In Search of Kathy Harder (AKA La Goddess of Coiffdome)
After nearly completing an archeological dig (and mostly-turf) of all my crap, I came across this piece I’d written about 20 years ago, and welled up with, raw, long-suppressed emotion. Maybe, I am vain? Still, she should know, since she’s been gone, I’ve never again committed: Once there is real, true love, it can never be replaced.
On what could be the 21st anniversary of our last (sniff, sniff) appointment, I give you this.
WARNING: DO NOT READ IF YOU’RE HAVING A BAD HAIR DAY
Kathy Harder, where are you? Whatever happened? How could you leave me without saying goodbye?
This is a story, in a certain sense, no less tragic than Romeo and Juliet. It is true, very personal and cuts deeply. I know that I don’t stand alone in the tragedy of it. There are women the world over who will only need to scratch their surface and look in the mirror to relate and find the compassion to understand. It’s a story of an apparent one-sided connection that has sent me on a seemingly lifelong search for answers.
I’m not a vain person. At least, I try very hard not to be. My standard uniform is my comfy Calvin Klien’s topped off with a t-shirt and a belt. My ‘jewels’ are minimal, and in the make-up department my philosophy is a little-dab-will-do-ya. Sometimes I even greet the world au naturel! However, the one aspect of vanity that affects me like the fate of the world depends upon it is my HAIR. It’s my own personal barometer of how the day will be: An unruly doo screams to prepare for an unruly, disorganized and depressing day, as opposed to days when every lock is luster lovely, in perfect harmony with its neighbor, spelling out only blue skies and sunshine, no mountain I can’t climb.
Enter Kathy. We met somewhere around 13 years ago. It was pure fate that brought us together. I was a young, small town girl in search of guidance des cheveux, and she was La Goddess of Coiffdome, practicing her craft at a shishi-poopoo, city salon where I was willing to gamble my heard-earned pesos. I made an appointment, was placed in her gifted hands, and the rest is, what I thought, a mark in history.
Our first appointment together was a transcending moment. I remember entering the salon, being greeted and handed a silky smock to change into. After a short, anticipation-filled wait, we were introduced and it was truly the start of something beautiful. Kathy could instinctively work hair like a maestro directs an orchestra: She needed only to take one look to know what needed to be done. With a quick flash of her trusty shears and what seemed like a sprinkling of magical fairy dust, I was transformed, all at one once beautiful, confident, ready to conquer.
Throughout the year that Kathy was a vital part of my life, I never once told her what to do. I would sit high upon her throne and watch spellbound as she wove her special brand of magic. She taught me what to do, how to do it and what to never have done (specifically the then-trendy, horrific curly perm).
She taught me how to go from start to finish without ever having to touch a brush: scrunch, blow, spritz, voila! I would walk in knowing that when she was finished, I would leave seemingly floating, my head held high, beautifully betressed and ready for any challenge the world dared to lay on my plate.
Then one day the unthinkable happened. I called to make an appointment and she was gone. “I’m sorry but Kathy doesn’t work here anymore.” Huh? I was no less stunned than if Evander Holyfield had come from behind me with his best left jab to my stomach. She left me? She’s gone? No explanation. No Dear Jane letter. No fond or lingering goodbyes. She had simply vanished, seemingly carried off to the abyss by the same fairies whose dust I knew she sprinkled.
I begged to know where she was, had gone, but they wouldn’t tell me. I called over and over and over, trying to muster up the accent of every foreign language catalogued by the United Nations. All I wanted was an answer: Click, dial tone, ouch! I later heard a rumour she may have married and moved to Sweden. Sweden, Kathy? Too far from home, too far from me.
Needless to say, the ensuing years have been like riding the rollercoaster of coiffdome. I’ve been relentless in my search for a replacement, extremely open-minded as I’ve cruised the salon circuit: It’s challenging to succeed the sweet perfections of first time love. You see, Kathy and I had an unspoken communication I can’t begin to explain, a certain sixth sense. I know that most in her wake have tried their very best and I’m sure that I’m partly (completely?) to blame. I’ve taken them pictures, gone step-by-step through every intricate detail. Conclusion—there’s just no second best.
I’ve had cuts from borderline perfection, to those requiring of me to lie about an intruder with garden shears then holing up in self-imposed quarantine with windows covered until something grew. I’ve had colours bordering on spectacular, to zebra stripes and those that have triggered people’s suppressed cravings for caramel ripple ice cream. I’ve even been talked into Kathy’s don’t-you-dare-even-go-there perms and been left to feel like someone’s ungroomed poodle was sleeping on my head.
I apologize to those of you whom I have stared in the face and exclaimed It’s perfect, I love it, then with lightning speed booted it out to my car to frantically muss and spray, eventually letting out a wail and donning a toque in July. You tried, and I simply didn’t have the heart to tell you you’d failed. You did. You failed.
In the age of find-your-lost-everyone—first grade teacher, first love, birth family, Great Aunt Lulla-Belle, twice removed—there just isn’t a Stylist-Find, or, at least, a Stylist-Find that I can find.
As I pray to the Wish Fairy, all I ask is for one more time with those magic shears and fairy dust, so I might relive the euphoria of betressed perfection.
Kathy Harder, wherever you are, I wish you only great things and happiness, and that once more in this lifetime our paths will cross again.
Kathy Harder practiced her magic in the mid-1980’s at Shear Talent on 8th Street in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.