(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.
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.