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Breaking Up With My Hairdresser

Why is this so painful?

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He was always there for me — always, and I up and vanished without so much as goodbye. No letter. No call. Not even a Post-it (I still miss Sex and the City.) Just poof from the longest relationship I’ve ever had with a man outside my dad and sibs.

He is not my husband or my therapist. He is … was … my hairdresser. My very, very talented hairdresser. The best I’ve ever had. And the one person I confided in about everything, including my husband and therapist. I know what you’re thinking.

When you find that special someone — that someone you can trust with your secrets and your hair why would you leave? I’ll get to that. My question is, “What’s the protocol for breaking up with that special someone?” Back to why I walked? It wasn’t him. It was me. OK, it was a little him.

I started seeing him in my 20s when I was single and self-involved. He came recommended by a friend after a stylist at another salon who was having a particularly bad day took it out on my head. My new man redeemed my hair, with a darling textured fringe bob as I recall, and I was all in till death or a job relocation do us part. Back then, I didn’t mind that his salon lacked a sense of urgency. Women in foils with live-in nannies milled about sipping wine and dishing while afternoon appointments stretched into early evening appointments. I didn’t mind because he was worth the wait. He was my shoulder when my first engagement broke off. He gave me a messy bun fit for a royal when I got married — and on the house, too!

When I wound up on bed rest with twins, he brought his magic scissors to my house. (I know, right!?) Then the babies came and the trouble followed. A full-time working mom, I became an efficiency expert to maximize my time with the kids. Meanwhile, I began to resent how long it took, he took, to show me the love. I began to resent the women with the nannies and the wine, especially if their appointment was before mine.

One day, already having been shampooed, I sat waiting, waiting and waiting when it finally hit me. I had to end it. Not that I haven’t thought of going back in the years since, many times, especially on the bad hair days. I’ve been playing the field and there’s a lot of hair malpractice being committed out there. I miss his magic scissors. I miss him. I sometimes drive by his salon (I’m going to the bank, not stalking) and see him in the front picture window cutting someone else’s hair. They are laughing. I want to stop, but I don’t. What would I say? What would he? Has he even missed me?

I recently started seeing someone new. Her one-person salon runs like clockwork. She has other clients, but I never see them. I keep the conversation superficial: “What are you doing this weekend?” “What’s your new favorite restaurant?” It’s just better this way in case I decide to cut and run again. One day, I decided to go deeper. I asked how she feels when clients disappear into thin air. “It’s very hurtful,” she said. “You wonder, ‘Was it them? If it was me, how can I change?’ ”

Then she told me about the postcard she once received from a long-time client thanking her for service but letting her know that the client was making a change. The client also happened to be a psychologist and respected that their years together constituted a genuine relationship that required closure. “I was so grateful,” this new stylist said. “At least I knew.” Seems like, at the very least, I owe someone a postcard.