Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Style: The Eye of the Beholder

After waiting until we were approaching a Bigfoot hairstyle, Joe announced one night that he'd like to go to Best Hair, where our kindergarten friend Ocean had a very successful experience for only 30Y (about $4.50). It's very close and I had given up on solving my tangled ends with any type of product, so I agreed to give them a try as well. We were ushered in, seated right away and brought the usual cup of hot water (which is faithfully offered even on the hottest day in August). After some negotiations in broken English and limited Mandarin, with a healthy dose of charades thrown in, the stylists went to work.
I had asked for a shampoo prior to my cut, having heard rhapsodies on the subject from our new friends, but Joe went right for the scissors, and his stylist (Jason #8) never once touched a razor, doing everything by careful and precise scissor work. Meantime, I was lathering up under a process whereby the shampoo is dissolved in a bottle of water and applied to my dry hair like tint or bleach. My stylist (Bao Bao) worked up quite a head of lather and piled it on the top of my head until I looked like a white haired queen. She also started a very thorough head massage with her thumbs of steel (more on that later). After a couple of latherings, we went upstairs to rinse out and apply great smelling conditioner, then back downstairs for the cut, I presumed. However, when I got back in the chair, a second stylist (Pa Pa) came over with her blowdryer and Bao Bao offered massages to my neck, shoulders, arms and hands, in which her thumbs of steel seemed sure to leave bruises. Massage is a funny thing. Bao Bao also cleaned my ears with a finely twisted Q-tip, which was pretty much as weird as you might imagine, but I kept my hearing.
By this time, Joe, figuring we weren't going anywhere anyway, was in the middle of his own shampoo and abbreviated massage (he skipped the arms, hands and probing Q-tip). It was a good call, because Pa Pa had started on the process of blowing my hair out completely straight. This is a totally useless quest, whether done by me or by a professional, but there was no way to explain that to Pa Pa, so I sat quietly and smiled a lot. After about half an hour, she got a beautiful, flat glossy look (seen above) that was no doubt the best she could do with my crazy kinky Western hair. The pics have been the hit of my Facebook page... too bad such a 'do requires so much effort (and would frizz right back at the first hint of humidity).
A couple of nights later, after finding too many knots that simply wouldn't come out, I headed back to Best Hair. Bao Bao and Pa Pa weren't there (and I haven't gotten a translation yet for their status, probably because I can't reproduce the sound of the word correctly), so I sat down with one of Joe's stylist (called Gui), who went upstairs and brought down another male stylist (never got his name). I went straight for the cut, indicating that I just wanted a trim of the ends, and that worked fairly well, but then the boys really wanted me to have a shampoo (which is after all, part of the fee), so I said yes. At this point the hard sell started, because my hair really was quite ratty, so Stylist Not-Gui decided that I had terrible hair damage and needed a very expensive treatment. Once I figured out what he wanted, I turned him down (a few times, even after he went upstairs to get the treatment bottle and show me). There was just no way to explain that I hadn't been to the salon in about six months and the cut was really all I needed to restore health. The blow dry was charaded as the "curly" style, which consisted of blowing everything out straight, then putting the curl back in with a small barreled round brush. When he was finished (and it looked very pretty, if rather flat), Stylist Not-Gui gave me a look that said quite clearly, "Well, crazy woman, this is the best I can do with it." Having seen that look before, I laughed out loud and assured both of the boys that it was just great (hen hao). I'm sure Best Hair will rest easy knowing that I might not be back for awhile!

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