“Finding a good hair stylist is almost as difficult as finding a good mate. Much of it is about chemistry.”
Like most things, it started innocently.
Attending a talk hosted by the International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, I couldn’t take my eyes off of the back of a woman’s head. I admired her haircut, sculpted into close waves that hugged her neck, a cascade of salt and pepper. It wasn’t the color so much as the cut. Since my arrival in these Louisiana parts, I had searched hard to find a good stylist—for what is a woman worth without someone to cut her hair (and for that matter, what is she worth without a good mechanic)?
I am not fussy. I only wish to wash and towel dry my hair and do little else. But to do so requires an excellent cut, actually, an outstanding cut. I had visited many locations recommended by local devotees: one was a storefront located a quarter of a mile down the road, but the stylist there had moved on to open her own place in New Orleans. (Obviously my source hadn’t had her hair cut there in some time.) Then there was the upscale location on an unlikely street called Finks Hideaway, hairdresser of choice for local beauty contestants, their framed photographs adorning the wall above the cash register with long blonde curls set off by identical rhinestone crowns. Definitely not me. Of course, there was a shop located in the Pecanland Mall near Kay’s Jewelers, but it also turned out to be disappointing. Finding a good hair stylist is almost as difficult as finding a good mate. Much of it is about chemistry.
So you can understand my excitement as I gazed at the back of this woman’s neck. “Do you get your hair cut locally?” I asked, and waited for her reply.
“Yes,” she said, and I felt like twirling my jacket and throwing it up to the light fixtures. “But the man I usually go to just died.” Her news erased the smile from my lips, another case of bad timing. “But now I go to Donna. She’s almost as good. She’s trained as a barber.” I copied down the phone number and called Donna the next day.
Her shop was located about twenty miles from where I lived, but figured it was worth it. Donna gave me directions, told me to get off the freeway around Calhoun and to go over the bridge, look for a tall gray building across the street from a bank. Then she said something that sounded like Shoes. I asked her to repeat herself and when I still couldn’t understand, she said, “It’s the exit just after Calhoun.”
“Do you have an address?” She really didn’t, but figured I’d find her anyway, no problem. On the appointed day, I found myself going back and forth. The exit past Calhoun brought me to a Huddle House restaurant and a gas station, but I saw no bank, no gray building, and definitely no Donna’s.
One minute to my appointment, I called. “I’m lost.” Turned out that on one of my exits, I hadn’t gone down far enough to a caution light where she was tucked away across from a Community Bank outlet and in a trailer size (to my eyes) building with a Choudrant Appliances sign (that was the Shoes). There were steps at one end of the building and I climbed them all the way up to her shop.
There was Donna clipping the hair of an older gent who looked like he had retired from the pages of Field & Stream magazine. His wife, Bertie, in jeans and a brown jacket, was sweeping his gray hair from the floor. “You don’t have to do that,” said Donna. Bertie said she didn’t mind; she needed something to do.
Shortly after Bertie had finished sweeping up, the couple left. It was my turn. I looked around—a single room with a sink and a bathroom that I had used immediately upon my arrival, a television set sitting on a table with an air conditioner hogging a window. A sweater and a camouflage cap hung from several hooks on the wall. Donna was about 5’8” with long brown hair down to her shoulders, maybe in her early forties, dressed in jeans and a red polo shirt. She wasted no time, spun me around to the sink and washed my hair, then back upright to sit in the chair.
I had brought along several pictures to show her what I wanted, a sort of asymmetrical cut.
“I can do that,” she nodded. And she did. It was a very good cut.