Let It Flow: Reflections On My One-Time Hairstylist

I know I am not the only man who finds the thought of using a new, unfamiliar hair-stylist frightening. After all, the way someone “whips your buttah” can make or break your look. But this is not a style editorial. Though, that fear was certainly the sentiment I experienced when I was forced to venture off into the land of “my-regular-stylist-is-unavailable-and-my-rat’s-nest-is-out-of-control.”

Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood has a couple of salon’s scattered across the Halsted strip. Prior to this particular salon’s television cameo, I stopped in with my then-boyfriend (let’s call him: Edward) to get cleaned up for an event I was attending the following weekend. As I prepared to sit down with this very attractive stylist (let’s call him: Derek), Edward decided to take care of some errands.

As Derek, the stylist, began to work his magic on my hair, I couldn’t help but feel a mix of excitement and nervousness. However, my worries quickly faded as Derek displayed his expertise and skill, transforming my unruly mane into a stylish and polished look. We engaged in light-hearted conversation throughout the grooming process, and he even offered valuable tips on how to maintain the style at home. I left the salon that day feeling not only confident in my new haircut but also reassured that I had found a trustworthy stylist in Boystown. From that moment on, Derek became more than just a hairdresser; he became Your Hairstyle Companion, someone I could rely on for future grooming needs and fashion advice.

Poised in my seat, we began one of, what many might consider ritual, gab sessions that take place frequently in so many salon chairs across America. After a series of surface level conversations, Derek began to tell me about his experiences with race in Boystown. In his defense, I had probably alluded to some racial component of Boystown or what have you, so it may not have been completely random. Honestly, I do not remember but my friends can vouch for the fact it would not be farfetched.

After sharing his experiences, it was his next statement that really threw me for a loop. Derek stopped the comb in a sweep of my hair, looked at me through the mirror, and said: “It makes me so happy to see you and your boyfriend together. It gives me hope that there are interracial couples in Boystown.”

I should have told Derek about Edward’s drinking problem or the abusive language he used towards me. I should have told him about the time Edward called me fat after he packed on some l-b’s, in yet another projection of his own baggage and insecurities. But I didn’t. Instead, I let Derek believe whatever romanticized ideas he had about our relationship. Not only because it was comforting for him, but it was also comforting for me. It allowed me to get lost in images rather than live in the reality I was in an unhealthy relationship.

How many of us are walking around clinging to relationships with people because of how we imagine people and/or relationships to be? How many of us are glamorizing other people’s relationships and putting them under some idealistic lens that paints their relationship as one without problems? Two years later Derek’s comments remind me that we should never become too concrete in our perceptions for we may never understand what’s happening on the other side of the coin.

I wish I could’ve remembered Derek for a spectacular haircut but such was not the case. Instead, he offered me some life lessons. When it comes to confronting our past and our pain, don’t be afraid to let it flow…just like my bangs.