Abby’s World of Cut and Curl

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Yesterday was crazy. Like, insanely crazy. Flat irons straightening and curling irons curling and shears cutting and the coloring and shampooing and highlighting. All — day — long.

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My bun started off here,” Abby Fitzer laughs, pointing to her head, “And as the day went on, it just started to flop around a bit so that it eventually ended up over here.”

Abby is blond, has blue eyes that look like they fell out of the sky, is a color educator for Aveda and, thanks to a lot of continuing education, is considered a Master Stylist. She’s been styling hair, here at Maxmanni salon in Robinson, for the past 12 years. And for the past week, she’s been styling hair Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, for eight to 10 to 11 hours a day, cutting and coloring and shampooing and conditioning and blow drying.

I start at 10, and stop when my clients stop coming in.” she says, running a flat iron through Amber’s hair section by section at rapid speed while Colleen sits in a nearby chair and flips through a magazine while her color deepens.

Abby does this to herself. Stacking clients one after another after another. Which she likes. “I love it,” she admits, clipping another section of Amber’s hair. “I work best under pressure.” Christmas is in four days. And most of her regulars, like Amber and Colleen, want to be cut and colored for the holidays. Which is why this week she’s worked 30 more hours than she usually does.

I have clients calling saying, ‘Can you get me in?’ and I’m like, ‘I’ve already given up my bathroom breaks! I inhaled a salad yesterday. I literally didn’t even taste it.’”

Abby started cutting hair in 2004. “I was never like, ‘Oh my god, I always have wanted to do hair.’ I really wasn’t a schoolbook person. I highlighted my Barbie’s hair with whatever I could highlight it with and I remember in high school, when everyone was writing in the yearbook what they’re going to do, saying, ‘I’m gonna do hair.’ I think it goes well with my OCD’ness.”

It is not easy, standing and styling hair all day. Coloring and cutting and curling and drying and moving one client from the chair to the shampoo bowl and back again while another one waits and one more just walked in the door. By the time the day ends, most everything hurts. Neck hurts. Back hurts. Arms hurt.

But I love it,” she says, hitting Amber’s bangs with some hair spray as the timer for Colleen’s hair color goes off.


Okay, Colleen,” she says, turning it off. “You can have a seat at the center bowl.” She walks Amber to the front, to get her rung up and on the schedule for her next visit. “See ya later!” She calls out as Amber gives her a hug. “Love ya, bye!”

She meets Colleen at the shampoo bowl. “I could never sit at a desk all day,” she says. “And I’ve met friends. People that have become like family.”

She’s got about 500 clients; some that she sees every five weeks, like Colleen; others that come as needed. Women, men, kids, grandma… everyone. People that have been coming to her for years. People that are new clients. People that sit down in her chair and tell her EV-​ERY-​THING.

Oh,” she laughs, lathering Colleen’s hair. “I have heard it all.”

Sometimes they just talk about whatever. Things like lash extensions (“I will be homeless and blind before I stop getting them”) and nails (“I used to go every two weeks, but… now we’re saving for a house”). They talk about pumpkin rolls (“Oh! With the crème center?”) and what to make for dinner (“I’m thinking pot roast… just a little bit of salt and pepper and maybe a sprig of Rosemary”).

They like to joke, too.

You know you’re Abby’s client if you sit down and ask for one thing, and instead you get something else that you like more.”

It’s a little after noon. Colleen’s bob has been trimmed, colored a rich, chestnutty brown, and blown dry with a big, round brush for lots of swingy bounce. Abby walks her to the front. Says goodbye, “See ya next year!” and returns to her station.

Hoo!” she exclaims, taking a quick swig of her iced cold brew with cream and sugar from Dunkin Donuts; caffeine that she usually avoids but needs right now for an extra jolt. She’s got about two minutes before her next client arrives, and sits down in her chair. “So,” she begins, draping a black cape over their shoulders. “What are you doing for the holidays?”

Kate Benz

Kate Benz has been a professional writer for the past fifteen years with bylines appearing in The Tribune-​Review, Pittsburgh Magazine, Table Magazine, Pittsburgh Quarterly, and LOCAL Pittsburgh Magazine. She is also the author of an “Images of America” book on the history of Cranberry Township. When she is not writing, you can find her thoroughly enjoying a co-​dependent relationship with her dog or taking long, romantic walks down the makeup aisle.

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