Part of me wanted to throw off my robe and run out of the salon, refusing to pay, refusing to even look back.

Instead, I just sat there silently, which has never worked well for me.

When I first entered the salon, everything seemed the same. The air still smelled Aveda-y; my magazine choices were still People, Seattle Magazine, and House-Beautiful that has always made me feel less in touch with beautiful houses and more with how mediocre my home is; there were still foil squares clamped to the side of women’s heads like barnacles to rock that remind me of all the time I’ve wasted hoping for perfect highlights, too. Until I had to admit to myself that highlights are too expensive, too boring, all that sitting and waiting, until my left-brain kicked in and said, here’s an idea that just might work: one head, one color.

But I was to learn how everything wasn’t the same at all.

Going to the hairdressers is all about the service, and by “service” I mean the scalp massage. I will tell you right now, a woman like me goes mostly for the massage. As soon as my head drops back, I get this giddy feeling that takes me back to when my mother  used to wash my hair, the two of us alone for once, the only two people in the world.

Now, I love my hairdresser, we get along like peas and carrots, but her assistant washes our hair. The good thing about this is that assistants are newly trained, so they’re generally pretty careful and attentive. The bad part is that they are also new at pleasant conversation, so it’s harder to just close your eyes and pass out. After I shared the shortest answer possible about my line of work, I asked what she does, which, as soon as I said it, I knew how crazy it sounded since she was clearly doing what she does. Only, she was happy to tell me that she also coaches Christian volleyball.

I know it is fruitless to say certain things, to certain people, under certain circumstances, and I’m still trying to figure out why there are times when knowing this only seems to make me flap my tongue instead of biting it. “What does that mean exactly?” I said. “That your players are Christian? Or that you only play Christian teams?”

“Both,” she responds.

Remembering the line, don’t get so tolerant that you tolerate intolerance, I couldn’t let it go, oh, no, I had to go and say, “But wouldn’t you learn more by playing all sorts of people who express themselves through all types of religions and believe in all kinds of gods,” I paused, “and goddesses?”

“There is only one God!” she shot back.

I also know that hairdressing students are trained to steer the conversation away from politics and religion, so I wondered if the recent Supreme Court ruling about that homophobe baker of wedding cakes had already empowered certain people, including me.

“That’s like saying there is only one flavor of ice-cream.”

I didn’t plan on saying it. I just said it.

And right after I did, a trickle of water dribbled down my back, not enough to make any real difference, like our new tax bill.

Then a stream of water rushed down. Now, I don’t know a whole lot for sure, but there was no doubt in my mind that the stream was intentional.

To get through the next few seconds, I tried thinking happier thoughts like bicycling through the Methow Valley, Patty Murray running for president, eating miso butterfish at Shiro’s Sushi, Patty Murray running for president.

And then she pulled my hair! Not a gentle tug that actually feels good, but a hard yank. As if to say, “infidel!”

I shot up. In the mirror, her eyes were cold, as if her brain struggled to contain all of the confusion it held about “non-believers.” I couldn’t look right at her, I had to shield my eyes, like when I had to talk to the man installing my new dishwasher while exposing his bum crack. I yelled at myself, “Say something! Why are you acting so cowardly?”

Asking myself the question helped, but answering it is what made me keep my mouth shut, “No, I am acting like the adult.

Because the thought that had wiggled in to save me from the part of myself willing to go down swinging was another line I remembered: Intolerance fails us all in the end.

But geez, by then, I didn’t really know if I was being too tolerant or too intolerant.

And as many times as I think about it now, I still don’t know.

MARY LOU SANELLI is an author and speaker who lives in Belltown. Her latest book is “A Woman Writing,” available wherever fine books are sold. For more information, visit her website at