On Friday I had a good haircut that had grown out far too much. Today I have a bad haircut that will take a long time growing in before I can go and get it fixed – which will involve being told off by a sarcastic Irish hairdresser for letting someone with no clue anywhere near my hair. I know, but I couldn’t help it. It was one of those avalanche things where once I’d started the ball rolling I just had to go ahead and get the inevitable bad haircut.
This is how it happened. I grew my hair for the wedding, to put it up, as you do, and all my friends (not my mother, though, who apparently won’t be happy till I have a buzzcut or something) said my hair was lovely long and I should keep it that way. It seemed to be behaving much better at home than it ever did in PA, though, and I had no way of predicting how it would react to the reported extremes of humidity in Texas, so I thought I’d keep it like that for a little while and see how things went. It did okay, but by last week – by weeks ago, really – there was just way too much hair and I really needed to get it cut. My hair is very thick and slightly wavy, and my face is not large, so too much hair swamps me. (This is why Mum is always trying to get me to cut it.)
Fine, but I’d been reliably informed that there were no decent hairdressers in this neck of the Texas woods. Impossible, I thought. We have a mall. We have civilization. On the other hand, on further examination, the place in the mall charges $12.50 for a unisex cut, which seemed a bit below my budget. I’m prepared to pay, ooh, even twice that for a cut that will grow out well. I just have to find one. I looked in vain at the women I know to find one with a cut I considered good, but they all have the sort of hair that doesn’t appear to have any style. You know, American hair, in the bad, Rikki-Lake-audience sense. I communicated this to my mother, who now thinks I live in a town populated only by 300-pound people with bushy hair. She’s only half right.
Finally, I took my life (hair) into my hands and asked my co-worker: the self-styled she-who-knows-everything. (Self-styled there doesn’t relate to her hair. She has a stylist who’s a friend, but is out of town and therefore not suitable for me.) Triumphantly she came up with an answer: her sister’s lady. I’ve never met the sister, but was informed that her hair is good. Or maybe it was “fine”. Not “crappy”, anyway. I would have remembered that.
So, my co-worker (let’s call her Maria) rings her sister (let’s call her Leonora) and puts her on to me. Leonora says yes, she has a very good lady she’s been going to for ten years now, very reasonable, knows what suits your face shape, and so on. Just one thing: she works in a nursing home. Here’s the number; give her a ring and say Leonora recommended her to you.
Ohhhkay. That all sounds fine. Except for the nursing home bit. What? Is she a receptionist who will turn around and snip at my hair between answering the phone? Is she a nurse who’ll pretend I’m a patient in need of a haircut? Well, anyway, now I had to call her. I couldn’t say: “No Maria, I’m not going to use your sister’s recommendation because it sounds funny and I’m prejudiced against people who work in nursing homes. And I don’t trust your taste and I think your sister who I’ve never seen has a bad American-lady haircut.” So I was committed. I knew this would happen when I asked Maria in the first place, which is why I’d put it off for at least a week. I didn’t know it would involve a nursing home, but I knew there’d be something funny and nonstandard about it, instead of just saying, “You could try the salon at York and 5th [made-up address to preserve anonymity of non-existant salon]. I hear they charge a bit, but they do a good job.” Oh no. Instead I get Mrs. Funny Nursing Home Lady.
So I called, and she said “Saturday, 11.30?” and I said fine, she gave me directions, and that was that. Okay. So she hadn’t actually answered the phone as if she was the receptionist, but I got the feeling it was a cellphone.
Saturday morning I looked at my long locks in the mirror and knew in my heart that this was the last I’d see of a good haircut till at least Christmas. Then I set off to find the nursing home. Unfortunately, it was exactly where she said it would be. I entered, smelled the institutional old-people smell, and knew everything wasn’t going to be okay. I asked for the lady by name: let’s say it was Jacinta, which is an Irish hairdresser name and was not this lady’s. She evidently wasn’t the receptionist, at any rate. I was sent to the beautician’s room, which for a short moment made me think things might turn out okay. A glance around proved she did have a basin, so presumably my hair would be washed and blowdried, not just cut. There was a price list on the wall: cut $10.00. Yers. I would have paid a little more than that, but I suppose the senior citizens can’t have an expensive beautician.
Jacinta sat me down, asked me what I wanted, picked up a plant spritzer, and started cutting. Yup, it was a dry cut. She didn’t even bother to re-comb my parting so it might be straighter than wherever I’d put it that morning. A little spritz, a little chop, there goes my hair. I had to take my glasses off (since due to my Bumpy Eyelid condition I still can’t wear my lenses; come to think of it, I don’t have a prescription for lenses so I’ve none to wear. That was cunning of my eye doctor), so I couldn’t really tell exactly what was going on. The obligatory hairdresser conversation ensued:
- Are you from around here?
- No, I’m from Ireland.
- No, Ireland.
- Oh, Arlington, Texas.
Clearly, she had nothing to say about Ireland, so she told me about how her grandson’s hair is going to be the same colour as mine. Then her husband and son turned up and her son told her a long and boring story as she continued to chop away at my pride and joy. Soon I was being handed a mirror and turned around to appreciate her handiwork. I would have liked it better if I hadn’t bothered to put my glasses back on. The left side was longer than the right, which I pointed out and she happily fixed. After that there was nothing more I could do, despite the sinking feeling. (Sunk, really.) She said I owed her five dollars. Yes, very reasonable around here really is very reasonable. A little too reasonable, even. And off I went, hair still a bit damp from the plant-spray water and wavy in all the most annoying places. Not quite the straight, shiny, bouncy salon-fresh-fabulous hair you expect the day you go to the hairdresser, even if it turns out to look just the same as usual, only shorter, as soon as you wash and dry it yourself two days later.
So now I am sad and I have Bad Hair. There’s no point going back and asking Jacinta to fix it, because she obviously thinks it’s a perfectly good five-dollar haircut. And indeed, the longest bit is down to my collarbones and the rest is layered, which is exactly what I asked for. But to me, “layered” doesn’t mean “there’s one layer here, at the bottom, and then there’s another here, an inch and a half higher up.” I shouldn’t be able to see the line where the layer starts – it should all blend seamlessly. This would be way beyond Jacinta’s scope, because the old ladies with blue rinse perms don’t ask for that sort of thing. (And remember, Leonora’s been going to her for ten years. I can’t wait to meet Leonora.)
So the first thing I do when I step off the plane at Christmas will be to go and find a hairdresser in Dublin, possibly called Jacinta, who will ask the dreaded question “Did your mother cut this?” I’ll confess to living in the back of beyond in the continent that taste forgot, I’ll show due remorse and beg forgiveness for being so stupid as to get my hair cut in an old people’s home (no, I won’t admit to that bit) and I’ll entreat them to make me look like a person who can in fact tell her arse from her elbow and a hairdresser from a receptionist. In the hopes of ending up with a cut that grows out so well that it lasts me until the following Christmas.
2:23 pm - 15 November 2004