When you have a child with special or unique needs and a stranger treats them amazingly when they don’t have to, it makes you feel so damn good. It gives you hope and restores your faith in humanity.
C.J.’s hair stylist, Miss. Crystal, is one of those people.
We met Miss. Crystal three years ago. We hadn’t been to Cool Cuts 4 Kids in a while and decided to try it again after a particularly unpleasant experience at Hair Masters (during which the stylist was confused by C.J.’s gender nonconformity, gave him a horrible haircut and made us both cry).
We walked into Cool Cuts 4 Kids and C.J. saw the “Princess Chair” in the back, right corner of the La Jolla hair salon. The Princess Chair has tulle draped around it and a pink canopy above it. It’s the station where they keep the hair beads, glitter, extensions, hair tinsel and clip-in feathers. The chair faces a Tinkerbell television on which the child can watch their pick of princess, Barbie or Strawberry Shortcake movies while the stylist works magic. I wish my salon had a Princess Chair.
Of course C.J. wanted to sit in that chair. The other stylist’s chairs had firefighter, police and video game themes.
The next available stylist approached the waiting area and called C.J.’s name.
“Hi, I’m Miss. Crystal,” she said with a smile that was for real. “What movie do you want to watch?”
C.J. pointed to a Strawberry Shortcake movie. Miss. Crystal was unfazed. She grabbed it without thinking twice.
“What chair do you want to sit in?” she asked. C.J. looked at me. He didn’t want to tell her that he wanted to sit in the princess chair. He was nervous about her reaction.
“Can he sit in the princess chair?” I asked.
“Of course,” she said, not missing a beat. Miss. Crystal is energetic and kind. She’s in her twenties and her hair has been several colors since we’ve known her.
For every haircut in the three years since that first visit, C.J. has sat in the Princess Chair and talked and talked and talked with Miss. Crystal. They giggle and gossip and it’s as if nobody else in the world exists. I sit on the nearby bench reading Us Magazine, happily feeling like the third wheel.
Miss. Crystal knows all about C.J. She knows that he just had a birthday party at the American Girl Doll store; that he was Frankie Stein one year for Halloween, then a fairy and, most recently, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland; and that he loves Monster High. One time, she saw Monster High stickers while she was running errands and bought them for C.J. She kept them in her locker until our next appointment. Just because.
Miss. Crystal and C.J. share a love for all things Disney. Whenever someone mentions Disneyland, C.J. informs them that his hair stylist is a season passholder. For him, it’s bragging rights.
When we first started going to Miss. Crystal, C.J. was growing his hair out. She helped give it shape and thin it out so that it lay better. It was past his ears and on its way to his shoulders when he decided to cut it before Kindergarten because he was worried that he’d get teased. Miss. Crystal was afraid to cut it. She was afraid that he’d hate it and, in turn, hate her. She took off a few inches and swore that if he still wanted it short the following week, she’d take off the rest. She kept her promise, but was sad to see his auburn locks hit the floor. We gave each other sad faces behind C.J.’s back.
Since then, she’s been helping us grow it out again. It’s the longest it’s ever been and he proudly wears it in a ponytail to sleep.
Miss. Crystal has given C.J. blonde extensions, a full head of magenta glitter and has French braided his hair when I thought it was too short to be braided at all. She’s talked to him about what it’s like to be a hair stylist. And, now, he wants to be one too. And, own a salon. And, work with Miss. Crystal. And, I’m supposed to make lunch for them every day.
Knowing this, now, when Miss. Crystal is done with C.J.’s hair, she lets him do her hair. During his last visit, he gave her the ponytails that she requested. Doing her hair is the favorite part of his hair appointment. It’s my favorite part, too.