Saturday, January 26, 2008

Shear Luck, or Getting Snippy with Me

If the Sasquatch is to be believed, I never need a haircut. Never ever. That's very kind, but sadly, untrue. I'm the princess of split ends, and, although I try to last as long as possible between trims, I eventually reach a point where I start looking like I'm sporting some kind of "homeless chic." Ungood. So, I trekked up to ye olde Hair Cuttery today for a much-needed sprucing up.

Now, Hair Cuttery is a blessing for those of us with shallow pockets, but there are risks involved with discount haircuts. Namely, will you actually be able to communicate with your cutter? I think of this as Linguistic Russian Roulette. I take a deep breath and pray my stylist is a native speaker of English. Now, if you're offended by that, I'm sorry, but I spent 4+ years getting my hair cut in Moscow in a second language, and sometimes the results were less than stellar. (I'm being kind.)

Let's face it: I don't have much going for me in the looks department - a bad haircut would be like the last nail in the beauty coffin. And so, I really like being able to clearly express my needs to someone for whom English subject/verb agreement is not an alien concept. The last few times, my hair has been spiffed up by this rockin' chick from Jamaica who totally gets how to work with thick, wavy, frizzy, unruly locks.

And, dammit, she's moved away.

Today, my choice was between someone who barely spoke English and someone else who barely spoke English. Beggars cannot be choosers, so I took a deep breath and chose Curtain #1. My stylist for the day was a middle-aged Korean woman named Sung. Her grasp of English was extreeeemly limited; she's only been in the United States for three months. From what I deciphered, her husband, who speaks no English, hates the United States (he speaks no English, can get no work, and spends all day watching TV) and is returning to Korea on Monday. But they have a 15-year-old daughter in school here. Sung will stay with her. I tried to fathom the the visa situation that brought them here, but I have to admit I was nervously focused on my head.

In truth, Sung did a perfectly fine job with my hair, but our mutual inability to communicate well created uncomfortable situations when she started asking me inappropriate questions.

"How long you fat?"
"You have boyfriend? Husband?"
"Very bad you alone. Very bad. Need boyfriend now!"
"Bad for life be alone."
"No dog? Cat?"
"Very bad!"
"I was fat. Lose 40 pounds."

I congratulated her for her weight loss, which she announced - just like the rest of her queries and comments - at full voice to everyone in the salon. Then she started grabbing her gut.

"Had extra skin. Had to lose skin. Go to hospital."

"Oh," I said, "You had surgery for that?"

"No! No surgery. They... you know..." She massaged and pressed her belly.

Silently, I thought, "...squeezed the skin off? Did psychic surgery? Used duct tape?" But I just gritted my teeth and smiled.

An older, Santa Claus-ish man waiting up front kept looking my way with silent sympathy. I appreciated it, but I knew that, even if I said, "Look, you're being totally inappropriate!" it would have had little effect. I don't think she knew she was being inappropriate. I just closed my eyes and pretended to sleep while she dried my crown o' frizz. At least she thought my new hair color (Light Ash Brown - no longer red, whoo-hoo) was my natural color. That was nice.

I know I can't complain much, and I do not begrudge anyone the right to make a living. When you go to a discount salon chain, you know you are getting people who, by dint of language, technical skills, or experience, cannot get a job in a higher end salon. In the DC area, that most often means you will be served by a recent immigrant supporting her family and you may struggle to be understood. And they may struggle with our cultural mores and limitations. Like asking how long you've been fat. Feh!

Well, I knew the risks when I took the job, right?

I will say this - she only charged me $14. Usually, the native speakers of English will debate me on the length of my tresses and try to add $10 on to the tab for "long hair." Cher has long hair, kids. I have shoulder length hair, thank you. Sung didn't charge me for the blow dry, either. In the end, I figured that was my prize for having been lectured on fat and my inability to find a man.

Or a dog.

So, if you know a man (or a man with a dog) looking for a broke, fat, middle-aged writer woman, let me know. By Korean standards apparently, my shelf life expiration date is coming up pretty soon.

And here I thought I would be forever fresh, like a box of Twinkies in a bomb shelter!

I go to Hair Cuttery to learn, folks. Something new each and every time.


J.M. Tewkesbury said...

Oh, that's painful. If it's any comfort (which I doubt it is), when my sister lived in Hong Kong, people would look at her and say the same thing without compunction. Europeans can be pretty forward that way, too. Still, it's no excuse.

And, fwiw, you're actually quite beautiful, Merujo. You have the loveliest eyes and smile framed by a very pretty face and soft hair. You should give yourself more credit in the looks department. You're actually quite attractive--inside and out!

Merujo said...

You are far too kind - where do I send your bribery check? ;)

Chuck said...

I went to a place here that does men's haircuts for five bucks. They did an ok job, but the language issue was BAD. Plus, it was a long ways from where I live (I heard about this place through someone at work) that I figure I used two gallons of gas going there and back. My full-sized car gets bad mileage in city driving.

Now, I just wait for discount men's Tuesday at a place two blocks from where I live and pay them ten bucks. It's not a fancy salon, but everyone does speak English, and it doesn't take me thirty minutes to get there.

Anonymous said...

I really believe there is a movie to be made just following you around and watching your interactions - you have the strangest things happen to you.

I second Mr. Tewksbury's comments and add that rarely will you meet a finer (I mean that in both the visual and substantive sense of the word) than you.

Merujo said...

Note to self: write check to Spencer, too...

Claire said...

ooh, I get the bargain haircuts too and have had my own variety of humiliation from a non-native English speaker. I sympathize.

These days I'm sold on the tattoo guy at the mall. Knows better than I what to do with my hair and is a native English speaker to boot!

Scholiast said...

sorry, I just had to laugh, though I appreciate it wasn't all that funny while it lasted..

My new hairdresser is a local guy - and ten minutes through my first haircut there we'd discussed transsexualism, Thor Heyerdahl, USA's view on homosexuals and a boatride from hell he once took in Greece.

Needless to say, he's now my fav!

Good luck in finding one. A new hairdresser, that is...