The last time my hairdresser called to confirm an appointment, I didn’t answer. This was two months ago, and I haven’t called her back since. It’s terrible, I know, but I’m afraid that if speak to her, she’ll talk me into spending money I don’t have. She’s a fancy-pants, and she makes me want to be one, too. Like I used to be. These days, though, I can’t afford to get my hair trimmed, colored and styled every six to eight weeks. Not at fancy-pants prices. And it’s a shame not just because my ends are split, but because she’s the only person I trust to keep my curly hair manageable (and cute).
Up the block from where I live in City Heights, there is a Hair Nails Express that advertises ‘cut n color’ for twenty bucks, a price greatly reduced from what I’m accustomed to. And yet, I can’t quite make myself go in there. I’ve watched what they do from outside the glass door with the pink window paint, and it’s not so much what they do that scares me; it’s whom they do it to. All the clients have straight hair, wavy at best. Mine is a big nest of curls, at the moment tangled up and frizzy with roots way longer than acceptable. Despite the attractive price the Hair Nails Express offers, I’m terrified that when I sit down in the chair, I’ll hear, “Ooh, I never do hair looks like yours before,” just as a pair of gigantic shears begins to hack away at the length I’ve worked for years to attain.
I’m trying hard to be brave, to suck it up and go for my first twenty-dollar cut n color. Once I’ve done that, I’ll officially be the winner. The Lesser Princess, if you will.
The whole thing started with my friend Beans. We used to travel, dine and shop together on a regular basis. We spent googobs of money on fancy hotels and restaurants with views. We shopped and drank top shelf because. . . why the hell not? If we were going to indulge (which we certainly were), we might as well be thorough. Beans and I spent money we had and money we didn’t have, occasionally pretending to feel bad and then laughing about it.
“Girl, I can’t believe you let me spend that much on a pair of earrings.”
“Yeah, but when someone asks where you got them, you get to say, ‘At a little shop in Hong Kong.’ Plus, they look gorgeous on you.”
“That’s why I love you! Haha.” Hug hug.
We weren’t rich. We just told ourselves we deserved every bit of luxury and excess as a reward for an accomplishment or as compensation for a failure, a treat after a great day or a horrible one. It didn’t matter why; there was always a reason and always some plastic to cover the cost. More often than not, we’d actually fight over the dinner checks, as if it were an honor to make credit card payments on behalf of our friendship.
Every now and again, though, while reviewing her expenditures on, say, a particularly indulgent trip to Thailand, Beans would call me and say, “You’re terrible. If you weren’t such a princess, my credit card bills wouldn’t be so high. Next time, I’m insisting on a budget.”
Ridiculous. I’m guessing this was her attempt to lessen the burden of personal responsibility. The way I see it, Beans was always the Greater Princess, and I was just along for the ride.
Enter the RECESSION.
Suddenly, the guilt of spending what isn’t there (and might not be again for a long time) has taken all the fun out of extravagance.
But I find myself stuck on the whole princess thing. Beans lives in Mission Valley, and while that’s not exactly Mt. Soledad, I live in City Heights and am, therefore, the obvious Lesser Princess.
I don’t just sleep here, though. I do my living here, too. Or at least I’m starting to.
Not long ago, when my finances began to get ugly but before my I had quite accustomed myself to the pride of budget living, I donned a pair of sunglasses and an overcoat and slipped into the neighborhood Payless for a pair of summer sandals that I wouldn’t have to skip meals to afford. I found some, and the very first time I wore them, Beans asked, “How much did you pay for those, Princess Lizzie Liz?”
With more than just a hint of smug satisfaction, I said, “Under ten bucks, my friend. Under ten frickin’ bucks.”
She narrowed her eyes and looked at me suspiciously.
The next time we met up, I introduced her to the Best Sandwich Ever at my new favorite spot on El Cajon and 52nd Street. Although I’d become privy to the restaurant through another thrifty friend, I claimed the discovery as my own. I fought Beans for the check that day and won, making a big show of pulling out a total of eleven dollars cash to pay for our sandwiches AND our Thai iced teas.
But then, dammit, Beans told me she’d paid five dollars at a thrift store for the jeans she was wearing.
I panicked for a minute, thinking maybe she IS the Lesser Princess since I can’t quite make myself wear clothes that used to belong to someone I don’t know. I got over it, though, when she thanked me for lunch and said, “I can’t remember the last time we lunched for under fifty bucks each.”
Another scare last week, when she showed up at my house in a super-cute dress from Target (of all places) and a pair of sandals from Payless (again, the nerve). The ensemble trumped my eight-dollar manicure from the Magic Nails around the corner on University Avenue, but I felt better knowing I’d walked while she’d spent money on gas.
This, my friends, is where we are now and why I find myself standing outside the Hair Nails Express, trying to muster up the guts to go in and ask for the twenty-dollar cut n color.
Maybe I’ll go with just the cut and a little styling. Too much can go wrong with color. I guess a lot can go wrong with a cut, too. But I have to be brave.
Then again, haven’t I proven myself already? Haven’t I shown that I can do a lot with a little? I live in City Heights, for Pete’s sake. As far as I’m concerned, it’s pretty clear I’m the Lesser Princess.
I’ve been good. In fact, I’ve been downright great. To hell with Hair Nails Express. Who’s it going to hurt if I see my fancy-pants hairdresser one more time?
I deserve it.
Beans doesn’t need to know.