V claims that as far back as he can remember I’ve been moaning about my hair. This is not strictly true. When I moved to Hong Kong, I adopted a do-as-the-Romans approach and straightened my hair. That way, I could walk into any local hairdresser and get a decent and reasonably priced haircut, regardless of the English-speaking skills of the staff.
However, once I got pregnant, I decided to stop straightening. I was a bit tired of the lank look anyway. Unfortunately, I realised that my suspicion that Hong Kong hairdressers really don’t know how to cut hair that isn’t thin and poker straight was founded. They would tend to gaze in amazement at the mass of my hair (which frankly is not that voluminous) and try to thin it. Another thing they do that gets my goat is they don’t use a straight edged razor, but the thinning scissor because they are frightened of the volume of my hair but also because they feel the need to make the edges shaggy. Which is all very well but it is a bitch when it grows out.
I briefly identified a Pakistani hairdresser who understood hair that was not poker straight. It was great because we really got along and would chat away, except that the last two times I noticed that she kept snipping as we chatted and my hair ended up way too short. Also she’s based in Tsim Sha Tsui which is not exactly in my neighbourhood.
My neighbourhood hair salon is very trendy, but they don’t understand my hair. And the clincher for me was that they raised their rates, again. A few months ago, I tried a new shop that opened and landed up with a bob, that was very trendy … if I had straight hair. After growing it out for ages, I went back to the first salon and asked them to basically do anything but not a bob. The receptionist translated my instructions to the hairdresser. I walked out of the shop with, wait for it, a bub. Facepalm.
And a bob that was not even well done. At least the second shop had done a class act on the cut. This one, even I could see stray long hairs here and there right after the cut, so you can imagine after a wash. That ended up relationship with the salon.
But I still had a problem. My hair. In desperation, I tried calling the Pakistani lady, but it appears she’s changed her number. Then, I had a brainwave. There’s another old salon on the other side of our local shopping mall. I’ve never been there because it looks a tad grungy but not cheap enough for me to put up with the grunge. And I was pretty sure none of the stylists spoke English, so I didn’t want to risk the communication error.
However, my the grown-out edges of my hair was irritating me too much and I didn’t have the time to traipse across town. So I went in and I was quickly shown a seat, which is a refreshing change for the fancy salon where one is kept waiting even though I can see stylists just lounging about.
In the corner of the waiting area, a mother was pacifying a baby who clearly had a fever (she was wearing the strip to bring the fever down on her head). The lady at the reception was hovering and I figured they were family. Just as I went to get my hair shampooed, the mother started to give the kid medicine and she began howling the place down. I could hear it at the other end of the room, as I was getting my hair washed. Noone batted an eyelid.
When I came back to my seat, the mother ploked the kid down in the seat next to me and set her up with cartoons on the phone. Then she came up to me and asked me what style I wanted. Turns out she was going to be my hairdresser. She had almost no English and the receptionist mediated. I ended up having my hair cut with Mother Goose Club in the background. At points, another stylist came over and checked on the kid, but mostly it was her and the telenanny while her mother snipped two feet away. Occasionally, the kid and I snuck glanced at each other.
There was probably a time when all this would have been annoying to me. But now I appreciate it. For one, I can tune out kid noises. For another, I appreciate that there are spaces where kids can be kids and mothers can mother then, while working. When I told this story to V, he felt bad for the mom, that she had to work when her kid was sick. I agree. But in the absence of unlimited sick days – and in this case, I think it’s a family business – a tolerance for bringing kids in from proprietors and customers is refreshing.
And I got a really good haircut too. She used a straight-edged razor and did what I wanted – which was trim to perfection. I may have found a keeper.