Friday, August 25, 2006

Hair virgin

(Inspired by this post. I love Afghans!)

Remember an easier time? When you were 7 and went to the salon with your mother. Threw a temper tantrum and demanded the hair that fell all the way down your back to your once diminutive hips be cut off? Then your mother, embarrassed by your sullen pout-now-full-blown-strop acquiesced. The tears would dry up immediately the snot in your nose would be wiped away and you would clamber up in to that big, plush chair meant for the grown-ups. Returning the smiles of the older women getting the eyebrows and nails done (silently thanking the Lord that their own children were better behaved). The voluminous dark blue synthetic cape would swish around you, enveloping you and chaffing your chin with its velcro strap. The large, buxom woman called Saritha or Kamini who would come up behind you with comb, secret plastic spray bottle in hand (that to this day I’m sure contains dishwashing liquid) and then silently turn and look at your Mother, eyebrows raised.

‘Not too much.’ The defeated woman would say.

‘What style?’

‘Usual. U-cut.’

And that was that. Fringe (or bangs as they are now called) optional. No layers. No high lights. Nothing. Just a U cut. Or a boy-cut. Or the much sought after bob. But for as long as I can remember, the U-cut was the gold standard in hair styling. And it only cost you 60 bucks (this was pre-Lakme Madras of the 90s by the way. Even Ambuli charges more these days.)

So why has it all become so complicated? A trip to the salon is now more nerve-wracking than an appointment with your gynaecologist. My first brush with the salon-elite came when I was in Bombay and realised that I hadn’t had my hair cut in over a year and a half (I can get that way sometimes). Colleagues insisted I go to a tony salon in South Bombay. So I called up their salon to book an appointment.

‘Hi! I’d like to book an appointment to have my hair cut please.’

‘Would you like to book with a Style Director?’


‘Our next available appointment is December 15th’

‘That’s over a month and a half away.’


‘How much will this cost?’

‘Rs. 2500 for a wash and cut. And extra for colouring’
2500? And In December? Was the style director going to grow new hair and then transplant it to my head?

‘Ok what’s the cheapest and quickest appointment I can get?’

‘A trainee will be available day after tomorrow for 400’ was the sniffy reply.

So two days later at the appointed time I found myself in the waiting room of the salon. I think they’d marked ‘cheapskate’ next to my name because I didn’t get the warm welcome and complimentary tea/coffee/overpriced mountain-water-that’s-from-the-tap-outside like everyone else did.

The trainee, a multi-pierced youth, with hair overstyled to look like she’d just gotten out of bed appeared, dressed in clothes that were artfully shredded to look like she’d thrown them to a pack of rabid dogs. I felt about a hundred years old. With each question she asked me I added a year to that number.

‘So what do you have in mind?’

‘I’d like a hair cut.’

‘Right. What kind?’

‘I don’t know. What do you think?’

She critically studied my hair, tossing it about, weighing it, judging it (and not in a good way) before telling me that it was too heavy and had split ends and that the current style made me look old. She said razor cuts and a side parting and Magnolia highlights would make me look 25. I was 23 at the time.

So I agreed to the cuts and side parting, vetoed all chemicals and sat down in the once coveted seat that now resembled The Chair.

I have to admit. I came out looking pretty good that day. Of course, all of you who have every had your hair styled know that it only lasts for a day and after a good nights sleep you wake up looking like the trainee. Which trust me, we all can not carry off.

Since then, my foray in to the world of fancy hair styles has progressed with tiny baby steps. I can now confidently ask for what I want. ‘How about Reese Witherspoon’s cut from Sweet Home Alabama?’ ‘Do you think Sarah Jessica Parker’s look from Season 4 episodes 3-6 would look good on me?’ ‘I’d love a Rachel’. Of course all requests are turned down and I go back to the same layers and side parting. The U-cut of the noughties.

