The pandemic had finally gotten the better of me. I was one of the newest employees at the Ad agency that I had worked at since graduating college, but when businesses aren’t open they don’t buy advertising. I was one of the first to get laid off. I spent months being a couch potato, living on my unemployment benefits and the 3 months of severance payments I had recieved. The only problem was that I went from a casual drinker, and occassional smoker to drinking beer all day and smoking 2 packs of cigarettes every day. This also meant the end of my year long relationship with my boyfriend. He couldn’t stand my smoking and was less than thrilled about the 20lbs I had put on.
I decided it was time to re-enter the working class. My savings were starting to dry up, but I had enough to pay for a gym membership, and started working on getting my body back into shape. I started going to the gym every day, so giving up my afternoon beers was easy to do, but I just couldn’t give up smoking. In my mind I was telling myself that if I quit smoking I would gain weight like my parents had done when they quit.
I started to really push hard on the job front. I had sent resumes to just about every ad agency within 200 miles of home., but most of the responses were just nice ways of rejecting me. Then finally after two months of searching I got an online interview a couple hours from home. The interview went well, and the following week I was packing all my things in my car and moving to my new life.
The offer was a good one. I was going to make more than I had at my old job, plus they had even arranged an apartment for me. I spent the weekend getting settled into my new place, and getting finding my way around my new city. When Monday came around I was more than ready to start my new job. My day started with some training about company policy’s and being introduced to the other employees in the office. I was somewhat surprised by the way my co-workers appeared. All of the men wore suits and ties and every girl I met had a dress and high heels on. The other thing was all the women had hairstyles that looked like they were from 30 years ago. I always liked dressing nicely, so the dresses didn’t bother me, but I was not about to give up my long blonde hair.
The last thing the HR person wanted to go over with me was health care. She told me that the company will pay for all of my healthcare insurance, and even a gym membership, but only if you don’t smoke. Surprisingly, the HR lady said “I assume you are a smoker” When I replied that I did, in fact smoke, she said “It seems every girl we hire anymore smokes” The boss, Mr Masters sees it as his mission to get people to quit. She told me that company has a psychologist that they use, and he had a 100% success rate and she would schedule an appointment for me.
I met with Dr Williams the next day. He told me he was the college roommate of the owner of the company I worked for, and the boss was his first client in the cessation program 20 years before. We talked for a while and then he gave me a set of 10 discs that I was to listen to while I slept. 1 disc every week, and by the end of 10 weeks I would never again want to smoke. I was excited that I would soon be a non-smoker again.
I started listening to the program that night. I really didn’t notice any change after the first disc as I still went out to smoke on every break and whenever I was in my car. By the end of the second disc I noticed that I was starting to dislike the taste of my current brand and the smell of them started bother me, but I just switched to a light variety and kept on smoking.
When I was nearing the end of my third week even the light brand was starting to taste and smell bad to me. I was starting to smell the cigarettes on all my clothes, and even my hair. I rewashed all of my clothes, but no mater how many showers I took I couldn’t seem to get the smell out of my hair. I decided I needed to go to a salon for a clalrifying wash and deep condition. The only issue was that I only went to a salon once or twice per year, and had no idea of any good ones in my new city.
I don’t know why I did it, but I asked one of the girls at work where she got her hair done. She wore her hair like something I remember my grandmother would have, kind of short and most days all curly. This was definitely not a look that I would ever consider, but she told me that all of the women in the company go to the same person to have their hair styled. She told me to give them a call and they would get me in that evening after work.
I left work at 4:30 and drove straight to the address I was given. It was in a little strip of shops, and by looking at the yellowed sheers on the windows and ancient sign on the front I wondered if it was still in business. As soon as I opened the door I was overcome by the smell of 40 years worth of perms and hairspray. I was quickly greated by a woman who introduced herself as Nadine, she was about my mom’s age and had her hair in a nice mid-length style. It made me feel a little more secure that she wasn’t some 70 year old gray haired granny with a poodle perm for a style.
She asked what I wanted, and I told her about the tobacco smell I couldn’t get rid of. “Well, lets start by cutting off the split ends, then we will give you a good wash” Nadine said. I did not see how much she had taken off ar first, but when she led me to the shampoo area I saw a whole lot of 6″ pieces of hair surrounding the salon chair. If it meant my hair wouldn’t smell anymore I didn’t care. Nadine gave me a really vigorous wash and basic style, and I was ready to go. At Nadine’s suggestion, I scheduled a follow up appointment for the following week. She told me she would give me a wash and style, unless I wanted to try something else. I have had the same haircut my whole life, and told her I wouldn’t want to change.
By the end of the fourth week of the program, I was smoking about half of what I used to. I was still bothered by the smell of smoke on my body, and in my hair. I began to use body sprays and perfume every day, but that did nothing for the smell of my hair. I was more than happy when Friday came around and I could go back to Nadine.
