Sunday, August 26, 2007

My Chinese Haircut

I’ve noticed that Chinese people have beautiful dark, straight, lustrously shiny hair. I’ve also noticed those who waive off this genetic gift in favor of merciless bleaching which leaves dark hair a strange reddish orange color. Perms are quite popular as well. Actually, nothing is left out in the quest to alter their hair’s natural color, texture and volume. I guess the grass is always greener on the other side.

Anyway, when you do as much people watching as I do, you can’t help but notice the extreme hair people are sporting here. Shaggy is big, lots of jagged layers, long spiky cuts for the men, with elaborate sideburns. Depending on how young and punky you are, you might rock a bizarre sort of clown inspired mullet. I saw a young woman on the subway who had short permed, orange bleached hair framing her face and then a fine layer of long hair to her shoulder blades in the back. I might not have chosen that particular look, but she was owning it, and it did look pretty cool with her skinny jeans and baggy asymmetrical top.

I’ve been needing a haircut myself, and I’ve been dutifully admiring the well coiffed Chinese all around me. I decided to go for one of these crazy Chinese haircuts with the bangs that start well back at the crown of the head. I knew it would be cooler and would relieve me of a great deal of hair, but I planned to keep the long layers in the back. I imagine a refined and feminine mullet. I practiced the mandarin phrase for haircut, long and short and ventured in to a salon near our apartment.

I made myself understood and chose two pictures out of a haircutting book filled with elaborate creations. I was then whisked away to the wash basins where you recline on a bed with a sink attached. I was treated to the most luxurious hair washing/massage I have ever received. Never has my scalp been so clean or so pampered. I think I’ll have to go back again just for a wash and blow dry.

Thirty minutes later I was ushered to the chair where I politely but firmly declined offers of a preliminary bleach and perm, and he began to cut. Immediately, I realized that my wishes for long layers in back had gone unheeded. Ah well, its only hair, and it always grows back.

I couldn’t help but think of that scene in “Roman Holiday” where Audrey Hepburn has her haircut by that fidgety Italian barber and is transformed from a schoolgirl into a beautiful and mysterious ingénue. My Chinese haircut may not have turned me into a drop dead gorgeous Chinese woman, but it did make me feel a little more at home in this crazy city. The resulting cut is very easy to manage, and it still touches my shoulders, and can be pulled into a ponytail, so it can’t be that short.

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