My last hair cut was with a Cypriot called Harry at Toni & Guy. Harry was wonderful. He was in awe of my English “Where you go for classes heh?” and said my hair was in great condition. But when he found out I used no products though, all respect and awe went down with my split ends.

“What? No spray? No holder? No fixer?”

“I use conditioner” I volunteered hopefully.

After much mumbling under his breath (no doubt calling upon the Greek god of fortuitous hair) he palmed off a bag of styling products that cost twice as much as my hair cut and taught me how to use them. Of course when I went home and tried them out it was a complete disaster. The sea salt holding spray got in to my eyes and nearly blinded me. The banana flavoured volumiser was viscous and sticky and reminded me of certain scenes from There’s Something about Mary and the strange hair serum made my semi-living hair go in to a deep coma. All three products now rest in peace at the bottom of the bathroom cabinet.

I realise that in a world of £1000 hair cuts, Zen Masters who feel the chi of your hair before styling it (I wonder if it involves bowing repeatedly and apologising for the carnage) and extensions and weaves I’m very much a hair virgin. I’m all for letting my stylist go to first base with my hair but no more. I’m just old fashioned that way. Give me Saritha and U-cuts any day.


rads said...

hahahah, girl, you have a way with words, and you know that don't you ;-))

Haircuts are a nightmare waiting to leash on us souls. Mine also had a similar treatment just a week ago, you think of Rachel and you come back looking like Rachels' evil twin dragged in by the cat!

neha vish said...

Rotfl! I feel for you!

I just liked it when my dad's barber without a second thought just snipped through my hair. It was done in 15 minutes - all the while yapping about my homework and school.

sunshine said...

fun to read!!! i went to my dads barber too!!
and now.. unless i figure out thoe beauty products.. every day is a bad hair day!

shub said...

whoa whoa whoa!! hold it!!!! all said and done, SIXTY bucks when you were a kid? NOOOO WAYYYY!!!!!!!
I recall it being 30 bucks or thereabouts, thasssit!! seriously!!!

shub said...

okie, I went to my dad's barber too...but even at the beauty parlour, i recall not more than 30 bucks!

Shyam said...

Hey, you forgot the "step cut" - the hepper, more choppily layered cousin of the "U-cut"! :) I alternated between the two for literally years!

And you went to Toni & Guy??????? yikes! I just about look in there because I know they cant charge me for that :)

Falstaff said...

Ah, haircuts. Such misery. At the risk of being accused of self promotion, did you ever read my post on them:

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

rads - many thanks :) I've just stopped asking. They never listen anyway.

Neha - :( Please feel lots. And my dad never took me to his saloon. It was Kanya all the way.

Sunshine - What;s this with everyone and their dad's barber?

Shub - Ok now don;t run it in that I've been ripped off all my life.

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

Shyam - Step cut! The akka of layers!

Ok now I demand everyone stops making me feel bad about how much I've spent on hair cuts., This has got to stop.

Falstaff - :D I loved it! Never thought men had such similar problems though. Should quiz the sherpa.

ggop said...

I always found the term "product" in "What kind of products do you use?" very pretentious. Only the guys from Queer Eye can say that with panache :-)

Swathi said...

brought a big smile on my face while nodding with u in agreement.

my hair is the one thing 'am proud of - n all i use is gud ole henna.

TomCruiseChellum said...

The currency converter in Google says 1 British Pound = INR 88.00083
There fore BP 1000 =INR 88000.83
In pre 1957 (Yes I am an old man) annas @ 16 annas to a rupee, that is a sackfull of coins (1,408,013 and change)
On my first visit to the local barber in Cochin I paid 5 annas.
So you could end up paying 281,602 times more for a hair cut today in London than what I paid way back in Cochin!!!!!
Holy Mother
(It is another thing that my neighbourhood friendly barber charges only Rs 35 in Chennai. My nephew who used to get it done for Rs 20 in Madurai and Rs 25 in Coimbatore finds Chennai rather expensive)
Now let me not take you to the pre barber days when the hair cut came ex gratis.

visithra said...

hehehee oh man - thats funny - actually hair stylists scare me - theyre so good at manipulating u into a bad cut n too many products!

