Writing a book takes time. I spend hours and hours a day at the keyboard and ignore my family and friends. And for every minute I’m unavailable to loved ones, I feel guilty. Under stress, I knew I had to discover a way to manage my guilt before I cracked and did something foolish.In an essay on memoir writing, “Looking for My Family,” Ian Frazier says, “Guilt is the headwind that you sail into. It’s incredibly strong. In my case it was so strong that I did extreme things to combat it. But you can combat it—give all your money to charity, or whatever makes you feel less guilty, and then you can work, because the reader doesn’t care how guilty you feel.”
Well, I didn’t want to give all my money to charity. And I feel a little guilty about that. But I also didn’t want guilt’s gale-force headwind to snap the mast of my ship and hurl me into an ocean of anxiety. So what did I do? I did something foolish and had an affair.
I never set out to be unfaithful and know it was a despicable thing to do. But what made my two-timing so shocking was that I betrayed Deborah Cutler, one of my best friends for thirty-seven years. She is also my hairstylist, the only person I allow to cut and color my hair.
The incident began innocently enough. Desperate to find stress relief, I indulged in a facial at Spa Mizan. Master esthetician, Carrie Pleasants Hebert, steamed, exfoliated, and plastered enzymes onto my face. Then she massaged my upper body into a state of relaxation I had not felt in months. Possibly years.
Disoriented, mane matted to my head with essential oils, I sat up looking like the kitten I once freed from a pipe by smearing Crisco inside the tube and sliding him out. Naturally, when Carrie saw my tresses, she asked, “Would you like me to see if a stylist is available?”
As soon as I hooked my bra and slipped on my sandals, I rested my neck onto the guillotine of a shampoo bowl. Fingers danced in tiny circles on my scalp. The scent of rosemary (or was it mint?) soothed my sinus passages. My locks were combed, blow dried, and round-brushed into a work of art.
One facial led to another. And then another. This led to more shampoos and style extravaganzas. And before I knew it, I had agreed to go all the way. I said yes to a haircut. But I had crossed a line. And I knew it. Shame now threatened my spa treatments, my new found sanctuary, my escape. The ringing voice of guilt pealed like a bell on a buoy though my head for days.
So when the time came for color and highlights, I pulled myself together and drove to my best friend’s salon. I listened to Hank Williams tunes along the way. Neither Smokey Robinson nor Johnny Rivers could help me that day. I needed a steel guitar and the lyrics of Hank.
Inside the salon, I sat in a chair in front of a mirror and confessed my hair affair. But my pal only laughed and said she understood. And then she painted a potion into thin strips of dead protein, wrapped them in foil, and stuck my head under a dryer. Afterwards, blond highlights illuminated my face.
I was forgiven.
I’m still trying to find a way to balance time spent writing and time spent with family and friends. The winds of guilt continue to whip up out of the Gulf and threaten to sink my ship. But at least I have found a haven where I can go to relax with a clear conscious. Thanks to an amazing esthetician, absolution, and a lifelong friend.