03 June 2013

Longest haircut ever, part 2

(Part 1)

The two stylists continued to double-team cut the salt and pepper haired gentleman with a mustache.

"Good grief," Mom said, "Now she's doing his eyebrows."

I glanced over and shrugged. "Would you like to take my place? I'm not even sure they've registered that you want a cut since you didn't say anything when I signed us up."

"No, it's fine."

The young stylist disappeared into a back room and the middle-aged stylist finished the older man's cut.

When the young one emerged, she had a huge purse slung over her shoulder.

I turned to Mom and asked, "Is she leaving?"

"I don't know."

But then she hung her purse on a hook and walked the gentleman to the register.

There was some confusion then from the middle-aged stylist over who was next: the man sitting across from us or me.

In retrospect, I'm not sure why I was so certain, but I said, "We're next," gesturing to my mom and I.

The stylist said, "I'm usually good at remembering but you arrived pretty close to the same time."

"We're on the list," I said with finality. And it was true. There were no names above mine. When stylists tell me to go for a walk, I do not trust them to remember the order. I've been burned before.

There was nothing the guy could really say to that. Eventually he got up and left. Sorry, dude, but trust me, I did you a huge favor.

The over 40 stylist called me back but then the younger stylist came up to have a quiet confab. "I'd rather cut her hair if that's OK. I'm more comfortable with curls." She assured me that Mary, the older stylist, would check her cut and make sure it was good.

Foolishly I said it was fine.

The young stylist went back to checking out the older guy while Mary swept hair out of the way. She picked up a comb from the floor and set it on the young one's counter.

Mary called my Mom back and had her sit in the chair next to me. "Do you mind if I wash my hands?" Mary asked.

"Not at all," Mom replied.

Mary was back in a minute and began the usual stylist banter to find out what to do.

The young stylist couldn't get his card to go through. Mary explained they had a new system and it'd been acting up all day.

"Does anyone have a plastic bag?" the young one kept inquiring. Something about putting a credit card in a plastic bag and then swiping it to get it to register.

Another five minutes went buy and he finally ended up paying in cash. Mom told me later he pulled out wads of cash. I could only guess he wanted reward miles or something from his card.

After he paid, he asked the young stylist, "What's your name?"

"Billie Jean. Would you like my card?"

"Yes, please."

She bounded over to her counter and grabbed one for him.

At last it was my fucking turn.

Billie Jean put a cape around me and said, "I can't stand clutter." She grabbed the floor comb off her counter and dumped it in a jar of Barbisol which made me feel better.

Then with a sweep of her hand, she brushed a ton of hair off her counter (how had it even gotten there?) and then started touching mine which made me feel worse.

All I really wanted was a trim that took an inch off but I didn't phrase it that way because the last time I had, I got yelled at by a stylist, "More than half an inch isn't a trim, it's a cut! You can't call it a trim!"

I explained as I usually did which usually turned out fine.

Any hopes I'd had that she was more familiar with cutting curly hair were lost when she started combing it out and spraying it with water.

"I'm a perfectionist," Billie Jean said, "I like to get the back line perfect."

She started running a comb down my neck and making tentative snips. "Let me know if this bothers you."

I thought, OK, but didn't say anything. Over and over the comb ran down my neck just shy of too hard.

Mom and Mary were chatting next to us.

I guess they were talking about weird things kids do because my Mom told a story about my brother running his toes through her perm from the backseat when we were on a long drive.

Billie Jean said, "I used to chew my father's eyebrows."

Mom and I both let out a startled laugh. Ew!

As the conversation continued, I realized I'd misheard and she'd said "curl" or "twirl" rather than "chew" but it still seemed odd.

She was still cutting the base line along the back of my neck. Oh my god, this is going to take forever at this rate.

Then Billie Jean said, "You know, it's like when kids put their hands up your sleeves."

Mom and Mary both said No, they hadn't heard of anyone doing that. I certainly hadn't but I don't have kids, so what do I know? She tried to explain further but didn't make any headway with Mom or Mary.

"I guess I'm just weird. Weird is in now, right?"

"Weird is the new skinny," Mary said encouragingly.

"Just when I think I'm weird," Mom said, "there's always someone else." Weirder was the unspoken end of her sentence.

Billie Jean moved to cutting the right side of my hair and finally let me put my head back up.

Mary finished Mom's cut, blew her hair dry, and took her to the register. Mom paid and wondered off to find Dad.

"How's this coming along?" Mary asked, ruffling her fingers through my hair.

"I haven't done the left side yet."

"OK. How far are you taking these layers up?" Then to me, "Did you want the back stacked?"

Then there was a confusing conversation about stacked and layers. Finally I said, "I just want to take some of the weight off my curls with the layers."

"OK," Mary said, running her fingers through the back of my hair. "Don't cut it any shorter than this," she instructed.

Billie Jean continued oh so deliberately trimming my hair on the right side.

By now, I'd been in the chair for about 40 minutes. Usually it takes me 10-15 minutes to get a haircut.

Can we just finish this? started running through my head as my patience wore thin, but I didn't say anything.

When Billie Jean finally moved over to the left side, Mary came up with her scissors and went to town recutting the right side.

It was a bizarre flurry of cutting on either side. Though the cape on my neck was loose, I still felt trapped by it and my claustrophobia was starting to kick in.

With two people cutting my hair at once, I started to think about how horrible wrong things could so easily go.

It will be cooler [temperature-wise] and it will grow back, I kept reassuring myself.

When Mary finished with the right side, she moved around to do the left.

As Billie Jean moved out of the way, she said, "Oh my God, look at your neck!"

I did and it was covered with red streaks.

"Does that hurt or itch?" she asked in alarm.

"No," I said. It really didn't look good though.

"She's allergic to her own cut hair," Mary said. "My nephew has that."

Billie Jean grabbed the shaving-style brush from her counter and cleaned off my neck.

It sounded strange, an allergy to your own hair but only when it's cut and then touches your skin. I'd never noticed this before, but I'd never had a hair cut that took this long. Whatever caused it, it subsided after she brushed off my neck.

Billie Jean moved over to the right and pulled up a section of hair that was clearly from two different layers and asked if Mary had done that side already. She wanted to trim that line, but Mary said, "Yes, I did that side. Look, I know you want to help, but just let me do this."

Mary's exasperation made me feel better because it expressed my own. Billie Jean stepped aside and Mary took over my haircut.

She went a little too short on the front since I hadn't talked to her about it but I just wanted it to be done. I still felt imprisoned by the cape and time was ticking by. The mall was going to close soon and my parents were still killing time waiting for me.

Mary finished up and asked confidentially, "Is that too short?"

"No, it's fine. It's hard to tell until I can see the curls." They'd fairly straightened it through the course of the cut.

Billie Jean returned to ring me up. "You have the patience of a saint, really," she said. "I'm only going to charge you for a child's cut because it took so long."

Ultimately it took 50-55 minutes for what usually takes 10-15.

The verdict? It's possible to go awry cutting curly hair as though it's straight. It's a messy array of oddly chopped curls and flung out sections. I think it will grow into what I wanted.

Next time I need a cut, I will go back to the strip mall where they may be surly at times, but they're fast.

In the meantime, Mom's rendition of this experience to her sister and her best friend made them each laugh when they really needed it. Yay for that!


A year ago on TTaT: Wild Cats

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