Filmiholic said...

I go to a chichi place, that was once filmed in "Desperately Seeking Susan", because I like the woman I go to and it's cheaper than Manhattan, but wow, you should the attitude and eshtyle of some of the girls.

They have a dress-up party and competition the Halloween weekend, which I didn't know until last year, and as I drove up to the valet (yes, a valet parking service!) I passed a girl in see-thru stripper platform shoes and a tight, short nurse uniform.

I reasoned that she was a girl from some 'gentleman's club' that must have opened up nearby and she was just having a ciggie outside before getting her hair done.

Yes, you got it, she was one of the stylists' assistants, dressed for the competition.

Sue said...

And I read this just as I come home from a haircut at Toni & Guy. Am still in the good place, not having had my good night's sleep yet. Lovely post! Loved every line of it.

Kamla said...

Why don't you just ask them to trim and give you a layered cut and look? It is a step above U cut :-)

Make sure to tell them that you give yourself a nice hot oil treatment that nourishes your hair and keeps it healthy(thenga yenna malish. That will stop the Cypriot who evokes Greek God names (do they really?) in his tracks? :-)


WA said...

First the Afghan and now this, there is no getting away from all this salon talk. After being told by lovely colleagues that my hair can't be a wig as its in such a bad state, I suppose I better make an appt at the local hairdressers quick :(

Szerelem said...

you know everytime i decide on some style tvat would probably look nice on me its vetoed by the hairdresser. So i come back with a haircut that looks great for one day and then turns into a nightmare, so i end up with a pony in any case. What was the point of the fancy cut??!!
i blame the rachel...before that it was a simple u cut, now its all layers and razors and steps...sheesh!

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

Ggop What would we call them then? (Going to the mirror to practice Product with panache)

Swathi - All hail natural hair care err... products?

TCC - You should send your nephew here for a haircut next time :P

Visithra - They're minions of the devil I tell you.

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

Filmi :) Haha! Now was the competition ever open to clientele?

Sue How's the new do holding up?

Kamla - I figure that for the kind of money I'm shelling out I should look a little different when I leave the parlour. Also with regards to the Greek Oaths - for all I know he could have been singing the theme songs from Fame. My hair was covering my ears :)
(Not in a hibbit-esque fashion)

WA - It's all the Afghan's fault.

Szerelem - I know what you mean! I have a handy butterfly clip that holds my hair (when it's long) in place and obliterates any style.

anjali said...

Thank god someone wrote about this!! Hilarious post.

Last time, I even took a drawing of the hairstyle I wanted (i won't go into the details of how I shadowed a girl with that hairstyle to make that drawing:)..) and still didn't get what I wanted. My gay Belgo-Thai hair stylist will give me the cut HE wants all the while making me believe that that's what I had asked for.

Hair cuts in London are just horrendously expensive. A friend of mine told me she paid updwards of 45 pounds!! I go to a pretty expensive salon in Brussels and it only costs me 55 Euros.

Nilu said...

wait -- athu yen nee enna ezhuthinalum enakku puriya ve mattenguthu? orre inglippes ppa..

Nilu-2 said...

wait -- athu yen nee enna ezhuthinalum enakku puriya ve mattenguthu? orre inglippes ppa..

or just STFU.

The Inquisitive Akka said...

I identify with you although I have alternated only between the step and the U:) I still don't have the guts to leave my hair (although my hair's pretty short)open cos I look like Badrkali when I do that :( I hope I learn some day! Real funny post!!

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

There's a lot to be said for my aerodynamic, low-maintenance style. I feel vindicated!


Jay said...

After years of suffering under the hands of hairstylists from hell, I have finally found an angel - one who doesn't make me purchase loads of haircare products.

