“Special” Hair

I got a haircut a few days ago, and it wasn’t exactly a fun experience.

First off, my hairstylist was an Asian woman. I’ve got no problem with that – in fact, my favorite hair-cutterer there is an older Asian lady – but this woman was new, and there was an unfortunate language barrier that hampered communication between us. Oh, she tried to talk to me. And I attempted to respond. But it quickly became evident that I wasn’t exactly following along when she asked me a question, and instead of asking her to repeat herself again – as I’d done several times already – I took a chance and responded, “yes.”

“Yes?” she replied, pausing with shears dangling in mid-air. “What you mean, yes?”

Oh, crap. I wondered what I had just agreed to. Was there still a way to extricate myself from the situation with a bit of tact, rather than admit that I hadn’t understood a word she’d said and had responded merely out of politeness?

“Yes to your question,” I tried, pleased with my quick thinking. I might not have caught what she’d said, but I could tell it had been a question of some sort. I figured I had a 50-50 shot at being right, and “yes” seemed just as good as “no.” Better, even. It’s more positive and uplifting.

“I ask if you use gel, mousse or hairspray?” she said.

“Right,” I answered, nodding forcefully, as if to suggest conviction with my answer. “I do, sometimes.”

“Which you use?” she said, glaring at me now.

“Depends on the situation and what the weather is like outside.”

I wasn’t trying to be difficult, or a smart ass. I swear. But once you’ve committed to an answer, you pretty much have to ride it out, and I was trying hard to pretend like I’d been in complete control of the conversation when, in fact, it had slipped out of my grasp two minutes after I sat down in the chair. But the stylist was equally clever, because a minute later she said, “Looks like you getting some gray!”

That I understood. WTF? Say it ain’t so!!!

“Just a little bit,” she said in mock reassurance. “It just starting. I call it special hair.”

Well you know what, lady? I don’t call it “special” hair. I call it the first inevitable sign of my own looming mortality. And I am not pleased that you had to go and point it out!

The NBC comedy Community coined a term for this several episodes back. An insult disguised as a compliment is a complisult. This hair stylist had complisulted me!!

I mean, fine. I’d seen it coming, a few stray grays around the temples. I was aghast the first time I noticed, and wasted no time in eliminating the offensive intruder from my head. But he returned, with a reinforcement or two. Once they’ve established a stronghold, their forward progress can’t be halted. It’s all downhill from there.

Driving home, I tried to think of the positives. AARP cards promising a gateway to all sorts of senior discounts. No waiting for a table in restaurants when dinnertime is at 4 PM. Medicare. Angela Lansbury. I was just beginning to relish the idea of being an “elder statesman” of sorts when I remembered that I’m still only 41 years old.


And, despite a few gray hairs, a fairly youthful looking 41, at that. Or so I’m told. Actually, once last year when I got a haircut, the stylist guessed that I was in my early 30s. There was no language barrier that day, no sirree. I didn’t have to pretend to understand her and she didn’t have to turn around and insult me while throwing in the word “special” to pretend that the insult was really a compliment. Life was simpler back then.

Chicks seem to dig this guy. Gray hair doesn't have to be a death sentence. (Courtesy of topnews.in).

Whatever the case, I say, bring on the gray. Guys can get away with it. We look “distinguished.” I’ve seen how the women drool over George Clooney. I’d welcome a little slobbering action over here.

This whole incident is just another embarrassing moment, kind of like the “snow bunny” waitress fiasco from January. I had a reader comment on an embarrassing incident that had befallen her, and that got me to thinking about my Most Embarrassing Moment Ever. It was the early 90s, and I was working in retail while attending college. I was a greeter/cashier/peon for Brookstone, a Sharper Image clone that specializes in gadgets (actually, Sharper Image closed all their stores years ago, but Brookstone lives on – ha-ha, suck it, Sharper Image!). Brookstone was a great place to work for a 21-year-old; my coworkers and I had a lot of fun there, like the time I placed a mirror on my boss’s desk with a razor blade and a line of flour. He was not amused, but we were!

Anyway. This girl worked there, and she was gorgeous. She was like a model. Actually, she was a model. Literally – she did some modeling on the side. And she was Swedish, or Austrian. Something exotic. Long blonde hair, sexy accent. Let’s just say I really liked working with her. One evening I ducked into the stock room to use the bathroom. It was small, and contained a single toilet and sink. It was busy that night, and I was in a hurry, so for some reason that escapes me to this day I didn’t bother locking the door. Figured I’d be in and out in sixty seconds. So I’m standing there, in the middle of taking a leak, and in walks Gorgeous Swedish Model. She backed out, apologizing profusely, while I turned beet red. We never discussed this afterwards, but maybe that’s because I was never able to look her in the eye again.

What is your most embarrassing moment?


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

21 thoughts on ““Special” Hair

  1. Maybe special hair was a great compliment, maybe she meant lucky hair, good karma hair, maybe see another ghost hair, you really can’t be sure.

