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The question

I’ve been going to the same stylist for the past 20-some odd years. I have followed her from salon to salon and finally supported her when she set up her own salon. She is a really wonderful person and we have become friends over the years. However, I want to try someone new. Someone who looks at my hair and hairstyle with a "fresh eye” and new suggestions. But I feel disloyal ending what is, essentially, a business relationship (she does not give me a discount for being a long-time client and yet I still tip her generously). How can I do this and still feel good about my decision and myself?

The answer

I gave up any notion of getting a “hair-style” or “hair-do” a while ago.

I mean, obviously, I yearn to be attractive to my wife and/or anyone else, male or female, in the vicinity. But nowadays, I just go into my favourite spot (favourite because it’s a) cheap and b) unpretentious – I hate having to pay through the nose-hairs for the atmosphere in all these pseudo-retro faux-fifties-type barbershops. Just cut my hair already and let me go home), and as soon as she sees me, my “stylist” (it’s a women’s salon, I’m man enough to admit it – I mean, maybe it’s “unisex,” but I’ve never seen another dude in there) knows just what I want.

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I don’t have to say a word. She ushers me into a chair, loops a hair-catching apron around my neck, fires up her clippers to a #2 setting and mows my hair like it was a lawn.

I mean, what do I care? At this point, do I really need my hair fluffed into a “faux-hawk” or other type of follicular configuration? I express myself in other ways.

But hey: That’s just me. For the purposes of research for this column, I consulted my sister, who said: “Dave, what you don’t realize is for a lot of people, hair is their identity.”

Her own ‘do is a fluffy bouffant of type of blonde you might see twinkling in the sunshine on an innocent child (although my sister is north of 50) as that child laughed and maybe cried (when bopped on the head with a toy truck by a naughty boy), playing in a sandbox on a summer’s day in ye olden, golden days of yesteryear.

In short, my sister is best pleased with her hairdresser. But if she weren’t, well then, it might turn a bit ugly, to put it bluntly (like a blunt-cut hairdo).

“I would cancel my next appointment. Then if the hairdresser called me to ask what was up…”

My sister said a bunch of stuff after that. Basically, what it boiled down to was: “Keep filling the air with lies” (or what she called “prevarications,” which is essentially a synonym for lies), but she did make one good point, I thought:

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“Don’t confuse a business relationship” – or “service relationship” as she put it – with “a real friendship.”

She’s never been to her hairdresser’s house, as she pointed out, nor phoned her for any other reason than to make an appointment. So although they had beguiled many hours over the years with soul-baring confessions and anecdotes, her in the chair, hairdresser standing behind, if her hair were ever to fall short of recreating the golden bouffant of youth, she’d have to cut the hairdresser loose in the midst of a cloud of lies – kind of the way a squid escapes a predator, filling the water with a cloud of (delicious, especially if incorporated into some pasta) ink.

Now, I don’t agree with all this lie-promotion of my sister’s point of view. I feel like if you have to sever one of these “business” or “service” relationships, you should be frank, upfront and honest.

Example: My wife is thinking she may have to move on from her own hair stylist. Too expensive. What will she say to him? “You’re too expensive.” Boom. Done.

Bottom line: I feel like it’s important to surround yourself with talented people at all times. If you get on a plane: talented pilot. If you need a lawyer: talented lawyer.

And if your hairdresser is not everything you hoped for, yes, get a fresh one. You’ll both move on, and (ideally) both learn and become stronger from the experience.

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Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to damage@globeandmail.com. Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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