Debt-Reduction and Hair

DH = Dear Husband
                When the hi-tech bust happened around the start of the millennium and we experienced DH’s loss of income, one of the things we did to economize was to buy a hair-cutting kit.  It cost around $30.00 and came complete with a buzzer, comb-like attachments, scissors, clips, an instruction manual, and a video demo. Within months, we had easily saved ourselves the cost of the kit, and over a decade later, I’d say we’ve avoided spending thousands of dollars in visits to the hair salon and barber shop.

My Smug Frugal Lack of Vanity

                It is not uncommon for a man to get his haircuts at home. But here’s the thing: DH cut my hair too. Every single woman who has found out has said something along the lines of, “I would never let my husband touch my hair!” I had a bit of smug pride in my frugal lack of vanity.
I was in my late thirties then, and I remember being quite committed, in keeping with my “frugal lack of vanity”, to the idea of letting my hair go gray when the time came. The time came in my early forties, and I caved. I started to dye my hair. Hmmm . . . Not much lack of vanity in that case. But I was frugal. Most women I knew had their colouring and hi-lighting done professionally – in one case, to the tune of $200 every six weeks. I, on the other hand, was spending about $10 every two months. So I managed to salvage some of my smugness.

My Pixie Cut Trauma

Many women experience at some point in their lives a deeply troubling hair episode. I’m no exception. When I was a child, the youngest of five, my mother would have my hair cut “pixie” style. “Pixie” is a cute word (and Michelle Williams, above, wears it beautifully), but I developed a strong loathing for it. Like my sisters, I was often mistaken for a boy, and I found it mortifying to an extent I can’t adequately convey. As soon as I was old enough to have a say in my hair style, I let it grow.

Robert Plant and the Trigger Effect

The whole being-mistaken-for-a-boy trauma was decades in the past when I walked into school one day and greeted a student of mine – a good-natured boy and a bit of a hippie – who was strumming his guitar in the hallway. “Miss,” he said in a flash of recognition and admiration, “your hair is like Robert Plant’s.” It was an innocent musing, but you can guess what feelings it triggered in me. Robert Plant is a boy! As soon as I had time, I googled images of the guitarist for Led Zeppelin, and it was undeniable. My hair looked like Robert Plant’s. I bought a hair straightener.

Straw Hair Dilemma

Fast-forward to this past spring. After years of dyeing my own hair and straightening it far too often, it turned into straw. It was a dramatic transition that left me with two options:  treat my damaged hair, or cut it off. I chose the former, but I didn’t know what to do. On the advice of my daughters, their friends, and a concerned student, I applied everything from olive oil to Moroccan oil to expensive shampoos and conditioners that promised miracles. I got softer straw for my efforts.

Hair Care, Discretionary Money, and Gender

DH and I each have a discretionary fund from which we purchase, among many other things, products like shampoo and conditioner, and services like haircuts if we so choose. I approached DH, ready to negotiate.  I explained to him my belief that we weren’t operating on a level playing field. Hair care for women is simply much more expensive than hair care for men – except in the case of those admirable women who really do let their hair go gray and who carry off the Robert-Plant-Pouf with dignity. I told him that I didn’t want to cut off all my straw hair, that I wanted a professional to have a go at it because it was clearly beyond me, and that I didn’t think it was fair for me to have to use my discretionary money to do so. No negotiation followed. “I know that most women go to salons to get their hair done. You should be able to,” DH said. In fact there was, in his BNI group (a networking group of self-employed business people) a woman who owned a spa. He would touch base with her and we’d get this thing rolling.
I have been to my free consult. I have bought hair repairing product – with money from our joint account – and I have made a first appointment with my very likable and knowledgeable hair stylist. I will probably see her every two months or so. Again, without draining my discretionary fund. Will this have a negative impact on our debt-reduction efforts? I don’t think so. Part of debt-reduction is to take care of yourself so that you don’t burn out and give up. And part of good financial management is to get real. My discussion with DH was real – open, honest, frank. I believe that in being mindful of this new expense, we’ll become that much more mindful of our money in general. But you can think differently. I believe we’ve made a good decision, and I’m grateful for DH’s understanding. I am also very happy to give up entirely any remnants of smug pride in my “frugal lack of vanity.”

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