    My most embarrassing moment. Well, the one that comes to mind right away is the one now told at holiday work parties. The regional vice president was in our store with the district team, and imagine 5’2” me in a little stockroom in the juniors dept. going over my team scorecard while top 40’s music blares. With me in the stockroom are my boss, her boss, 2 HR managers, 2 district merchants, and mr. regional VP himself. Well VP began asking me questions which I tried to answer as quickly and thoroughly as possible. To hear my boss tell the story, Mr. VP was impressed with “this little redheaded powerhouse” but I was really nervous, so when he asked me where I came from (meaning…woh, you’re good, where did you join us from), I blanked and said “planet earth.” *smacks face with palm*


  2. Well I was working in Downtown Chicago. My job was to go to construction sites and download info from seismographs onto a laptop. It was rushhour, which basically means no one is going ANYWHERE in downtown Chicago, and I had to cross the street to get to another seismograph. so I crossed and when I got to the other side my foot didnt make it all the way up the curb, I BIFFED IT..my laptop went sliding across the sidewalk, my purse went the other direction and I was lying spreadeagle face down on the ground. No way in hell I could make it look like I meant to do it. And the worst part is that I had to stand up, gather my stuff, and sit there and download the machine that was right there. All the while nary a car moved. I know EVERY SINGLE PERSON had all eyes on me.


    1. Wendy!! You rock. When you fell, did you set off the seismograph a little? I think that’s called compromising the data. Glad you were okay, though!


  3. I won’t even talk about my most embarrassing moment.
    because, there are many.

    your haircut experience is funny! At least you didn’t get, you know…shaved bald.

    My son got a wonky cut one day…it wasn’t a language barrier…it was…well, the fact that he was 12, and the hairdressers perky boobage was in his face.

    he didn’t stand a chance.


    blessings, and fun post!
    enjoy your special hair.


  4. Haha. Thanks for this. I made myself feel better by thinking that my tangled morning mullet was just “special hair”! I think you should welcome the gray. I’ve seen way too many men trying to get a “natural” looking color treatment only to look ridunkulous.

    P.S. I plan to use the word “complisulted” at least one time today 🙂


    1. I *love* “complisulted”! And I’ve found it’s a rare art form to be able to pull off the perfect complisult. Some people are better off doing it than others. I just think it’s fun to say.


  5. I died laughing at your language barrier experience with the Asian woman who was cutting your hair, because two years ago I shared a post on my blog about an experience I had when I was still a hair stylist and cutting an Asian woman’s hair. We had the hardest communicating. It was awful. It was the moment I ended my career in the business – HA!

    Anyway, I happen to like gray hair (whether it be on a man or woman). I think it looks awesome. When was a kid, I couldn’t wait to get gray hair. I started graying at about 28 years old (a little here and there). Now, I’ve got a bunch. Honestly? I love it.


    1. Guy walks into an empty salon, two bored stylists size him up, he asks for “a trim” and then cue the cheesy 70s music, right?

      I think I might have seen that one…


  6. Planejaner suggested I visit. First of all I have suns of all different mediums hangong all over my place and I must comment you on your avatar. It is the coolest one on the bloggosphere. I never had gray hair or silver hair. I went straight from a multicolored chestnut brown to white.


    1. Glad you like it, Carl – and thanks for stopping by. Jane has said you and I have a similar sense of humor, so I’ll be sure to check out your blog, too.


  7. OK if I come back later to make a more meaningful comment? Am in danger of subscribing and that is just with the click through the Home button. At least you have hair to cut!


  8. If it comforts you at all, gray hair is not REALLY (or necessarily) a sign of aging. (I started going gray at 13 – not a joke – so I should know.) 😉

    Most embarrassing moment… hmm. I tend to block those out of my memory. I’m Very Very good at that. There was the other day when I almost killed myself flooding the bathroom. 😉

    There was the time I completely forgot what I was saying in a presentation in front of the executive team and froze deer-in-headlights for a full minute. (Incidentally a Full Minute is an *eternity* in the middle of a presentation.)

    I also (vaguely) recall having lunch with my entire team and the Big Boss, and he started talking about some challenge that he was trying to work out. So I started to think about whether there was something I could do with the program I work with that would address it… effectively wandering away mentally SO COMPLETELY that a few minutes later when he said my name, I had NO IDEA what he had just said to me. The whole team is looking at me expectantly (as is he) and I’m just there, blinking like a moron. Finally he says, “Aw, I’m just joking with you.” And since I had no idea what he said that was “just a joke” (and since I wouldn’t just come out and admit that I (oops) hadn’t been listening to the Big Boss) I said, in this totally bizarro way, “Uh huh, sure, I know. And I’m *so* amused.” Which made him laugh (no one else did; my immediate manager looked really uncomfortable) … but NONE of my colleagues would tell me later what I missed.

    (I guess the takeaway from these is that I *really* have to try to stay in the moment.)


    1. THAT is too funny! And you’ve made me feel better about pretending to understand what she was saying in order to save face. Glad I’m not the only one! It would drive me crazy, though, not knowing what the boss said about me…


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