They Didn't Teach Me This in Medical School

Hi! I'm Sheila from and it's my first time guest posting. Shhh- don't tell Jozet. I think I failed to mention it and I really want her to have fun and not worry about little Halushki while she's gone. It'll be our secret.

So I thought I was going to get all philosophical and discuss "happiness" with everyone since I'm reading Happiness is a Serious Problem by Dennis Prager for my bookclub buuuut.... then I went to the hairdresser and my post was born. I’m not one of those breezy women who floats in the salon on a cloud of self-importance; rather I skulk in as my confidence trails behind me like a sullen teenager. I really wouldn’t go at all except this year I’m trying to actually be honest with myself. I’ve seen the pictures and reluctantly agreed that *sob-sob* only Jennifer Aniston and Christie Brinkley can still pull off that carefree California hair. I, on the other hand, just look tired. And old.

So I took a deep breath and went and saw Niklaus, my imposing German hairdresser (I've changed his name to protect his identity but who am I kidding? There's only one tall German man who cuts hair on the tiny Micronesian island of Guam.) So anyway, Niklaus scares me. He's tall and big and has a thick accent but most of all he's quiet. I wind up making up what I think he’s saying and it’s not pleasant. At all.

I plopped down in the seat facing him and with pressured speech I babbled, “Okay here's the story, the cut was a little too short for the first couple of weeks and then lovely for a couple of months but now that it’s been 4 or 5 months it’s gotten a little out of hand and the highlights were nice last time and I want the same color, warm and sunny and not at all brassy or ashy cause you know my skin can't handle it..."

He cut me off abruptly with the universal hand wave and said, “Slow down” He then immediately picked up his rather large yellow coffee cup and took a sip. He smiled and I smiled back, uncomfortably. I think he really meant to say something else, but he showed restraint- which I appreciated. That was just the beginning.

As I waited for him to return from mixing my color, I settled into a book. I figured I'd bury myself behind the words and the morning would progress nicely. No such luck. Niklaus returned, leaned over and very gently took the book out of my hand and placed it on the shelf in front of me. He then placed a pile of foils on my lap. My eyes widened in disbelief. I had just become the first assist to my hairdresser.

I really just wanted to relax and talk about the weather, "How's about this rain?" or perhaps, "Do you think we'll have a super typhoon this year?" But no, this was a collaborative effort. I sat up straight and got ready. They didn't teach me this in medical school, but it felt pretty darn close when I rotated in the surgery clinics. Those were stressful days spent dancing around a surgeon’s ego and learning the fine art of "assisting". I still have one flashback that includes a certain surgeon yelling incessantly, "Eyelash length! Cut the suture eyelash length!"

I'm relieved to say it went well. With each tap of my shoulder, I delivered a foil smoothly and effortlessly. Not too fast or too slow. I was able to anticipate situations and problem solve. When two foils stuck together, I played it cool. I licked my finger and rubbed gently to disengage the pair. When they wouldn't split, I deftly tucked the foil behind the stack and kept on moving. I was proud.

So you see I couldn't talk about a silly thing called "Happiness" when I had real issues to deal with like surviving my salon experience. I'll let you know how the next time goes- but it might be awhile. You can see an older cut in my Flickr photostream at It's actually shorter now but basically the same. Sort of.

What about you all? Are haircuts intimidating for you as well? And for all you men - Do you go into a fancy salon? I see plenty of guys but my husband won't even attempt it!


Unknown said...

I love going to be styled/primped/whatever. I love feeling like someone else is taking care of me. But ... while I'm there, I feel like a drowned rat. An old, tired one. I stare at myself in the mirror and hyper-self-criticize my too-high forehead, my too long nose, my wrinkles, my pores.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I am all about the 6 back issues of People magazine and a little light conversation.

Joan & Tony said...

I love my hairdresser. She cuts, color and Highlights my hair. I feel like a new human being when I leave. Why is that I wonder? Is it just the touch or just being renewed. We leave this Friday for a short vacation with family in VA,
and I go Friday morning to get that cut, color and HL. Not bad, morning at the hairdresser, vacation and being with family all in the same day. God is great!

Anonymous said...

I love getting my hair done! I've been going to my stylist for about 8 years now. She's my age, and has 2 kids, so she totally gets that it's my "relaxation" time when I'm in her chair. She sits me down, gets me my trashy gossip magazines, and let's me vent on whatever I need to. I always feel refreshed when I leave!

Awesome Mom said...

I am horrible about getting my hair cut!! When I was living in Utah my mom had a great hairdresser that worked out of her home. I went to her (she even did my wedding hair) faithfully. When my husband and I moved to California I would get my hair cut every time we went ti visit my family. Now that we have moved to Kansas I think I may have to give it up and find someone new. Sigh, it is almost worse than having to find a new doctor.

preTzel said...

There is absolutely nothing to compare having your scalp massaged as bubbles froth upon your head. I *love* going to the salon just to get my hair washed. If I could do it everyday I would but, *sigh*, I can't justify the cost to Mr.

