My Bad Hair-Cut Day

My Bad Haircut Day

Ok. I admit it. I’m a bit precious about my hair – something I have in common with many people I think.

It seems that those of us like me, who have naturally straight hair, spend as much time and effort in trying to make it curl as those who have curly hair spend straightening it. Then there are those who, like my husband, would be proud to have any hair on their very shiny, bald heads.

To those of us who have dead-straight hair, with cowlicks and double-crowns for added interest, a hairdresser who can cope with our hair is like a rare jewel. We keep regular appointments, and will virtually camp outside of the salon in case there happens to be a vacancy, if for some reason we’ve forgotten to book our appointment six weeks in advance.  

I had one of those hairdressers recently. We formed a close enough bond that we exchanged mobile phone numbers when she moved salons.

But four haircuts ago, as she cut my hair she told me she was having a change in her career path. Outwardly I smiled and nodded – being very careful to nod in between snips so I didn’t accidentally lose an ear. But inwardly I was screaming,

‘NOOOOoooooooOOOOOH!’

Being the great actress I can be, I congratulated her and wished her all the best – while secretly and selfishly wishing that it would not work out!

Since then, I’ve been experimenting with hairdressers. I’ve really tried hard not to be too precious about it. My first haircut with a new hairdresser was not too bad. So I returned six weeks later, but unfortunately timed it at the end of a very busy Saturday. The haircut took a week to settle, but it was alright. So I went back to the same salon for the next haircut.

I smiled at the stranger behind the counter, and she took my name and number and made an appointment for me for the next day. The next day, she cut my hair.

Well, I’m still not really sure what the cut looks like or whether I like it. Usually hairdressers have a way of ‘selling’ my new cut to me. While I’m sitting in the chair looking in the mirror and waiting for them to wave their magic wand, they grab some styling gel – or in my case, some stuff literally called ‘muk’ which closely resembles putty. They fool around with my very short locks, sticking up bits that refuse to stick up if they’re un-mukked, and plastering down other bits. Somehow, they have me believing I’m gorgeous!

Not this day! The cut was finished. Precise and closely resembling a pom-pom, I wasn’t quite sure how the hairdresser would putty it. She didn’t. She moved over to the cash till and I gathered my glasses and my handbag and walked over to the cash till too. I waited for the shock of the cost. But I wasn’t ready for her next question.

‘Do you have a Seniors Card?’

My outer-actress face smiled and said ‘No’.

Inside, my heart was sinking. I thought, ‘You’ve just spent 20 minutes with me talking about yourself and your views and you’ve just commented that I don’t have many grey hairs yet. I’m only just 50. I was here to have a spiffy haircut and feel better about myself, and now you’re asking if I have a Seniors Card.’

I must say that my retelling of my story at bible-study later that night created much more humour at my expense than I anticipated.

Once I had calmed down a bit I thought back to this hairdresser who in reality had followed my instructions, but just failed in her sales pitch. I thought of the power of her few tiny words.

I know of only some of the pain I’ve caused others because of my thoughtless words. I have known no greater anguish than when I hurt others with hastily written words which were distributed unedited. Thank God, these days I have several editors who get back to me about these articles.

‘Are you sure that you want to say this?’

‘Are you aware it could be taken differently than you intend?’

‘Is that what you really meant to say?’

Wouldn’t it be great in real life to have an editor to take with me, to check my words before they leave my mouth?

Sometimes words themselves can be quite inert

As I was trying to write the rest of this article, I heard a loud yell from one of our kid’s rooms.

‘A hundred and thirty dollars?’

Sometimes words themselves can be quite inert. Nobody would raise an eyebrow at a hundred and thirty dollars if they had just checked through the contents of a supermarket trolley, or if they’d paid for a car service. But the way in which we say words often speaks more loudly than the words themselves could ever say.

I love a part of the movie ‘Three men and a baby’ where one of the three ‘dads’ read to the baby from a magazine about wrestling. His intonation was gentle and soothing, so it was not long before the baby was asleep.

When our kids were little, we used to sing a song

‘Keep your tongue from evil, keep your tongue’ (click, click, click – went our tongues!) 

