Pay no attention to that woman at the top of my column.
Yeah, it's me. Or at least it was one day many years ago.
But I don't tend to photograph well, and apparently this one is no exception.
"That doesn't look like you," "You look like a hippie," "What's up with the deer-in-the-headlights look?" and "You really need to get a new picture," are among the unsolicited responses I've received regarding it. These comments came from people who generally are kind to me — friends, family, even a pastor.
The image wasn't intended to be a column photo. I'm thinking it was originally taken as ID, but when I began writing my column, it's what was around.
Though my editor has asked me to get an updated photo, because of my aversion to being photographed, I keep putting it off. Now, as I write a column having to do with hair, I'm wishing I hadn't.
It's true that, in that picture, I do kind of look like a hippie. Some days, the appearance of my hair might suggest an altered state of consciousness. But other days, depending on events and my mood, I wear a smoother, more polished style.
I am moderate maintenance. I let my hair grow and flow for a time, but I also appreciate the merits of a good haircut. So don't allow my haphazard image to undermine the credibility of what I am about to share.
Recently, I was going out of town for a wedding and needed a quick trim. I knew I wouldn't be able to get in with my usual stylist on short notice, and I remembered an acquaintance telling me she'd gone to Future Stars Salon at Washington County Technical High School.
Though she had a regular stylist, she'd tried it out of curiosity and found that the students worked with enthusiasm and care. She was happy with her cut and style, and had been charged a small fraction of typical salon fees. So I decided to give it a shot.
I got an appointment the day that I called. The young stylists, juniors and seniors in the school's cosmetology program, greeted me with warmth and promptness. A girl who looked like a younger Drew Barrymore led me to her station and proceeded to take a thorough inventory of my styling preferences.
She washed my hair and set to cutting it with confidence. She took her time, but not a ridiculous amount of time, as I once experienced at a full-price salon when a rookie cut my hair. Within minutes, I had refreshed long layers and subtle side bangs. A teacher came over to check the cut, lifting and combing through each section to ensure precision.
My hair is coarse, and its texture when blow-dried has beset even seasoned beauticians with a look of panic. But this unflappable student took it in stride, wielding appropriate product and a flat iron until all was well. The more I looked, the more I liked it.
By appointment's end, I was feeling pretty pleased. The final charge was a sleek $10 for the wash, cut and style. I've paid much more to look far worse.
If only I'd stopped over at the newsroom to get a new picture taken.
Alicia Notarianni is a reporter and feature writer for The Herald-Mail. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.