Pain in the neck

What is dignity if not a kind of self-respect.  You notice it most when it’s not there, perhaps taking it for granted otherwise.

I got my hair cut on the way to a concert. In passing I want to make a comparison.

As usual I was at Lone & Co, my hair in the capable hands of Cheryl Lone after getting my hair washed & my scalp massaged by some unidentified person: who left me feeling wonderful. Now of course I recognize that massages are something most people enjoy, so you may be giggling at the thought that this is in any way unique.

Bear with me for a moment.

3_loneand co pano

It struck me for the first time today to wonder: was I imagining it? Yes, it was another in a series of ecstatic hair-washings & massages that left me feeling amazing.

Here’s the thing. Until I started coming to this salon, I used to dislike the hair-washing experience. No wait dislike is too mild of a word, it’s more like detest or even hate. I remember with one of my favourite cutters, I’d always wash my hair at home to avoid being at the mercy of the salon, because the hair-washing was always unpleasant.


It’s ankylosing spondylitis, which has led to a great deal of stiffness in my neck. I feel weird talking about it because it’s a little thing.  It’s awkward and humiliating sometimes, to be asked to do something you simply can’t do: such as turning your head the way most people do. Sometimes it’s painful, and not merely awkward. So normally this would mean, that I’d be struggling to get through the hair-wash experience, trying not to make the poor unfortunate washing my hair feel too frustrated at my lack of flexibility.  And this would recur once I was in the chair getting the cut, unable to move my head much to make things easier for the hair-cutter, who would want me to tilt my head this way or that.

And so: I had to ask Cheryl. Is it just a fluke that I feel so great in her salon, that when I get my hair-washed it’s always a comfortable experience? I was tempted to call it something so much more, such as “empowering” or “ecstatic”, which may seem excessive, until you remember that for decades, my salon experiences were unpleasant, painful, awkward. I’d avoid getting my hair cut, and just let it grow.

So I asked her. Is it a fluke that I had this experience, or are your staff trained to deal with this?

Aha! Yes it was actually part of the training. You see Cheryl too has ankylosing spondylitis (or “AS”).

I should also explain that the concert was the one Sept 5th and I hesitated before posting this item: wanting to be certain it was permitted to talk about Cheryl also having AS. I called to confirm and she said sure no problem. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t being indiscreet (otherwise I would have published this earlier this week).

So there you have it. When I’m there, they know that I am another one with the same condition. It’s in my file, and so they‘re told to treat my neck the same way they treat Cheryl’s neck. And of course Cheryl too is sensitive, so my haircuts no longer involve any of those hopeless attempts to tilt my head in such a way to make it easier for the cutter. She knows my limits and of my possible discomfort.

She explained to me what that means. She told me how she responded once to one of the apprentices, when she asked: “so what’s it like?”

Cheryl demonstrated for her. She held her hand up against her head, and said (while holding her hand against her head) “okay now try to turn your head” (while preventing it from moving).

I burst out laughing, with recognition. Oh my God,  yes that would do it!  Yes that’s exactly what it’s like.

The funny thing is, I’ve been at theatres –not wanting to name any names—where there wasn’t nearly so much sensitivity shown.

A director decided that they would surprise the audience, beginning the show behind them.   It’s clever.  But it’s problematic if you can’t turn around. Suddenly there’s a class distinction in the audience as if some couldn’t see or hear as well as those who could. I sometimes notice such things, especially at intermission, when I see that some aren’t as mobile, struggling to get to a bathroom at the bottom of a stairway.  There is a huge population of concert- & opera- goers who are advancing in age, but less & less mobile with every year.

This massage & hair-washing was ecstatic, reminding me of the innocent times of my youth when I didn’t need to think about such things.

It may seem like a little thing to be able to get a haircut and a scalp massage without feeling my physical limitations. I’m only appreciating it now because Lone & Co make it seem so effortless.

I liked the haircut, too.

This entry was posted in Food, Health and Nutrition, Personal ruminations & essays, Psychology and perception and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Pain in the neck

  1. So pleased this experience is now a pleasant one.. And sympathies over this condition.. I can relate to the neck pain.. Years of head bent over a factory sewing machine helped create mine.
    Wishing you well.

    • barczablog says:

      Thank you. When AS first struck it was disruptive (didn’t know what the ailment was!) and of course painful. Now? i think of it as my soft-landing on aging, preparing me for what everyone else faces in their 60s and beyond. I’ve been exercising to stay mobile & flexible since my 30s (when the finally figured out what it was, gave me the diagnosis after more than a decade of pain & confusion). I’m lucky.

      • Pleased to hear its under control.. I only recently had a flare up, woke up with pain, as I must have slept pressing against a nerve in my neck.. Took a week for it to get right again.. So I fully sympathise, And yes when we look around the world and at others, we are indeed greatly Lucky!…
        Have a peaceful pain-free Sunday

  2. Jane Croteau says:

    So, as someone with arthritis in my neck, and generally not happy with the sinks at salons( too hard, too high) too awkward) was May if ever in a Toronto and looking for a cut, check out Cheryl’s salon. What a lovely piece about accommodation and understanding.
    As mother to a special needs child who struggled with being touched at all, wish there had a place like that to take her for those early years of hair cuts.
    Thank you.

    • barczablog says:

      You’re welcome! I wanted to put the focus on what Cheryl & her team do right. It can seem like a little thing in a culture where stoic suffering is normal. But if someone is sensitive that should be celebrated. What amazed me was that I’ve been going for awhile now, and never properly appreciated that they very deliberately put me at my ease. I didn’t even realize it until I stopped to recognize: “this is so different from other places”.

  3. I'm still alive says:

    Hi I totally relate, it was another visit to the hairdressers in June that set mine off and finally led to a diagnosis

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