Sunday, July 28, 2013


Justin Hartley: It starts with hair envy.
As long as I’m in L.A., dear reader, allow me the frivolity. This is yet another post about hair. And I’m guessing many of you will indulge me since my most-read post remains Highlights of Summer. I’d like to think it has something to do with the way I turned a phrase or how other middle-aged men secretly want to go blond but then check themselves. Let me be the spectacle.

Alas, I can only deceive myself so much. I am certain the post’s popularity has to do with this hot guy whose image I pasted. (Sadly, my second most popular post is all about another hot man with more of an appeal to news junkies and/or giggle aficionados. Makes me wonder if I should give up writing and just post Google Images of himbos. But then there are plenty of blogs that do that.)

Back to me. And my hair. In getting ready for L.A., I planned things out so that I had an appointment for a cut and highlights one hour after I finished work and began summer vacation. Shedding the duller, more conservative school principal look is essential for me to feel a Southern Californian vibe. As I’ve mentioned before, blond highlights used to come naturally from days on the beach and by the pool. But I’ve paid the price for that with skin cancer procedures—no new surgical removals in over a decade, thank goodness—and now I have to fake it.
What I hoped for...

I’d been seeing Angie as my stylist for six months and she was competent if not a hair genie. I showed her some post-highlight photos from my past as I detected a lack of confidence when I made the booking. Perhaps I should have looked for another hairdresser but it takes time for me to build trust. Finding the right stylist can be an exhausting endeavor.

The first indication that something was awry came as Angie rinsed the gunk. “I’m just going to apply a glaze to even things out,” she said. Logical interpretation: Things are out of whack!

Fleeing was an urge, but not an option. Pinned against an uncomfortable reclining chair, head dangling over an industrial sink, I did my best to channel pro-glaze energy.

Back in front of the mirror, I got my first glimpse. Yes, there was blond in the center but the sides seemed to have an orange hue. Could it be the lighting? I kept calm and subtly pivoted my head. Clearly orange.

I eyed at Angie’s thick, curly mane. Orange. We weren’t exactly twinsies but I had a patch match. I wanted to ask, “What color is your hair?” Could a stylist be colorblind? Isn’t that an occupational disability?

And then came a stream of utterances that served as confirmation that something had gone terribly wrong: “Are you coming back into Vancouver before you head to L.A.?”; “I can try to fix this.”; and the succinct, “I’m so sorry.”

The in-my-head responses: “No.”; “No!”; and “NOOO!”
What I got.

Generally, I believe in allowing a person to right a wrong. But not when it involves orangutan clumps on my head. I politely paid and exited. On the ferry ride home, I stayed within the shelter of my car.

A glance in the mirror at home confirmed that things were as bad as they seemed. I knew I needed expert advice so I emailed Ellie in Los Angeles. “Who does your highlights? Can you get me in?”

The replay was instant. “I have the BEST highlight person in LA. Danny at Byron's. Expensive but worth it.”  

I read it and reread it. It served as an adult soothie. Yes, it will get better.

A follow-up email told me that Danny was vacationing in Greece, but Ellie had got me in on his first day back. This met with a mixed reaction. I’d have to go a full two weeks with the hair quilt, but surely a stylist who has ritzy vacations must be doing something right. And then,...why did he have an opening on his first day back? Did I want to surrender my hair to someone with jetlag? Still, I put my trust in Ellie. She has always had impeccable style. And hair.

During the fortnight preceding the corrective action, I imagined myself as a defiant Goth teen with a weighty nose earring, theatrical corpse makeup and a pitbull named Mo. (Hoover didn’t once respond to his substitute moniker.) Still the persona allowed me to wander in public, ignoring any and all gasps of horror. (In truth, I didn’t hear a single gasp. Guess I had the Goth attitude down.)

On the eve of my appointment, I Googled the salon. Beverly Hills. Uh, expensive? Partial highlights, $230; full highlights, $300. And, finally, a gasp. Eating is overrated.

At the salon, an attractive receptionist told me to have a seat and I pretended to read my novel while nervously anticipating treatment. Some people get nervous before job interviews or blind dates; my worries are triggered while waiting to meet a new stylist. Call it hair anxiety.

Danny emerged and I immediately babbled on about my follicular nightmare. I’m not sure he believed it was a salon job. Several times, he asked, “Who did this?” His facial reaction was the most honest I’d seen—an understated version of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”—, but then again, I’d let down my Goth guard.

The color realignment took two hours, beginning with an orange purge and then starting anew. Ellie happened to be in the salon as well and I watched from the mirror to see four assistants gathered around her to witness every brush stroke and snip. I only warranted one assistant even though I was the bigger spectacle. I’m guessing everyone concluded that apparent home dye job fixes are a rarity in a chi-chi Beverly Hills salon.

Not much of a talker—at least to a one-time client like me—Danny politely gave me a rundown of his experiences in Prague, Berlin and on Mykonos. No doubt, he was wishing he’d never left the island.

Danny’s assistant regularly filled in as a succession of blonde women in the salon hugged and kissed Danny, each one gushing about how great he looked. And I felt the pangs of job envy. What I wouldn’t give for an insincere compliment—though, to be fair, he really did look great. Perhaps if I worked there as a stylist, I’d just receive standoffish parade waves. Even with the orangutan tamed and taken away, I don’t improve in hotness just from wielding a pair of scissors. Highlights—even good ones—can only do so much.

In the end, the blond was less than I’d wanted, but I’d seen what happens when I ask for too much.

Before tipping, the bill came to $150. Not a snip, just a color repair. A bargain from what I’d seen on the website. The fee was not an issue at all. To have my smile back was totally worth it.

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