Friday, June 24, 2011

Gettin' My Hairs Did

There are a few experiences I've been hesitant slash straight-out-defiant about trying while living in China.

Things I absolutely refuse to try would include riding in a three wheeled taxi shaped like a triangle, Korean massages (must be done buck explanation needed), and eating grilled bugs on a stick.

Things I'm hesitant about would include swimming in the ocean, eating dried sea food, and walking on the beach at night. Or during the day for that matter (sand cockroaches...need I say more?).

Another thing on my hesitant list would be getting a haircut, something about a language barrier and the Chinese Stylists' idea that they really do know best, regardless of what I actually want. I'm pretty picky about what happens to my hair. That may surprise many of you who only see my hair pulled into a messy knot at the back of my head 5 months out of the year (I blame the humidity...and my laziness) but I really do. Haircuts usually mean digging out any pair of scissors I can find and semi-carefully snipping away in the bathroom until I've gotten rid of most of the mange at the ends. Which I guess doesn't sound like I'm picky but if someone's going to screw it up, it may as well be me.

I've been cutting my own hair for many, many years. Mostly it works out well but I do recall a time in middle school where I cut my bangs so short they were literally poking straight out. I just couldn't get them straight and before I knew it, I only had about a half an inch of hair left in the front. Yah, I learned early on that unevenness is always better than little sprockets of hair. Always.

You see, I've almost never had a good haircut from a salon. It's either too short or not layered enough or they styled it weird. I went and had my hair done for my Junior Spring Banquet (Christian prom) and left in tears. They used the smallest curling iron size, a ratting comb and a half a bottle of Auquanet. Think scary '60s hair wig but uglier. Needless to say, it scarred me for life.

So, take all my hair-issue-baggage, add to that a language and cultural barrier, multiply it by my nervousness, and you get me, a sweating, panting ball of panic in a rockin' Chinese hair salon (they had purple fur on the ceiling. Seriously).

Go big or go home, they say...don't they? Whoever "they" are. Not only was I going to get my hair cut, but I decided to get it chemically (permanently) straightened as well. Actually, it was the fancy version called "Magic Straight". Magic Straight includes not only the straight part but also a nice little curl at the ends so they're not so pokey. A lot of the women I work with have had it done and it looked fantastic. Their hair always looked good. And it made me jealous. My long-time fear of hair salons eventually lost out to my ever-growing jealousy of awesome hair so I decided to bring on the ammonia.

Let the "Magic" begin...

A very helpful friend (the one who talked me into going), already there and almost finished with getting her hair done, had an entire page full of English phrases translated into Chinese that one might need in a situation like this. And by "situation", I mean a "non-Chinese-speaking-foreigner-going-into-a-non-English-speaking-hair-salon-and-asking-for-a-really-complicated-hairstyle-and-chemical-process-that-no-motions,-hand gestures-or-pictures-can-adequately-convey-because-we-tried-that-and-it-didn't-work" situation. Even with the awesomeness that was the "phrase page", they still didn't get it. Luckily, my friend had a Chinese friend so we called her, had her explain and then, well, hoped for the best.

So, hairdresser-manager guy (because all the regular hairdressers where pretty fearful of working on me at this point) whisked me away for a wash and then promptly sat me down for the cut. And when I say "cut" I mean "maul". He grabbed chunks of my hair and just chopped. And chopped and chopped. He cut off 4 or 5 inches at a time. My bangs were gathered and trimmed in one quick motion. When he was finished (took about 5 minutes), I didn't even have time to let it settle. He immediately handed me off to the "magic" lady who had finally worked up the courage to deal with the crazy foreigner. I was horrified. All of my friends who've gotten their hair cut in China have these stories of 4 hour haircuts because the cutter person snips each hair individually. This was my expectation. This did not happen. Panic ensued. As soon as he was done, I looked at my friend and said, "I can't do this." And then promptly relayed  to the magic lady in motions and panting and sweating and broken Chinese that I didn't want my hair straightened. She, in turn, looked at me like I was crazy and then turned to the non-panting friend and asked what was going on.

My dear, dear, sweet, calm, seeing-things-clearly friend proceeded to try and help me see things in a rational matter, to speak truth into my life. "Jen, I love my hair. I've done this and I love it. You're going to love it too. I'm not trying to talk you into this but REALLY think it through." She's a good woman. I took a few deep breaths...

and decided to go for it. The whole shebang! Bring on the Magic!

Here are some pics during the process...

My head was on fire. The curlers were so hot!

My friend Kelley

Looks like a caterpillar on my forehead. And I look like an 8 year old.
Anyway, after five hours of combing and curling and washing and flat-ironing and waiting....

I LOVED IT! I still love it. I love it even more now. I don't have any real pictures to show you as I'm having camera issues but here are a couple pics that I've taken since I've had it done.

Left- Goodbye Banquet in China
Right- Fishing in Estes Park, CO

After all the worry and near panic attack, I can say it was totally worth it. I would definitely do it again. 

This experience however does not in any way make me want to reconsider doing any of the things on my "Never-Do" list in China. 


Anonymous said...

I think your hair is great! Probably if you had been able to explain things better, the haircut would have turned out totally different!! Mom

Katrina Custer said...

Beautiful! When I discovered hair salons in Taiwan, I started going once a week, just for a wash and styling, not always for a haircut. They were so cheap and so relaxing, plus they always did a fantastic job. I miss those!