Pre-angel, I would give myself a day or two to 'condition' my hair before the appointment; just to make my hair worthy enough for the hairstylist.

Thank fully, not anymore! :-)

Ravages said...

it all very simple for me. I go ask barber uncle "unclu uncle please do haircut for me" he take big scissor and go snip snip snip. in 20 minute my hair go from medusa's head to moderately curly

noon said...

I realised after reading your post that I never had my hair cut at a salon while I was in Madras. One of those pavam types. My sister used to trim an inch at best at home. Had it nearly knee length then and it was a no-no to get it, aunts,friends everyone would pounce on me if I told them about wanting to get it fine day after finishing college I went to a parlor and asked the woman to cut of the stylists there, an older woman again sounding like my mom said - are you sure you want to do this...I mean, look at your hair...I have been trying to grow it and it won't! And I said, yes, I surely want to get it cut...She said I can't watch this happen and literally went out for a bit...eventually she became my hair stylist and I went to her for the transformation from knee length to hip to waist to ear length! Eventually I moved but I still remember her fondly. She was a wealthy woman from Dubai who had moved to that town with her husband to treat her daughter who had cancer. She had no airs about her and was so matter of fact about everything.

Nilu-2 said...


The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

Anjali - You drew a picture of the haircut you wanted? Full marks for sincerity! I won't try that. The results will be disastrous.

Nilu - Pliss translate this into inglipess for me first :P

Nilu-2 STFU yenakka? or for namesake-a? And pliss no kundumba sandai on my blog :P

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

Akka - First you lose your taali and now you want to leave your hair open? Indha kaalathu maadern girls... shocking!

J.A.P So is your current coiffure out of choice or... ;)

Jay - Don't you just hate it when they make you feel bad about your hair?

Ravages - Onga Barber uncle peyaru Unclu-va? :P Maybe I could book an appt with him next time I'm in town!

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

Noon - :) I went from waist length to a boy cut in about 2 years. It's one of those things you shouldn't do over night! My sister once cut my Mom's hair. You know how they're supposed to cut below the comb after you run it down to the right length? My sis cut above the comb! I never booked an appt with her.

Nilu-2 ???

noon said...

You're asking me about Nilu-2? Noon not Nilu too! :)

Chenthil said...

Ambuli has moved to the adjacent building, with a little more space and same old magazines. They charge Rs. 80.00 for a simple haircut, I take my daughter there. So when she blogs (or whatever they will do in another 20 years), she too will be talking about "My dad's barber".

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

Noon - Aiyyo no! "Nilu 2???" was
adressed to Nilu 2 not you!

Chenthil - I wonder if my Dad still goes to Ambuli. Toss up between Ambuli and Ravages barber the next time I'm in town. Unless his barber is Mr Ambuli :)

ammani said...

Hilarious post, sf!

Indha inglees theriyaada aalunga thondaravu thaangalai, sf. Konjam watchman-ai koopdu.

Nilu said...


as you may be aware, ennoda irukkura padai kaasu panam kuduthu sethathu illa, thaana vaanthi yeduthu sentha koottam ...yaralum asaikka mudiyathu..jakkarthai

Shyam said...

Shoof, you need to post more often, seeing as you're happily job-free! :)

Anand said...

Any change is fundamentally destructive?

Nilu-2 said...

As Nilu says :STFU

Anonymous said...

fucking bitch... such an egg is it? you suck my d**f first

?! said...

Aavaaram poovu aarezhu naala/ nee pogum paathaiyil poothirukku/ un nunimuukku enamma verthirukku...

Errr. Saritha. Random memory.

: )

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Siri said...

I wz the mommy cuts my hair kinda kid and now I am the mommy cuts my hair kinda grown up hehehe....
I was also always told that the secret bottle of spray had only water in it but it used to make my hair feel heavenly when I got a rare hair cut from a "Saritha" :)
Grt post!

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