It was a day off work, and I was looking forward to a haircut at a new salon with a new stylist, Robin.
I’m mostly past the stage of feeling constant jealousy and insecurity around pretty women. I’ve grown to care less and to have more confidence myself, which is a relief: all that comparing and envying takes up a lot of mental energy that I can now put toward obsessing over other things, like bathroom mold, or whether I’m getting arthritis in my right hand (it’s been hurting lately).
Still, when cute, petite Robin with perfect hair, perfect makeup, and trendy clothes introduced herself to me, I sighed inwardly.
I also noted that she was quite a bit younger, and I hoped she wouldn’t screw up my hair, because I actually like it a lot. As we were talking about what kind of bangs I want, how often I shampoo, and my daily styling routine (“Not much. I’m pretty lazy”), I became more confident that she knew what she was doing.
We fell into chit-chat. I asked her if she had any summer travel plans and she said, “Probably not. I just came back from ten days in Cambodia.”
“Really?” After I asked some dumb questions (“Where exactly is Cambodia?”) Robin began telling me about the flight to Bangkok, visiting temples, going to the beach, and eating exotic food. What I thought would be a traveling adventure tale, though, soon became a different story. “See, I met this guy …” As she saw I was willing to listen, this came pouring out:
She had met him downtown, and he was older than her (“about 32”). They connected immediately, had tons to talk about. He had something to do with television production for a cable travel channel, which was taking him to Cambodia for a few months. They had spent a lot of time together before he left, and he told her he wished he had met her before he made the Cambodia plans. He asked her to visit him there. She decided to go.
For ten days, she thought they had a great time (“we didn’t fight once”), but soon after her return, she began hearing from him less and less. By the day of my haircut, it had been a week.
“And I see him posting things on Facebook. But he’s not writing me back.”
I groaned. “I hate Facebook.”
“I don’t want to be one of those nagging girls. But I don’t know what to do.” She paused and shook her head, exasperated. “And guys wonder why we act crazy … I just don’t understand.” In that moment, my sympathy for her confusion and pain overtook any resentment of her pixie cuteness.
“Men are stupid.” She laughed weakly. “I understand. It’s hard. Have you seen that show Girls?”
“The main character is sort of seeing this guy who’s kind of a jerk, and in one scene she’s telling her friends that when they are together he’s very present, but then they’re apart, and he doesn’t respond to her text messages for two weeks, and she thinks she made him up in her head.”
She nodded her head knowingly. “I get that.”
“Me too. A lot of people go through it.”
She started asking me questions, and I, only a little reluctantly, told her some of my own stories, and one in particular, tempered by its being not quite so recent and my being not quite so young.
“And how did he respond?” She asked as I approached the finale.
“Well, I was probably a little bitchy. But it was a ‘not interested’ – literally.” I hesitated, wanting to end positively, more for her sake than mine. “We’re supposed to be friends, I guess.”
“You never know what will happen …”
People’s optimism and hopefulness, even my own, in response to rejection and sadness just amazes me. It occurred to me that she’d probably been talking about Cambodia over and over with each fresh customer who would listen, indulging the need to analyze and obsess until every crappy thing he’d done or hadn’t done could be reasoned and explained away. And I imagined most of them responding with what she wanted to hear, scenarios and excuses for him that, for all their plausibility, were probably just not true.
I caught her eye in the mirror. “It doesn’t mean he doesn’t like you.” I paused, mustering the courage to tell her something real. “But if a guy wants to talk to you, he’ll make it happen.” I hesitated again. “Maybe give him a little more time, but … don’t put up with bullshit for too long.”
Robin nodded and we were silent as her scissors moved onto my bangs. We talked about Cambodia and planes and layovers some more, but she didn’t bring him up again.
As she walked me out, she asked, “So, what are you going to do about the guy you were telling me about?”
At first, I thought she had learned nothing from my sage wisdom. But it was just the opposite. She was looking to me for guidance, some kind of direction. I smiled at her.
“Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”
I left the salon admiring my reflection in all the windows, happy about one of the best haircuts I’d gotten in a long time.