knew that she would once again receive the compliments that had been elusive for too long. She quickly stood up and pulled me close to her and gave me one hell of a hug. I was taken aback and completely surprised by her responsive action and happiness. As the hug subsided she began to shower me with appreciative feedback.
She pulled herself together and retreated to the changing room and I stood there almost stoned from the accolades that she bestowed on me from doing her hair. I had to assimilate the whole situation and knew that I had jumped the moon and I would know soon enough just how happy I had made her. The continual bevy of compliments continued while she pulled herself together to leave and while she paid her tab. Just as I had thought it was done, I came around from the back of the reception desk and once again she grabbed me once more for one last hug. Her hug felt appreciative and her arms told me that she had not had a male respond back for quite a while. I innocently hugged her back as tightly, and crossed a line that I had no idea had been drawn.
She waltzed out of the shop a very happy person and I could tell her attitude had been realigned. I felt proud of what I had done and to have completed an absolutely exhausting client situation. I was unaware of the consequences that came from making a connection with her. It would become a relationship that I could never have been prepared for. Unbeknown to me, she was at the top of a mentally exhaustive mountain and had no idea that she was about to take a free-fall into the valley of post-partum depression, and all who were drawn into her vortex would suffer the unjust consequences of her unstable mental state.
None of us had a clue that demons danced within this beautiful human being, yet we all would soon learn her many sides and would be privy to what emotions can do to a person who has split from reality. At this point of my life, I was still very naive when it came to understanding the complexity of her condition and found myself involved even though I did not pursue the relationship. She, on the other hand, had begun to build a fantasy scenario the day after she left my salon. Looking back, I try to recall any little piece of information that I may have missed, yet nothing turns up and I cringe at how easily I was led into what would become a very one sided unrequited illusion of love on her part.