I'm a self-hating curly-haired person. From the time I was a pre-teen (except for a short bohemian spat in college), I've been neurotic about finding ways to straighten my tight poodle curls. After experimenting with numerous processes containing harsh chemicals occasionally resulting in (at times, painful) mishaps, I found a product called Anticurl made by Rusk that was a godsend. It is a fairly mild relaxer, it's pretty safe and just slightly lightens my hair color which I like. For some reason, not many NYC salons use the product. For much of the last 10 years, I've been getting the Anticurl treatment done at a nondescript hair salon by a hairstylist there I'll call Janet (because that's her name). Janet has always done an adequate job even if at times annoying me by forcing me to acknowledge how great my hair looks when she's done and pushing unwanted products on me).
Last year, Janet convinced me to try a product called Coppola Keratin Complex. It turns out, that Coppola works miracles - it leaves your hair smooth and shiny and healthy. It is supposed to be nontoxic (although the fact that it makes my eyes tear up makes me a bit skeptical). Most importantly, it makes hair incredibly easy to blow dry. A job that used to take me nearly an hour now takes 15 minutes. This is a product that has literally changed my life!
Problem is Coppola doesn't really straighten my hair, it just works really well on the hair that's already relaxed. When I first had the treatment done, which was expensive, I was annoyed with the results because Janet had touted it as a replacement for Anticurl, but after paying a lot of money I still had curly roots. I called the salon to complain (perhaps I should have spoken directly to Janet) and they told me to come in. I saw Janet who told me that the product wasn't a hair straigtener. (Thanks for letting me know a couple of hundred dollars later). I asked her to apply Anticurl on the roots and she had a hell of an attitude while doing it, all the time complaining in some Eastern European language to her cohorts. I was frankly quite hurt that she reacted this way after I'd been patronizing her for the better part of a decade. To add insult to injury, I still had to pay for the additional treatment when it was done! Fine, I graciously tipped her anyway, gave her a kiss and said my goodbyes all the time thinking that it was the last time I'd see her.
So, around the end of the year my hair is needing to be touched up. I do my research and find a salon that does Anticurl called Dueto Salon. I should've been forewarned when every other client was an octogenarian, and the owner made me wait for my appointment while he gossiped with one of them. We do the Anticurl and I notice a lot more breakage then usual after it's done - you know, those embarassing little short strands that stick up from your head like you've been electrocuted (I felt a little better after noticing it wasn't as bad as the case of shorties Caroline Kennedy had). Being too obtuse to have learned my lesson, I asked the owner if they did the Coppola treatment, which I thought might help since it improves damaged hair. I stressed that I meant the Keratin product that did not contain formaldehyde. He said they did, and I come back a week later for the treatment. After he's done he leaves the bottle out and I notice that the label says Brazilian Keratin - a different product. I pick up the bottle and read the ingredients and sure enough it has formaldehyde (i.e., poison) in it. I'm livid. Also, for months afterward, my hair was limp and lifeless. Perhaps because my hair is naturally fine, but the process does not work well for my hair.
Eventually, I discover that my favorite salon for hair cutting, Arrojo Cutler (different salons serve different purposes), carries the actual Coppola treatment and I am thrilled. I have it done and my hair gets back that silky texture. Problem is Arrojo doesn't carry Anticurl and my roots (and every other secret I'm trying to hide) are starting to show. Do I go crawling back to Janet? NO! I decide I'll go in on her day off and ask for someone else to do my hair. Turns out they schedule me with Serge! Serge is Janet's professed nemesis. While doing the job, Serge is the consummate professional (and a flaming queen - not that there's anything wrong with that). He adds some protective cream to all of the hair strand except the inch of new growth that he's going to treat so as not to use the product on previously relaxed hair. All the time, Janet's Eastern European mafia posse is eyeing me and I feel as if I'm having an illicit affair. The discomfort. Serge meanwhile has no qualms about shamelessly offering me a discount for his services the next time I come in even though he knows that I'm "Janet's client". Anyway, when my hair is done, I'm quite pleased with the results. I feel so guilty and underhanded, but Serge was great. Can I keep seeing him behind Janet's back? Can I even go back to Janet now and snub Serge? Perhaps I should have tried to work things out with her, but at some point I must get on with my life. Yes, I know that I at least could look for someone who doesn't work in the same salon and not rub it in her face, but I've tried, I've really tried . . . and finding someone you trust to do your hair is very difficult. What exactly do I owe Janet anyway?