Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Having a haircut in a strange land

I don’t quite know where my almost-phobia of hairdressers began, but my memories of trips there seem to merge in a gush of small talk from women with grating accents and hair as parched as a hungover tongue.

Perhaps it was hairdressers’ love of cutting, because it seemed no matter how many times I told them I wanted a ‘trim’, they would take to my painfully slowly growing hair as one would to unkempt hedge. And, once again, I would be left with mid length, dead mouse coloured hair, greasy with product I never asked for.

Whatever it was, I would avoid going at all costs, even if it meant going the DIY route which, as every teenage girl knows, NEVER ends well. First there were the temporary dyes, which either never worked or stained the hair with a tinge of pink. And then there was Sun In, whose promise of ‘sun-bronzed and kissed by the sun’ locks was woefully understated- translating into, well, yellow hair.

Venturing past the borders of New Zealand hairdressers left me with new problems to contend with, the biggest of which was trying to make myself understood in a different language. Unfortunately ‘gul’ (yellow) and ‘guld’ (gold) are much too similar in Swedish, and I was left with stripes the shade of a wedding ring.

In Ireland, lack of funds led me to a bunch of Koreans who had set up shop above a seedy looking internet cafe, whose apparently untrained, non-English speaking staff left me looking like a less peaceful and consistently coloured version of this girl:

It was with trepidation, then, that I traipsed off to a hairdresser in Istanbul following the return of my trusted hairdresser friend, Ellie, to the USA.

Within minutes of entering the salon I had their finest whizzing around me in every direction, offering me tea and making up the foils. I have to say that there’s something strangely disconcerting about having two good looking, presumably straight men attending to matters of beauty, but I took considerable pleasure in the fact that I could read my book or contemplate the wall colour in peace without having to be disturbed with news about the finale of Lost or of Lindsay Lohan’s latest downfall.

With all the lack of distractions I could finally attempt to relax and lose myself in the atmosphere of a Turkish hair salon which is, well, pretty much like any ordinary salon, save for the music being turned off for the duration of the call to prayer. There are the same uncomfortable hair sinks which leave you feeling that you’ve been pinned down by the neck by a professional weightlifter; the same walls of mirrors which leave you stuck as to which way to look; and the same overwhelming scent of hair products and bleach which result in a not-so-pleasant dizzying effect.

Three hours and too much hairspray later, the result was surprisingly positive. Good looking hairdresser #1 chivalrously helped me with my coat while good looking hairdresser #2 gave me the Turkish compliment- “Güle güle kullan”- roughly translating into "I hope this brings you joy". Unfortunately I confused this with the Turkish goodbye- “Güle güle”- and, with my phobia of hairdressers waning ever so slowly, I wished them both a nice evening and walked away as fast as I could.


Anonymous said...

:)...I hair you've been talking about me in your blog. Here's what you do, you chant a little "hair prayer" beforehand...I miss the convo's and the beer-bleach infused makeovers...sigh...
Anonymous Ellie

Helen Simpson said...

Those were the days! Great pun by the way, it's hairlairious.

Barns said...

God, I can relate to this. First it was Japan and whether to go for the budget, train station, cattle-stall 1000 yen shoppe or to shell out 5000 yen for a one-and-a-half-hour ordeal that, yes, left me looking much better but feeling oddly violated.

Now it's India, and Rs 50 (NZ$1.50) gets me a solid bowl cut, or slight variation thereof.

What to do?

Steve G in Guanajuato said...

I came to your site because I use the term carnivorous capitalist in a non-capitalist, disagreeable, accusing way. So far, no carnivorous and no capitalism, but no problem with that.

As to hair cutters - yeah, you have reason to cringe. I've been afraid of them since I was a young lad; they NEVER cut your hair the way you ask.

Why not? Because they each have X number of haircuts in their repertoir, and the moment they see you, your age, your build, they decide how to cut your hair - before you even open your mouth. All they hear from you is white noise.

Maybe the only wawy to deal with them is to sit down, then ask them if they understood you (no matter the language problem), then ask them to repeat what you just told them.

THEN - even if they repeated it perfectly - get up and start to leave, saying, "You weren't listening to me, so I need to find a hair stylist who listens.

Only then do you stand a chance of really getting them to notice that you are not just a carnivorous capitalist hair cutter's next butchery victim.

Of course, now that you have a rare decent haircut and two good looking guys to attend your every whim, you may not have to use that during your time in Stambool. But somewhere, sometime, it may come in handy.

FYI - I have cut my hair for decades, simply out of survival instinct. Amazingly, I did not come out looking like a Chucky doll the first time, and I've gotten the hang of it. If you have to do it again, be of good cheer - once you've done it (even a bad job) you have acquired SOME skill with which to fix the disaster in the following days.