The greatest gift we can give someone is to include them.
Never have I felt more isolated and excluded than I did as a new mom. With two babies born a year apart, socializing was impossible. I couldn’t hold a conversation with my kids in tow. And they were always in tow.
In those early years of motherhood, something like a hair appointment meant more than just a cut and color. It was an opportunity for uninterrupted, adult conversation. After a couple of years of baby talk and mom buns, I was intensely in need of all three. I booked an appointment with a stylist I had never met, so I wasn’t expecting a deep discussion. But honestly, I was craving adult interaction so desperately, even small talk was going to get the job done.
On the day of my appointment, I remember carefully picking out a sweater and jeans that didn’t specifically make me feel like a mom and the weightlessness of my car driving down the road with an empty and quiet back seat. My spirits were high. And I’ll admit, my hopes were too.
I checked in at the desk and waited for the girl I had chosen solely because she could fit me in on my babysitter’s tight college schedule. Soon they led me back to a brightly lit room filled with three other stylists and their clients. Everyone was laughing and chatting.
A young girl with wavy black hair and magenta lips waved me over to her chair. I sat facing the mirror as I explained that I hadn’t had my hair cut since before my kids were born and needed an all-over refreshment.
As she offered suggestions, I could see the reflections of the other women talking. Surrounded by a room full of ladies who were completely engaged with each other was intimidating. Even the clients seemed to be old friends. I braced myself for a few hours of polite smiles and listening to gossip I couldn’t quite follow.
But before my stylist got to work, she turned my chair toward the conversation and laughter. She made quick introductions around the room, then leaned down and caught me up to speed on the topic at hand. Every few minutes, she’d jump in and ask my opinion. Everyone else seemed as genuinely interested in my replies. I wasn’t just in the room. I was quickly a part of it.
By the time my head was wrapped in foil, I knew everyone’s name, their relationship with their mom, all about their kids, and a little salon gossip. And they knew a few things about me too. I couldn’t wait to get out from under the dryer to rejoin the conversation. The first real one I’d had in months.
I was awestruck by this young woman who made the effort to include a complete stranger. Reigning me in and making me feel like a part of the group came so naturally to her.
She didn’t know that I’d been isolated at home with babies for almost two years. She didn’t know that a lot of days, the only other adult I’d talk to was my husband. That my friends with easy babies or no kids at all had left me behind in my postpartum hell. I was a stranger to her. A client. And she easily could have treated me as such. But she didn’t.
I was so grateful sitting in her chair, chatting with these women. I had hoped to feel like me again. And to gain a renewed interest in myself. A fresh head of hair can do that sometimes. But what I got was so much more. The gift of feeling included. I was staggered by how easily that was achieved with little more than the turn of a chair.
I think about this gesture when I’m lucky enough to sit within a circle of friends. My eyes peruse the area for anyone on the outside for whom we can pull up a chair. We have nothing to lose by making an effort to include someone standing on the periphery. And we have everything to gain. It may not be a friend for life. But we could very well make someone’s day a whole lot brighter.
I left the salon that afternoon feeling as light as my balayaged locks. But it wasn’t just the hair or engaging conversation, I felt inspired to be a woman who turns her chair.