Preparing to go to the States for a short visit, preparing to attend what sounded like a fancy college graduation, I wanted to spruce up a little and made an appointment to get some color in my hair.
Off and on for the last ten years, I have played with my hair color, most often doing it myself and most often choosing some hues that are not likely to grow out of a human head. I have a preference for shiny burgundies or sassy reds, especially the way they glow under the sun.
But this time, this time I needed two things: reasonable, non-flip-flop shoes and a normal-looking hair color. I was very aware that a fancy church in Georgia called for a very different attire than the jungly beach environment I have grown used to.
So when I sat down to look at color options, a couple of towns away from my home, I made sure to dismiss anything that said "fun." This was not the time for fun, this was the time to blend in with all the other parents, whom I had decided would have very normal hair colors.
Blending in is not my strength.
The owner of the salon raised a perfectly shaped highbrow when I pointed to something dark brown and invited me to sit in her chair.
Alone in the air-conditioned room, we chatted. Twice she asked me to confirm the color, and the second time I felt compelled to explain to her where I was going and why the dark brown.
As she mixed the color, she asked me about my work, my life. She told me a little about hers. I sensed that there was more she was deciding whether to share or not.
I waited, watching the dark chocolate-colored stuff take over my whole head.
I asked her if she liked her work. A simple, neutral enough question.
Which I knew had the power to turn the key in its lock.
She stopped moving her hands and bore her eyes into mine, in the mirror.
"I like my work but I hate my life."
Hands went back to work. I exhaled.
"Tell me more?" I invited.
That's when I learned of the addiction. The nights away from her home and daughter as she gave in to the rush of trying to win some money.
This is an addiction I am not familiar with and I readjusted my idea of what a gambler looked like. I could not come up with a picture (probably because there isn't one) but whatever it was certainly did not look like this young pretty mom and business owner.
We talked. Mostly she talked. The self-loathing was hard to hear. The pain, the shame. The fear too.
After a while someone walked in and we could not continue our conversation.
Also, my hair was done cooking and it was time to rinse it.
Once rinsed, she dried it a little and went on to talk with her next client.
Meanwhile, I stared in the mirror, frozen.
It was dark brown alright. Not my own natural dark brown which has some tiny bits of madness to it. No no. This was the kind of dark brown which would go well with the beige chairs at a DMV office. Dark. Brown.
I felt my soul shrink a little.
I told myself to relax. I told myself that it was perfect. I told myself that it wasn't forever. I told myself that I would blend in nicely inside the church. Possibly even match the pews.
And then I felt sad. How weird is that? Just... sad.
Sad like someone who has abandoned herself. THIS sad.
When my new friend stood behind me, she put her hands on my shoulders, and this time it was her turn to wait till I spoke. I think without her hands there, holding me true to myself, I would have said thank you, paid and walked out. But she stood there, looking at me looking at myself in the mirror, making space and silently inviting me.
I could not ask her to change it. I could not be "that person." I could not be difficult.
Except I was so embarrassingly sad.
So I said... "do you think..."
"Si!" She answered. "Claro que si!" And off she went concocting something that would add life to my head while not hurting my hair too much.
Later, while I shook my burgundy-hued curls, she told me that she had known all along that this had been a bad idea.
It's so darn good to be seen, to be known. Even when we feel that we want to betray ourselves just a little bit for some special event.
As I left the salon, we hugged and I whispered something I now can't remember in her ear. She squeezed harder and nodded her head.
In a short bit of time, we had given each other the powerful Gift of Being Seen.
SCARED OF THE SACRED