Love at first snip - a jillion hairstylists later

"Think mink," he purrs into my ear. I close my eyes and the aluminum foil helmet is instantly replaced by Sela Ward's flowing dark hair. I'm transformed into the smoldering, mysterious brunette who lives somewhere under my current muddy mop and longs to be set free.

Such is the power of a good hairstylist. But what happens when you move and must find a new salon? I've known women who've met mates faster than they've stumbled across a suitable stylist. This isn't just frivolous anxiety. A St. Louis jury awarded a woman $6,000 after she sued a salon that ruined her hair and left her depressed.

It's easy for men. My husband will duck into the first shop he sees with a red-and-white barber pole out front. If the chairs are shredding, fish and game memorabilia are on the walls, and guys are sitting around reading Popular Mechanics, he is happy. The barber at his most recent shop declared, "This is no fancy salon. You won't see ferns in our window."

Ah, music to his ears. He immediately found bliss with the well-shorn sexagenarian barber. And at such a reasonable rate: just $10 for a cut that looks as if it actually cost much less.

But for a woman, finding a new stylist has all the agonizing aspects of jumping into the blind-dating scene. First, the setup. "You'll love him, he's really nice," enthuses my new friend and matchmaker. I make the call. The next thing I know, a grinning stylist is wielding super shears in the direction of my wet head while I fidget in the chair. I nervously pull out a photo of the style I want. He nods and, encouraged, I explain at length that I am letting my hair grow out. Now his head bobs up and down so exuberantly I fear he'll get whiplash.

I stop twittering and give in, letting him have his way with my frazzled and bedraggled tresses. His scissors sail across my scalp, hair flying faster than you can say, "Hey, I feel a draft." I look at my hair - all of which is now lying on the floor.

Short hair is freeing, really. There is now no possibility I will ever look cute again. I briefly consider bagging up my hair and investing in super glue, but quickly realize the answer lies in scarves and baseball caps so as not to frighten small children and dogs.

I leave broke and miserable. While under the influence of herbal tea and aromatherapy, I was taken advantage of. I wonder how, exactly, it had all gone so wrong.

Once my heart mends and my hair grows back, I reluctantly resolve to pick myself up and move on.

Some matches are doomed at the door. One urban chop shop I enter blares tribal-wailing music at an ear-shattering pitch. The receptionist sports kabuki-white makeup, spiked hair, and a black studded choker collar. But hey, I'm hip ... in a suburban soccer-mom sort of way. After I give my name, my composure crumbles. I flee without incident.

But now I have finally found the perfect stylist, after two years of trial and error.

Walking down the street one day I spotted him through the shop window. Can true love strike twice? I stride into the salon, complete with ferns, and am treated like royalty. Pascal fluffs and flounces my hair with dramatic flair, throwing his hands in the air and muttering, "Who deed dees to you?" I choke back a sob when I realize he feels the pain of my bad cut.

He takes my arm, guides me to the washbasin, and massages my head and neck. Harry Connick Jr. croons love ballads in the background. It is love at first snip.

I swoon as he cuts, curls, and colors. Sixty minutes later, Pascal removes my cape with a flourish and I stare into the mirror at the new me. Our eyes meet in the glass - I love him. He has bobbed my hair into a little pixie delight that causes my husband to sit up and take notice. This relationship is going to endure.

My husband informed me last night that he is being transferred again, to another city, far away. Getting ready for bed, I look in the mirror at my cute new do and think, hmmm, maybe I'll just stay behind. After finding the perfect hairstylist, how hard could it be to find a new husband?

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