By Lyndsie Kiebert
Some people keep diaries to remember the various stages of their life. Others dedicate themselves to elaborate photo albums. My phases are meticulously logged on an index card tucked in a box at A Shear Inspiration Salon & Day Spa in Clark Fork.
A quick call in to salon owner Laura Emmer confirms that my index card — which tracks each time a stylist used a color or chemical treatment on my hair — goes back to April 2010, but she started cutting my hair long before that. It serves as a personal history written in various colors of ink by whichever stylist was making my blonde or redhead or flat-ironed dreams come true.
I visited the salon last week for the first time in more than a year. I was long past due for a haircut, partially because of the pandemic but mostly due to my apathy toward anything related to beauty or, in particular, my messy mop of curls. Logic and past experience tells me that my hair is happier and healthier when occasionally cut to shoulder length, and logic won out last Thursday, when I called A Shear Inspiration on a whim and booked an appointment for the afternoon.
The business, established in 1998 as a single-chair hairdresser located inside Laura’s Clark Fork home, has since grown to host four chairs and various other services such as manicures, waxing and eyelash tinting. The bright and pleasant-smelling space inside A Shear Inspiration has been witness to my many phases, which usually began as a photo from a magazine and ended with me beaming into the salon’s massive mirrors as I assumed a new identity, temporarily pacified in the teenage search for meaning.
There was the time in eighth grade when I decided I wanted highlights, no doubt requested that they be “dramatic” and stepped out of Laura’s chair a platinum blonde with little to no idea that being blonde does not, by default, make being an awkward 14-year-old girl more fun.
High school arrived in shades of gingery red and mahogany, various lengths and many layers, unable to decide whether I should lean into my natural, fluffy texture or strive for the effortless, shiny, flat locks of my peers. The heat tools and chemical products I tried during those years took a toll, but it wasn’t anything Laura and her team hadn’t seen before.
High school’s finale came as a panicked voicemail left on the salon’s message machine after hours.
“Laura,” I said sheepishly, choking on my tears. “I let my friends dye my hair and now it’s all blotchy. Graduation is in four days. Please help me.”
She got me in under the wire and together we chose a dark red to cover up my poor decision. It was darker than I would have liked, but it beat the hell out of hair that resembled cheetah print.
My hair styles have since gone from trying to copy Pinterest models to making sure I at least avoid complete rat’s nests between washes. I am back to my natural mousy brown color and have given in completely to the unpredictable texture. I asked one of Laura’s stylists, Dawn, to cut my hair to shoulder length with layers on Thursday, and she did a great job. This is a fairly mild chapter in my hair history, but it’s just right for now.
While Dawn washed and combed and cut my hair, I watched out of the corner of my eye as Laura finished a complex pixie-cut-type style on the woman in the chair beside me. Laura would cut a little, put down her scissors and ask the woman to reach up and feel with her hands. The woman would then give Laura some guidance. The two did this dance until the woman got up from her chair, her face glowing with delight in the mirror.
“Laura, you are a genius,” she said.
Laura quipped about how it helps to have 45 years of experience, discreetly flattered but characteristically even-keeled. Everyone in the salon could feel the joy radiating off the woman she’d just helped, reaffirming that there is a reason we turn to hair stylists when we need a reset.
Visits to the salon lift the weight from our shoulders in more ways than one. I have yet to find a problem that a haircut can’t fix, at least for the time it takes to drive home, running my fingers through my newly short hair and contemplating how good it might look just two shades darker than fire-engine red.
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