One night after work last week I drove into Newmarket for one of my Christmas rituals, dinner with my zany friend Irene.
I circled the parking lot of the plaza. It was packed full with cars belonging to the Christmas shoppers. I was thankful to find a space not too far away from the restaurant.
Irene was there already, waiting at a table. I slid into the booth, unbuttoning my coat and unloading my purse and bags onto the seat beside me.
As the server handed us menus, Irene, who'd had the day off, mentioned that she'd had her hair trimmed that afternoon.
"Sally (not her real name) was asking for you," she said.
I groaned. Sally and me, we have history. Sally is my old hairdresser. I haven't sat in her chair for a good five years, but she won't stop asking after me. "Just let go," I feel like saying. but she won't. If Brenda pops in to have her girls' hair cut, she comes home saying, "Sally was asking for you," and my shoulders slump. I don't want her to ask for me; I want her to forget about me.
Irene went on, "She said, 'Do you ever see Belinda?' and I said, 'As a matter of fact I'm seeing her this evening,' and she said, 'Tell her I was asking after her.'"
I felt a now familiar guilt.
"She likes you," said Irene. She was smiling impishly.
"Well, that's all right for you to say," I said, "You come out looking okay. Your hair doesn't even look like you've been to the hairdressers today."
"That's because I go right home and wash it," said Irene cheerfully, "Really I should tell her just to cut it, that's all I needed, just a cut. I should ask her to cut it and then just let me use one of the stations to dry my hair."
But we both understood that Irene wouldn't do that. It would hurt Sally's feelings.
"If Sally was to walk in here right now," she said, "She'd look at my hair and wonder what happened to it."
I thought of one of my previous hairdos by Sally, when I had immediately undone her hard work outside in the parking lot before going on to do some shopping. About half an hour later I turned the corner of an aisle in a store and spotted Sally, who was now also there shopping. I quickly retreated back into the aisle I had been exiting like a tortoise into its shell, and found a way to creep out of the store unseen.
I could have lived with that spy-like existence, but it was the day that there was obviously something wrong with my hair colour (which had been mixed by Sally) that was the impetus for my change of hairdresser. And you don't just change hairdressers--you break off a relationship.
That day, my hair had a distinctly purple cast when the colour was washed off, but when I mentioned it to the girl shampooing my hair, she said, "Well, you tell Sally."
That struck me as odd. Purple is purple and I couldn't pretend it wasn't. This was something I couldn't comb out in the parking lot. So I did tell Sally, and she fixed it by some hairdresser magical corrective hocus pocus, but not before trying to convince me that it really didn't look purple. I stuck to my guns; it was purple all right, no denying it, but having to argue the point was "our" death knell.
By now Irene and I were laughing so hard that our stomachs hurt. I said that if I could be just friends with Sally, without having her touch my hair, that would be all right, but I could never see that happening. She would be bound to ask awkward questions, and even if she didn't ask, it would hang there in the air, "Why don't you come in to get your hair done any more?" I mean, what do you do with that? Yes, I know, I can hear you saying, "Just tell her." But I can't.
We laughed on and on. The last vestiges of any stress vanished as we considered the humour in the complexity of relationships and the ridiculous knots we tie ourselves in sometimes. I admit to being such a wimp about this one that I won't even go to the clothing store beside my old hairdresser's in case I bump into her.
So now you know what a jelly belly I am. Welcome to Belindaland.