The part I hate is that it is inevitable that someone will screw the cut or color or perm up and then I get mad.

The one and only time I have ever withheld a tip was not for a bad haircut, surprisingly, but the stylist said "Don't forget my tip," and I was shocked. I didn't tip her financially but I did say "Next time don't ask for a tip." She did a crappy job on my hair but even if they do I usually tip because I know their wages aren't all that great. But ask for a tip? Quick way for me to not tip ya.

Angela said...

Sounds like quite an experience.

I work at a spa so I get professional hair cuts for like next tnothing.

White Hot Magik said...

We yak yak yak at the salon but our stylist has her own room and it isn't really all that intimidating. I always have haircut remorse it seems like for a day or two and then I dig it.

Sheila @ Dr said...

I'm so delighted that there are comments. This morning my husband leaned over and said, "You wrote about you hairdresser?" in a very worried tone.

Uh. Yeah. Crap. Should've gone shorter and sweeter. I'm resisting the urge to edit it.

Heidi-I too always look in the mirror and am shocked at my reflection. Must be the lighting! (funny thing is everyone else looks normal-damn!)

Jenn- I love the piles of magazines too!I never have enough time to read them all.

Joan & Tony- Maybe it's the touch. When they're washing my hair all I can think about is how nice they are to be doing that. Of course I am paying them!

Dawn- Ok that settles it. I'm coming over to your hairdresser!

Awesome Mom- I always try to find the person with the best and cutest cut and then ask where they went. It works every time.

Pretzel-I can't believe she said that! I now give the tip to the front desk but in the past I used to walk up and give it to them. Is that right? I've never asked.

Angela- Wow. I wish I had that job. Do you get facials and massages at discount too?

Leucantha- I always love it when I leave. Hate it when I'm home for the next week or so and then magically it's perfect!

Anonymous said...

It's hair. It grows back. I have stick-straight light brown hair. I spent most of my 20s dyeing the crap out of it - mostly blonde or red. I let it all grow out in med school after I got married. I just found a fantastic stylist at an Aveda salon near my house. My cut is above the shoulders, angled slightly towards the face, and choppy in the back. I can do so many things with it - straighten it, flip the ends out, flip them under, and still pull the whole shebang back into a ponytail. I'm in love with Maria, what can I say.

Anonymous said...


I used to drive over an hour one way to a fancy-shmancy salon and never felt relaxed there. I was a fish out of water, but my hair did look great.

Got sick of the long drive and stress, so now I go to a local salon with a great hairdresser I can talk, laugh and cry with . . . and my hair still looks great. :-)

Loved your post! Hope Halushki has you back. Found you through your comments on BWAB and MomGrind, btw.

Vered said...

I have long hair. I trim the ends twice a year and that's it. I don't like hair salons! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Dr. Cason,

I love your first guest post. This was a wonderful story. Your trip to the salon sounded like a read adventure.

MommyTime said...

I, too, am mystified by the complexities of the hairdresser. For me, the foils were pretty second nature, since I spent my middle-school years assisting my mother with some fabulous perms (it was the 80s), which back then required handing her rollers of the right size and color at regular intervals. What completely baffles me, though, is the hair dryer. Sure, I can dry my own hair so it won't freeze to my head in winter (not your problem in Guam, I'm guessing). But I find it completely impossible to make MY hairdryer do what HER hairdryer does. So every fabulous new haircut looks EXACTLY like the hair I had three days before as soon as her styling savvy wears off and I'm in charge of the dryer again. There definitely should be a course in this that's part of all advanced degrees...

preTzel said...

Dr. Cason -

I give the money directly to the hair dresser/stylist so I know that the person who took care of my hair is getting the money.

If I'm at a restaurant I make sure to give it to the person who waited on us. If they have left because their shift finished before we did I always ask for the manager and ask them to give the tip to the waiter/waitress. That doesn't happen often but it has a few times.

Really it is what ever the customer is comfortable with doing.

Sheila @ Dr said...

bknelson- That does sound cute. I actually really like "Niklaus" now and when I leave here I can't believe I'll have to search for another stylist all over again.

Linda-I've never tried Aveda salons. Are they good?

Vered-When I got really busy that's all I would do too. In fact I just hand my scissors to a friend and say, "First a little off the back please."

Hi Barbara- Welcome! I hope you come back to Haluski. She's great!!

Mommytime-Me too! I loooove the blow out!

Pretzel- Really? Directly to them. What if it's on a credit card? I never carry cash. I'll have ot go back and ask them again.

preTzel said...

If it's on a CC then I just add the tip and sign the slip. Most restaurants that take CCs have the tips assigned electronically and the waitress will get her tips the next time she/he works. When I used to bartend that is how my work did it. If my tips were by CC we were told not to take cash from the drawer but to leave them on the slip and when they did give us our tips we were given a copy of the slip so we knew what we earned.

Sheila @ Dr said...

Pretzel- Oh. Well maybe I'll keep doing the CC thing. My hairdresser owns the salon so I figure he's getting the tip!

Blog Ping