A Friend Under the Blow Dryer

She is more than my hair dresser. She has been my confidant and my inspiration. She is instrumental in me taking the steps to follow my dream of becoming a writer. She has always encouraged me and she believes in me.


Every woman should have their own hairdresser.  I met my hair dresser back in 2001 when she opened her new salon in my office building. Marla and Company Hair Studio. I had been planning my wedding and I was in need of a hairdresser that knew how to manage and cut my curly hair.  After our initial conversation over the phone, I felt she was the hair angel I had been missing in my life.

I have had too many bad haircuts in my life to recount them all.  The pictures of my youth are sad remnants of my mother trusting my unruly locks to students at the local beauty school. For each of these future hair stylists and salon owners disregarded the golden rule of haircuts.  You do not cut curly hair the same way as straight hair!  I was the embarrassed, horrified living proof of that rule.

I did not have days of beautifully layered, feathered hair with the perfect Farrah Fawcett flip.  Oh no, not I, the redheaded middle child.  I was saddled with tight red ringlets to accompany me on life’s journey. I watched in envy at how my sisters, with their straight raven locks, could beautifully blow dry and curl their hair to create that flowing, feathered Farrah Fawcett look. It was every girl’s dream in the 70’s and one which escaped me in my childhood.

My 1970’s hair days were more like Bozo the Clown meets Larry from the Three Stooges.  Styling my hair resulted in a frizzy, defiant afro that refused to be tamed let alone flipped and feathered.  After spending hours on my hair to achieve “the look,” it appeared as though I stuck my finger in an electrical outlet and the electricity escaped my body through my hair.  Pieces randomly stood up like Alfalfas hair and refused to lay quietly, no matter the continuous Aqua Net assault.  It was a losing battle.

Until the 1980’s, where big, curly hair was the new trend and I was all of a sudden, trendy!  Nobody I knew had bigger, curlier hair then I did!  With a gleam of satisfaction, I watched my sisters with their straight raven locks; torturously sit for hours and hours on end to have it permed.  What a nightmare, to have our mother and aunt roll their hair in all of those mini rollers just to achieve big curly hair.  Aww, the revenge was sweet.  Finally, I had the beautiful hair!

But it was not easy to maintain the big curly hair.  Each new hairdresser I went to wanted to cut it off, thin it out or cut it into square layers.  It was all terribly wrong.  Why would you layer big, fluffy hair to lay on itself in a pyramid shape?  It was horrible.  I was convinced “beauticians” did not know how to cut curly hair.  So I set out to find someone who did.

I had a woman for a while that was very good with my hair but was soon to retire.  Then in 2001, a new salon opened in my office building. My wedding was over a year away and I needed a stylist that knew curly hair.  After speaking to her on the phone, I made an appointment for a cut.  She convinced me she knew what I was talking about and told me she also had curly hair.  After meeting her at my first appointment, I liked her instantly.

She was professional and I could tell she was really listening to what I said.  She was one of those people that high strung, type A personalities like me are instantly drawn to.  She was easy to be around. She had a very peaceful personality yet she was hip and cool.  Her salon was comfy and full of interesting things.  She was everything I wanted to be and I wanted to be around her. She made me feel a level of peacefulness I had not felt before.

Marla has been beautifully managing my hair now for 16 years.  I can only recall one incident where at my request; she attempted a certain hairstyle that did not work too well. Damn you curly hair! But as they say, hindsight is 20/20 and now we know not to go there again!  We have gone through various cuts and colors and laughed at the ones that did not work so well.  Sometime I feel like her guinea pig but I am ok with that because I get to spend more time with her.

She has been with me through my wedding, the birth of my two children, being a stay at home mom, going back to work, changing jobs, my sister’s cancer, a return to school and a new beginning to my dream career.  She has been cutting my kids hair since they were little. They are now 13 and 11.  She has heard all of my anecdotal stories about people places and things in my life and I know much about her life as well.  I enjoy that I am able to make her laugh with a story.

For years I have said to my husband how much I liked her and wished I could find a way to hang out with her.  She has an amazing positive outlook on life and when life has really stomped all over me, I go to her salon. Then about two years ago, things with my husband had just gotten bad.  I wanted out of my marriage.  I was drowning in the stress and the anger I was feeling so I went to Marla’s.  It was that day, in her chair when our relationship changed.

I am not the kind to discuss really personal issues. I tend to keep that stuff to myself but that day, I sat in her chair and did not say much.  She knew it was a telltale sign that something was wrong.  But I had nothing funny or clever to offer her that day.  With tears in my eyes, I looked at her and I asked her how her and her husband had gotten through 24 years of marriage.  She knew I was in a bad place.  She did not look at me with sorrow or with pity.   She merely pulled up a chair and listened.

Then she told me marriage is hard, and that I would get through it.  She talked about her experience with her husband and when it changed for them.  She told me how it seemed to her, I was just not being heard at home and I was frustrated because I was trying to do it all with no help.  She offered hope that it would get better.  She mentioned the place where she often takes classes that has helped her achieve a different outlook on life and an inner peace. She mentioned how for years she thought this place could help me; personally, professionally and creatively.  I said I would look into it and I thanked her for listening to me.  I sat there quietly wiping away my tears as she blow dried my hair.

A few months ago, she invited me to one of her Landmark meetings.  She had been telling me about it for years so I thought this was my chance to hang out with her and learn all of her secrets.  When they asked for members to volunteer and introduce their guests, she raised her hand.  I wanted to die.  I was out of my element in a room full of people that I did not know.  She knew I hated public speaking, I already told her that! I was not about to stand up and talk about myself.  Not even for her.

But then when she introduced me, she caught me off guard with the beautiful things she said about me.  I knew she thought I was funny but Kind? Brave?  Great kids?  Inspirational? Talented? Did she really see me that way?  I was speechless. She talked about how she looks forward to the days I am in her chair because she knows it will be fun.  She told them how I sent her a picture of the crazy way her employee did my hair and how it made her day because she needed a laugh at her dying mother’s bedside. She talked about her hope for me in the Landmark program and that she knows I will do great things in my new writing career.  She told them how I was one of those clients that became a friend.   Me?  A friend?  Yes!!  Finally!  I was her brave friend that day and I did speak to a room full of people, for her.

She is more than my hair dresser.  She has been my confidant and my inspiration.  She is instrumental in me taking the steps to follow my dream of becoming a writer.  She has always encouraged me and she believes in me.  She gave me my first writing gig by hiring me to create and write her new newsletters for her salons, Marla and Company Hair Studio.

My daughter loves her.  They have a running joke about Natalie taking over the salon in 10 years.  I see how she looks at Marla and I am sure she feels the same way about her as I do.  She wants to be like Marla when she grows up and that is just fine with me.

I am still a wife. Marla was right it did get better for us. I am also a mother, a daughter, a sister, a working professional, a part time student and a blogger. I volunteer at my kid’s school and I run them back and forth to hockey, dance classes, baseball and softball. In the midst of all the craziness that is my life, I have Marla. She now has two locations I can run to and hide when I need to be refreshed and inspired or if I just need to catch my breath.  And within the confines of her salon chair, I have a friend.

I would love to know if you have a “Marla” in your life? Please click on”comments” at the top to share.