Friday, November 21, 2008

Haircuts as a Multi-Cultural Experience

For most people, it's a ritual that has to happen every month or so.

But for me, if it involves uncertainty, I try to avoid it like the plague. I really hate going to new stylists when it comes to my hair (Katie McDonald, I miss you!). I feel there's this road seperating me from the barber shop/salon. Like a busy street, where one wrong step means disaster. For some reason, I have these visions of botched haircuts, or bald spots (which I'm sure is inevitable, but I'm fully for putting it off as long as possible) everytime I think of finding a new stylist. It's happened before. I had a heck of a time getting a decent trim in Florida, back in the day. Apparently, Ft. Myers Mall had never heard of a Faux Hawk. Oh how edgy-California I was.

Taking my hair-cut-hesitations in mind, throwing the prospect of a language barrier just makes the process all the more terrifying.

But I've survived. And I think my fear is settling all together.
I'm nearing the 3 month mark here in Taiwan, and this morning, I had my second Taiwanese Haircut. Since I live in a community of convenience, my new Salon was picked for me. Right across the street, a stone's throw away, there's a large multi-chair salon that I think is named "Beauty." I don't know why it's so big - I've never seen more than three seats filled at a time. Room for growth, I suspect.

Greeted by two young boys at the counter, I was welcomed in, and told to sit at one of the open chairs. I saw the lady who cut my hair last time I was in. She's the owner, I think. And she doesn't speak English. Since "Ahma" (the grandmother I live with) paid for my last haircut, against my will, I wanted to be sure I was getting the same price. "San Bai, yea? er.. ma," which translates, "Three Hundred, yeah. er.. '?'"

A cut and shampoo for just under $10 US is not too bad of a price, if I do say so. (Mind you, ten bucks is ten bucks. Tax is always included in Taiwan, and tipping is never necessary or expected.)

It seemed that the owner would be the one handling my head today, so I was a little surpised when her daughter, I'd guess around 16, smocked and toweled me. At this point, I was still reassuring myself everything would be okay. Luckily, the smocking was the extent of her involvement in my grooming process.
Instead, the lady who was sitting in the corner, doing her makeup, took the helm. I had never seen her before. She was dressed entirely in purple. Skirt, shirt, jacket and shoes, completed with a purple cap which caused the look of the entire outfit to scream British Tea Party, in a way only the British can and would scream tea.

At this point, I was reacquainted with one of the two boys from the front desk. The owner spoke her first and only English words to me from across the room, "My son." She smiled brightly. Based on her reaction, and my prior experience with 13 year olds in Taiwan, I took it to mean he spoke English. And he did. Very well, even. We had a plesant chat about his going to school, my teaching; his speaking English, and my poor Chinese; his proximity in age with my brother back home; my having a girlfriend, him being without; the fact that he thinks I'm very handsome, the fact that I think the same of him. You know, the usual stuff.

Though I owe him much more than making the time pass quickly. It was his translation (and my hand motions) that guided Miss Plum through the waves of my hair. I don't think I could have done it without Tim.

All in all, I'm pretty pleased with the way it turned out. I'm much less picky when it comes to my hair, then say a year or two ago. But for apperances sake, "Beauty" Salon trips are still necessary. Thanks to translators like Tim, and shearstrisses like the Lady in Purple, going across the street just got a little easier.


GabrielAllen said...

Beauty isn't skin deep. It's as deep as the root of your hair. I don't know where i'm going with this, but basically, I just wanted to say it looks good.

Katie McD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Katie McD said...

Wow, Chase its very interesting to read those foreign salon experiences. Thanks for the story (and the shout out) You look great!

Gavin said...

i thought i was alone with that fear of the hairdresser, 'does she know what she is doing?' 'well if this woman is going to cut it why is another woman washing?' i really need to be sedated for haircuts! wake me up when you're finished.

Matt @ The Church of No People said...

I hate trying to explain to the hairdresser what to do. Even though my hair is curly/wavy, so mistakes are easily covered up. I actually learned to cut my own hair out of this phobia.