Nadine was happy to see me, and asked how I was doing with the smell of my hair. I told her that it had worked for a few days, but the hair in my face still smelled bad to me. She said that she could cut it short so it wouldn’t hang in my face, or she could style it so it would stay back off my face. I insisted that I liked my long hair, so Nadine said she had just the style I needed, but it might not last until my next visit. Nadine shampooed my hair first, then sectioned off the wet hair and proceeded to roll my hair in pink plastic curlers. I hadn’t had my hair curled since my mom used to put my hair in pink foam curlers when I was a little girl. As I sat there I started to smile thinking back to when my mom would do my hair for me. Nadine then snapped me out of my daydream “Okay dear 20 minutes under the dryer” as she led me to a row of chair dryers. When I was done I noticed I was starting to look like some of the other girls in the office, strangely, I didn’t care because it was now styled away from my face, and smelled clean again. Before I left, Nadine gave me a plastic shower cap, and told me to keep my style I had to wear it whenever I took a shower. I left with another appointment scheduled for next week
The fifth week started out good. My hair was still holding its shape, and hadn’t started to smell yet. I was still smoking almost a pack a day, but had stopped enjoying them all rogether. When I got in the shower Wednesday morning and without thinking forgot the shower cap. My hair got all wet, and with that my style was washed out. I was very upset that I would have to wait 3 days before going to the beauty parlor to have my hair set again. On Friday I was back at Nadine’s. She suggested that I should have another trim to stay on top of my split ends, plus it would help more with the smell. I gladly agreed, and with that Nadine took another 8″ of hair off my head. For the first time I could ever remember, my hair was just barely to my shoulders. Nadine said she could use some stronger setting gel when she rolled my hair which should help it last a little longer. I was overjoyed when Nadine said she could use some smaller curlers on my shorter hair, and 30 minute later took my usual spot under the hood dryer.
My new shorter, curlier style went over well with the other girls in the office. We would all talk about each others hairstyles and what we were going to do next time. I was 6 weeks into the smoking cessation program, and it was now really starting to work. I could only stand 4 or 5 cigarettes a day now, and the smell was still bothering me. I manged to keep my hairstyle until that Thursday mornings shower, so I only had to wait 2 days this week. Friday afternoon, I was back at Nadine’s for my weekly visit. When I asked Nadine if there was any way to make my style last all week she told me there was only one way to make it last all week. I knew what she was suggesting, and shot that down instantly, a perm was something that old ladies get, not girls in their twenties. Nadine gave me my usual set, and I figured that was as good as I could get.
I was down to smoking just one cigarette every morning by the seventh week, but I could still smell the fowl odor on my clothes and hair. I needed a couple new outfits for work, and before I left to go shopping I decided that I just needed to get rid of any of the clothes that I wore when I was smoking heavily. I filled several plastic bags many of the clothes I used to wear the most. I got rid of all my jeans, all of the hoodies and t-shirts from college that I used to spend most of my time wearing. By the time I had finished, there was 4 bags of clothes for the chairity bin. My wardrobe was now a collection of dresses and skirts, as I had rid my appartment of all the smoke holding pants. During my weekly trip to Nadines beauty parlor she again gave me a nice set on her smallest curlers. This time I was the one who brought up having my hair permed. Nadine said that it was really my best option to keep the hair off my face, she told me to give it some thought and let her know in a couple days. I told her I was more than ready for her to make my curls a permanent part of me. Nadine said she would need some extra time for the perm, so my appointment was made for first thing Saturday morning.
I was in my eighth week of the program and other than a couple of cigarettes I no longer had any desires to smoke. By the time Tuesday morning came around I was getting upset with my hair already, I knew I was not going to make it until my appointment, so I called Nadine, and begged her into getting me in to have my hair set mid-week. That day seemed to drag on forever before I could head over to have my hair fixed. Nadine was quite gracious to me as she put the curlers in my hair. I walked out happy that in just 4 days all my hair problems would be solved.
Satuday was finally here, and as I shampooed my hair all I could think of was this would be the last time I will be doing this with straight hair. I quickly dried off and stood at the mirror and combed it all straight down, and when I finished I dropped the comb in the waste basket. I told myself I wouldn’t be needing it anymore. I arrived at the beauty parlor 30 minutes early, it wasn’t even open yet, so I waited inpatiently in my car for Nadine to get there. Nadine had a bit of a laugh by my eagerness to get started, but said she understood why I was so excited. We talked about the options I had for length and tightness of the curl. I was so excited to have it done I told her give me what she thought was best. Three hours later I was out the door with a head full of tight curls. Nadine had left all the length, saying we could trim it shorter next time if I wanted
It was now the ninth week of the program. I had tottaly stopped smoking, as I didn’t want my new curls exposed to that vile odor of cigarettes. Everyone at work love my new bouncy curls, but I was already thinking they were much too long for me. It was Tuesday morning when I stood at the bathroom mirror that I decided it was still too long.
Nadine was happy to see me that Friday. When I told her that it was still too long, she had a bit of a smirk on her face and just said “I need you to be totally sure about this. None of my clients that go this short have ever grown their hair out, so it will be a tight head of curls from now on.” I was more positive than ever, and told Nadine to make it as short as she could. Nadine told me that she knew from the first time I saw her that I would end up one of her perm girls. She took off a full 4″ of hair, leaving me just enough so she could get some of the smallest curlers in every Friday. I walked out of the beauty parlor as happy as I had been in month’s.
Out of the shower Monday before work and all I could do was smile. My curls stayed right where I wanted them, and most importantly I couldn’t smell the smoke in my hair anymore. My new style was the hit of the office, and I knew I would work here for my whole career. I brought the discs back to the HR lady on Friday morning, telling her how great the program had worked. She looked at me and smiled “It sure did” I was then given another disc, plus a bonus check for $1000. “Mr Masters is very happy with the progress you’ve made. The last disc will help you maintain what you have achived so far, just put it on every night”
A few months later i was taking my first vacarition, going home for the first time since I started my new job. My mom and grandma were both overjoyed by my new appearence. When my sister saw me, she was less than happy “DId they brain wash you or something?” It was the first time that I had thought about my transformation, but while I finally realized that I may have been coerced into changing my hair, I didn’t care. It was who I was now, and couldn’t be happier. I was still in Nadine’s chair every Friday, and I still played the last disc every night.