Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Speak For Yourself!

I have always had a difficult time complaining about a service. At a restaurant: “I asked for medium and I think this is a little rarrr….you know what? It’s fine. Never mind” and then I don’t eat it. Getting my make-up done: “It’s beautiful. I love it” and then I wash my face. Having my house cleaned: “It looks great. Thank you so much” and then I clean everything myself (note: I’m fully aware I should be cleaning my house myself anyway but every once in a while I treat myself to a professional.) I feel as though a service, even if you pay for it, is like a gift and I don’t want to make the giver feel bad. How often have we received a present we hate but pretend to love it. You don’t look at the person and say, ”Wow….I really hate this.” It’s also partly because I think I’m not very strong about communicating what it is I want because I don’t like to seem demanding. And I know exactly when it started.

All I wanted when I was 9 years old was to have the Debbie Gibson “windblown” haircut that was on the cover of her “Electric Youth” album. I found an advertisement for the album in a magazine and promptly tore it out and showed my mom. Two days later, I was sitting in Fantastic Sam’s ready to be beautified. When they called my name to go to the chair, I handed the photo to my mom and asked her to show it to the lady. “You’re a big girl,” she said. “You’re perfectly capable of telling her what you want.” Sheepishly, I handed her the picture and half-pointed at Debbie. She took it, looked back at me and said, “Are you sure this is what you want?”. I looked at my mom who gave me the ‘why are you looking at me?” look, and nodded my head at the woman.

I managed some idle chit chat about the happenings of the fourth grade and watched the hair fall. I was so excited about the prize I was going to get when I put all the fallen hair in the Fantastic Sam magic box, I stopped paying attention to what was happening. It wasn't looking quite like the picture but I hadn’t been styled yet. There was a moment, however, when I realized that something had gone horribly wrong. My excitement soon turned into a nervous stomach as I began to piece together what was going down. I looked again at the picture on my lap. Next to the advertisement for “Electric Youth” was also an advertisement for “Married With Children”. The hairdresser wheeled me around for the grand unveiling, and staring back at me in the mirror was a 9-year old version of Peg Bundy.

My mother’s eyes were wide in amazement (and amusement) as I was escorted back to her. “Is this what you wanted?” she asked. I nodded, trying to hold back the tears. “You’re sure?” she reinforced, giving me the chance to fix it. I pulled it together and said to the nice lady, “Thank you very much. It’s just what I wanted.” And proceeded to cry the entire car ride home. My sweet mother, who was trying to be sympathetic, couldn’t stop laughing at me. “Well Kate,” she said, “I guess you just need to be a little clearer about what you want.” Hearing her retell the story to my dad through fits of giggles didn't make it any better. But then she combed it out and put a headband in and I began to look somewhat normal again. And then Dad took me to Colonial CafĂ© for a sundae and all was well in the world. While I still have issues to this day expressing my dissatisfaction, that was the day I discovered that a bad haircut isn't going to kill you and that ice cream truly does make everything better.