I first met Mia, my most high esteemed hair stylist, when I was three months pregnant with Toots. My hair — normally a nest for rats on even the best days — was a ball of frizz and tangles. My face looked like zit pizza, and my stomach wanted to throw up all the time. I was in a bad way.
Then there was the fact that six months earlier, I followed a stripper named “Dreamy” into a karaoke bar bathroom and asked who did her hair. I politely inquired about her nose ring first, to ease into the conversation and assuage her panic about being trailed into a one-stall bathroom, but I was really just interested in her hair. It looked strippery, sure, but classy strippery.
Dreamy gave me the name of her stylist (surprisingly not located in Vegas) and it took me a good many months to finally call, which I eventually did, making an appointment with “Mia,” desperately hoping for less hideous preggo hair. The best part of the first three months of my pukey pregnancy just might be that I’d sport some stripper hair. I really didn’t have anything to lose.
I entered the salon a few days later and Mia greeted me with open arms. Why she was not stylist-to-the-strippers looking at all! She was cherubic! And young! With zero piercings and no tan! Things were looking up.
I emerged from the salon on La Jolla’s Girard Avenue an hour or two later, feeling refreshed and less like a barn mule. My nausea had subsided and I thought maybe I could reclaim my femininity, having lost it a few weeks prior in an especially robust mastication of a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia. My hair bounced, it lay flat, it did not look inviting to rodents. Mia saved the day!
All this is to say that Mia changed my outlook in those tough early days of feeling physically awful. A few good haircuts and a woman really feels rejuvenated, you know? Whatever she did to my hair, worked. I could dry it in 12 seconds and it looked bouncy and styley. Never cowlicky, never dorky, never barn horsey. I loved Mia and her magic shears.
I stayed with Mia right on through my second pregnancy, where she worked her secret wonders to impart hairstyles that did not suck. I thought I found my holy hair grail. I thought I’d been saved from the unfortunate perms of sixth grade and the “Auburn Summer of ’97” that nearly fried my blonde hay hair clear off my dopey scalp.
Then. THEN. One day I received a voice mail from Mia. She was leaving the salon where I met her. She was going somewhere else. Somewhere close, never fear! But leaving just the same and so she carefully said the digits to the number of the new salon. I didn’t write it down or anything because planning ahead ain’t how I roll — but I kept the voice mail on my phone to refer to later.
Until I got a new phone, forgetting all about my old phone and the errant voice mails left on it.
I’d lost Mia forever.
Oh sure I called the old salon, but they never give out numbers for stylists who leave. I pretended to be UPS, Bed Bath and Beyond, the U.S. Government, some guy, and Ryan Seacrest, but each and every time, my efforts to get Mia’s new number were rebuffed. Afterward, I languished in years of bad hair. Once again, the rats came to roost. I let myself go. I wore many sweatpants.
Which brings me to Christmas Eve 2010. Wearing some amalgamation of pajamas and Garanimals, I entered my local Vons to pick up a few groceries. I didn’t bother in the least to make myself even remotely presentable. My eyeglasses were smudged, my lipstick was on my teeth, I smelled like Lil’ Smokies. I dragged my kids with me, looking beleaguered and Courtney-Love-like. I saw some cute young mom with two cute young kids in the cheese aisle and thought “whatever.” I began to scurry away from the cute mom so I looked less like Keith Richards in comparison, when a dim thought took hold in my addled brain.
Is that Mia?
Despite every inner conviction that I looked like a hobo, I approached the woman with glossy hair, unlined skin, and toned everything. “Mia?” I asked hesitantly. I mean, it’d been years. She probably wouldn’t remember me. And sure enough she looked at me like one might look at Gary Busey if he escaped from rehab.
I could tell she was hatching a cheese-aisle-escape-plan.
At which point I threw myself at her feet (clad in adorable flats below perfectly-fitting skinny jeans) and cried out my story.
“I’ve been looking for you since 2005 —”
“My phone —”
“Couldn’t find you and tried to –-”
“I even called pretending you made American Idol and they —”
She shushed me, soothing me with promises of follicular salvation.
“Here’s my number,” she said, handing me a card. “Call me.”
I have it here someplace…