For a verse we would grab hold of our tongues with our fingers – literally.It was a fun song.

But today as I write I think that I should take that song more seriously. If I can’t physically take hold of my tongue, I can practise to be quieter – to listen to others rather than offer them my words of wisdom. I can respond to emails or Facebook, but write a draft somewhere else to give me time to process what I’m really trying to say. Perhaps sleep on it before I post. I can avoid ever becoming a tweeter because hastily written or said words have always got me into trouble.

And I can always check and recheck that my words are like honey, for tomorrow, I may have to eat them.  

 

First published in The Lutheran magazine, November 2013 as ‘My Bad Hair-Cut Day’.

Grumpy Pants

Have you got your grumpy pants on?

It was the day before our daughter Gabby’s 21st birthday party. Unfortunately, the timing of the party coincided with a busy time at work, and I was really stressed. For the second time in a few short minutes my husband Chris was the focus of my irritation.

Gabby, who was just passing by, looked at me, put on her child-care voice and asked, ‘Have you got your grumpy pants on?’

In a few words she had summed up the situation, acknowledged my feelings and given me a different way of looking at the situation. Instead of accusing or shaming, she’d pointed out my undesirable behaviour but had not personalised it.

It could have sounded much different.

‘Don’t say that, Mum! You’re always having a go at Dad! He’s done nothing wrong. It’s about time you acknowledged your attitude and took more control over what you say!’

It’s funny how a few words can completely change the atmosphere. They can poison the mood, or sweeten and brighten it.

Gabby’s words absolutely brightened it.

I was able to smile and recognise that Chris was not the cause of my grumps. He was able to smile and forgive me.

And we were able to get on with spending our time more productively and again enjoy each other’s company.

 

Before we were married Chris and I were given some very practical and useful words of advice:

‘Avoid two phrases: You always … and You never

That advice has been very helpful and we’ll never know how many times it has saved us from having horrible, blaming arguments.

Fighting words or Friendly words

Since then we’ve learned about ‘fighting words’ and ‘friendly words’.

Friendly words have become more of a habit in our home than they used to be. For years now we’ve been practising how to use encouraging (friendly) words to build each other up rather than discouraging (fighting) words that tear each other down. I’m not saying that we’re perfect, but it’s quite amazing how choosing words (or choosing not to say something) can completely change a home’s atmosphere.

I don’t think we realised what a difference it made until our kids grew into teenagers and began to bring their friends home. It was their friends who pointed out what was different about our house.

‘I wish my parents would speak to me like that. They just nag or yell, or worse, they won’t speak to me’.

Does nagging happen in our house? Sure does!

Are we perfect? Sure aren’t.

But we’ve tried some techniques that others have recommended. And when new things work we’re happy to keep using them.

We’re also happy to recognise that what works in somebody else’s house might not necessarily work in ours.

 

John and Julie Gottman, through The Gottman Institute, have been studying what they call, ‘The Masters and Disasters of Relationships’ for decades. They have observed thousands of couples over many years and have identified the common important factors that make a relationship successful.

Pretty much it boils down to the way couples speak to each other and the way they fight that determines whether or not a relationship will be successful. Couples can learn to apply these factors to their relationship and improve its quality. Learning different ways of speaking to each other and replacing negative criticism and complaining with positive words and interactions can really change a whole relationship.

Unfortunately, for some of us, we’ve grown up accepting that teasing, criticism and complaining are a part of life. We are so used to nagging or yelling, whining and complaining that we think that is how it must be. I’ve seen many families change (ours’ included) when they’ve been prepared to learn some new language and tactics.

 

I’ve seen many families take this on board and begin new dialogue and create a different atmosphere in their homes. Focus this week on how many times you say ‘Don’t!’ and you might be surprised, especially if you struggle with kids (or adults) who don’t listen.

Maybe they are good listeners but are waiting for positive instruction.

Turn your words around into positive instructions and let the kids be the problem-solvers as much as possible.

Who knows, your kids might be the ones who turn to their grumpy parent to say,

‘Have you got your grumpy pants on?’

 

Originally Published in The Lutheran