Sunday, February 11, 2007

Anna and the hairspray~

Two days ago I had the privilege of interviewing a woman for a profile piece in the local paper. Anna. She's a hairdresser in a small two-chair shop she owns.

Born in Italy, she's retained a strong accent despite thirty years in the US. That day, while I waited for my turn, she cut the hair of an Italian man. She lapsed in and out of her native tongue so quickly that her words blended in a mixture I found hard to decipher. When finished, she powdered his neck and brushed off the stray hairs and then dispensed the hug she gives her male clients. They've come to expect it.

Then it was my turn for the chair. I watched her in the mirror, keeping track of what her newly hired hairdresser was doing. She watched, chatted, and answered the phone while she wielded her scissors to cut my hair expertly, if not a bit shorter than I wanted.

I returned later in the day, when her appointments were done, with a coffee for each of us. We sat on a leather couch in a small alcove off the shop where late afternoon sun poked me in the eye. I chose to ignore it. Anna spent an hour telling the tale of her fifty years.

Now that I've heard it, it seems too personal for a column in a local paper. How can I publish 1000 words that capture her pain and anger, and subsequent growth? How can I print a story that brought tears in the retelling? She offered the truth; I will be careful with it.

When she was through talking, she wiped her eyes and stood to hug me. She looked at her shelf of hair products and pulled something off to give me, a token for my empathic listening, I assumed. When I got out to my truck, I looked more closely at my gift. A can of hairspray; Big Sexy Hair, it was called. Well, my hair has never been big, and it was even less so that day after she cut it. As for sexy, maybe if I spray some on . . . like magic, I'll have sexy hair.

So You Want to Write Profiles?

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