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I have been seeing my hairdresser longer than I was married to my ex-husband.
I have been seeing my hairdresser longer than I was married to my ex-husband.

SocietyMay 16, 2024

Help Me Hera: I want to switch hairdressers but I feel sooo guilty about it

I have been seeing my hairdresser longer than I was married to my ex-husband.
I have been seeing my hairdresser longer than I was married to my ex-husband.

Should I tell her before I see someone else? Invent a story about being stuck overseas? Grow my hair long?

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Hello Hera,

I’ve been seeing my hairdresser for about 12 years, making this one of the longest relationships of my adult life (longer than my marriage, for instance). There are many things I like about my hairdresser: she plays good music, exudes a 90s Winona Ryder vibe, and chats casually about her therapy, relationship, dog and my friends who also get their hair cut by her. I’m not the sort of person who easily makes small talk or naturally enjoys someone massaging my scalp, so the fact that these things are easy with her is significant. 

However, I’ve recently noticed a cool little salon a few minutes walk from my house. I’ve been seriously considering trying it since the last haircut I got made me think I was my mother and jump whenever I glanced at my reflection. I know my hairdresser isn’t my friend and the relationship is a transaction of money exchanged for services and I have every right to try elsewhere. But it’s making me feel disloyal. If I get a bad haircut there and then return to my original hairdresser, she’ll know… should I tell her first? Should I invent a story about being stuck overseas, necessitating a different hairdresser? Should I grow my hair long? Is this all just a normal symptom of growing out a pixie cut? Your advice gratefully received.


Lunatic Fringe

A line of dark blue card suit symbols – hearts, clubs, diamonds and spades

Dear Lunatic Fringe,

Thank you for this uniquely stressful question. Sure, you’re not Anne Hathaway selling your teeth on the streets of Paris, or deciding which one of your newborn twins to surrender to the lettuce-peddling goblin you entered into an ill-advised business contract with. But nobody wants to make their beloved hairdresser sad. Beloved hairdressers, we love you! 

Even though your hairdresser is providing you with a paid service, there are plenty of transactional relationships in our lives – piano teachers, therapists and even the KGB surveillance officer in your ceiling – that are genuinely meaningful, even if you’re not technically friends. 

It’s easy to get attached to customers and clients, even in a job where you’re not regularly washing someone’s scalp. I’ve kept in touch with a few people I first encountered as regular bookshop customers. But trying out a new hairdresser can be awkward. Your greengrocer isn’t going to know if you buy the occasional cucumber elsewhere. And nobody goes to a different dentist for a treat. But if you switch hairdressers, your hairdresser will most likely know. 

Still. Twelve years is a long time to be getting your hair cut by one person. It’s longer than the reign of King Tut! Even if you generally like your hairdresser’s work, it’s nice to try a new stylist once in a while. Hairdressers have different talents and visions. If you decide your life would be better if you had a tight perm, sometimes it makes sense to go to Hot-Tongs Tina at the Johnsonville mall. 

I understand not wanting to hurt your hairdresser’s feelings, but I think you’re overthinking the problem. People who work in client-based industries are usually pretty good at separating their feelings from the job and are used to clients moving on. I don’t think your hairdresser would feel slighted. In fact, your problem is a pretty common one. There are lots of similar threads on Reddit, couched in the rhetoric of romantic infidelity, full of people asking variations of, “Is it OK to cheat on my family barber?” But the replies are reassuringly full of hairdressers, promising they’re not offended when their clients go elsewhere. I’m sure even hairdressers like to switch hairdressers from time to time. 

If you decided you wanted to move on permanently, it might be nice to thank your hairdresser in some way: buy her the Master and Commander DVD box set she’s always wanted, or perhaps gift her a lock of your hair to remember you by. If we know anything about hairdressers, they can’t get enough human hair. 

But if you simply want to try a different hairdresser, for a treat, don’t agonise over it. Take a hair sabbatical and try the place close to your house. If you return to your old hairdresser six months later with an ill-advised combover, it’s best to acknowledge you had your hair cut somewhere else and then move on. If you’re overly apologetic about it or offer weird excuses, you’re more likely to offend, when no offence was ever intended or implied. On the extreme off-chance your hairdresser takes this personally, you can feel free to offer up a convenient lie, like you were on holiday, or an armed stylist held you up at gunpoint and said he was going to kill an entire school bus full of children if you didn’t get a flattering chin-length bob. 

The most annoying thing about hair is also the best thing about it, which is that it grows back. You should therefore feel at perfect liberty to make as many bad decisions regarding it as your heart desires. But bring a photo of your mother along to your next hair appointment with a cross through it, just to be on the safe side. 

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