Homewood. Supercuts hair salon. The young woman cutting my hair goes by the name Shelby. She is as country as a collard, with an accent like Ribbon cane syrup.
She is 21. She is constantly laughing. She smiles a lot. All the customers here do the same whenever Shelby is around. This girl is Pollyanna.
I ask where Shelby’s originally from.
“Woodstock,” she says. “Not the one in New York. The one in Alabama.”
I would have never guessed.
I ask how she got started styling hair.
“Started cutting hair when I was 10 years old. My mama was a hairstylist, but she didn’t cut men’s hair, so Daddy would hand me the scissors and say, ‘You cut my hair, Shelbylane.’ That’s my real name, Shelbylane. My daddy wanted me to have a double first name like a Southern belle. Do you want me to trim the clumps of hair shooting straight out of your ears?”
While Shelbylane works steadily, I’m trying to imagine a world wherein a grown man would give a 10-year-old child surgically sharpened scissors and allow the child to take a whack at his head.
“Your father trusted you a lot, to let you cut his hair when you were so little.”
She laughs. “Oh, Daddy believed in me so much. His confidence in me made me what I am. When I was a kid, I felt like I could do anything because of his faith in me. Do you want me to trim your unibrow, sir?”
“Please. Does your father live in Woodstock?”
“No, he passed away.”
“It’s okay. He died when I was 14. I’ve had time to deal with it. But I miss him real bad.”
I know all about daddies dying at young ages. I know all about missing daddies real bad.
“But I have a theory,” says Shelbylane, firing up her electric clippers. “If you lose your parent at a young age, it can either make you a good person or a bad one. I know a lot of people who let it ruin them. But I think Daddy’s death made me a good person. I learned that this life is not all there is.”
“What about your mother?”
“She run off when my daddy died.”
“I was raised by my grandparents. Did you want me to shave the hair on your neck? It’s like a carpet back here.”
“Yes. Thank you. I’ll bet your grandparents are proud of how well you’ve turned out.”
“Well, my grandmother died. She had dementia. So now it’s just my granddaddy and my step-sister.”
“Do you like your job?”
She smiles largely. “Oh, yessir. I love my job. I went to school and worked hard to learn to cut men’s and women’s hair. It took a long, long time, I practiced a lot. I am a very hard worker.
“When I got my first job at a local salon, they wouldn’t let me cut hair, they made me do petty jobs, like cleaning toilets and stuff. I didn’t mind, but I kept begging them, ‘Please, let me prove what I can do, let me show you how I cut hair on a mannequin or something.’ But they wouldn’t let me. So I quit, and here I am at Supercuts.”
“Do you like Supercuts?”
“Like it? I love it. I don’t have many regular clients yet, but this is my dream job. I have always wanted to cut hair and be my own boss, and now I’m doing it, right here in Homewood! Of all places! Pinch me.”
“It’s just Homewood.”
“Compared to Woodstock, it’s Hollywood.”
“I don’t know many folks who feel about their jobs the way you do.”
“Well, cutting hair isn’t just a job, it’s more than that. It’s about making people feel good about themselves, about helping people love themselves. I’m so lucky to be doing this for a living. I feel like I’m in a movie.”
When she finishes her work, my haircut ranks among the best haircuts I’ve ever received. My hair looks perfect, it’s only too bad about my face. I’ve never been a looker. When I was a kid, before group photos someone always handed me the camera.
“Do you like your haircut?” she asks, passing me the mirror, spinning my chair.
“I do. Your father was right. You’re an artist.”
“Thank you. Come back and see me again. I need all the new clients I can get.”
Well, Shelbylane, let me see what I can do about that.
Sean Dietrich is a columnist and novelist known for his commentary on life in the American South. He has authored nine books and is the creator of the “Sean of the South” blog and podcast. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.
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