I had originally intended to write a bit about my life in France since I moved back to get married in October, to cover the ups and downs of the past 11 months. However, after my trip to the hairdresser today, the recap will have to wait until next time.
After contemplating a haircut for some weeks, I finally got motivated to go last week. Since it was my first trip to the coiffeur in France, I decided to research the topic in advance...polling my French friends about the necessary vocabulary to get the cut I wanted, and the appropriate protocol (with or without appointment, places to go, tipping). Finally feeling prepared, last Thursday I decided to go to a salon at la Defense after my morning class. I walked up to the counter feeling confident and looking forward to walking out with lighter, healthier hair. But as usual, things could never be that simple in France and I ended up walking out 2 minutes later with the same old long, unhappy, unhealthy hair. What I thought was a reasonable price for a wash, cut and dry was in fact the cost for short hair and as my hair was long (having not been cut for a year), it was going to cost me 10 euros more than expected to be able to walk out with washed and cut, but not dried hair. I don't even want to mention the price should I have decided to have my haired dried as well...
So, feeling dejected, I resigned myself to the inevitability that I would have to wait until my trip to Ohio in December to get my hair cut. I could not agree to pay those prices and could not tolerate the thought of paying more just because my hair was longer. I also could not imagine getting my haircut in one of the scary little mom-and-pop "salons" (and I use the word VERY loosely) generally equipped with poor equipment and questionable hairdressers, with not a client in sight. Alas, today I was standing in the elevator in one of the businesses where I teach and I noticed the elevator had a mirror. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to check my hair and make-up after my dash through the metro. However, what I saw was painful: a long, scraggly, unkempt mess atop my head, obviously way past the need for a cut. I realized the haircut was unavoidable; there was no way I could continue like this until December. And so I resolved to make another attempt after my classes today. As I still could not imagine paying an obscene amount of money, I decided to risk it in one of the little "salons" in the KB. The female version of the one Lionel uses (at least they have the same name followed by either "homme" or "femme" respectively, therefore I imagine they are run by the same people). His hair had not yet been mutilated, so I thought it would be safe.
I set off with resolve after finishing my last lesson, excited to take care of my unruly mop. And then I walked in...I was greeted by stares from the 4 clients (4 clients!) and 2 hairdressers. I stood awkwardly in the middle of the room waiting to be addressed to confirm that it would indeed be possible for them to fit me in without an appointment. Finally after nearly 5 minutes of discomfort, rude glares and being ignored, one of the women asked me if they could help. I stated I was there for a haircut and they told me to sit down. No questions, no quote for the length of the wait, nothing. I started to read, but was quickly distracted by the interesting parade of people coming in and out of the "salon," all of whom seemed to be friends of the hairdressers and there just to say bonjour, or to chat, or to tweeze their eyebrows or fix their hair using the "salon" as their own personal beauty parlor. Odd, I thought, but I was there and I was not leaving without a cut. I gave up reading and began to study the room. Nothing like any salon I had ever seen in the US. Desk chairs instead of the fun pump chairs normally found in a hair salon. Almost no hair products at all - a bottle of shampoo, a can of hair spray and a bottle of some sort of gel. Almost no hair care tools - a blow dryer, a few round brushes, a pair of scissors and a few combs. I started to worry. And then my turn came. While my hair was being washed (but not conditioned) I overheard the conversation the hairdressers were having with their friends. Complementing each other on their mastery of the Arab language, speaking sometimes in French, sometimes in Arabic, laughing a lot and looking at me oddly. I started feeling very uncomfortable because at this point I was the only real client in the place. But it was started and I couldn't go back.
They finally asked what I wanted to have done and I pulled out all that hair vocabulary I had so diligently researched and tried to explain what I wanted. Then they heard my accent...the conversation went a little like this (in French of course)...
Hairdresser: Oh, you're not parisian are you?
Me: Oh, no. *giggle*
HD: Where are you from?
Me: I'm American.
HD: OH! WOW! An American!!!! How did you hear about us?
Me: I live around the corner and my husband gets his haircut next door.
HD: Wow, I can't believe it's an American! You know, I'm going to America in September!
Me: Oh really. Where?
HD: Miami and New York, to go shopping.
Me: Oh, that sounds nice.
HD: (turning to her friends, colleague and the client who just walked in) Hey girls, you're never going to believe this! She's American! She's an AMERICAN!!!
Me: *fake smile while nodding head and cringing*
The rest of the visit consisted of me feeling uncomfortable, them cutting my hair shorter than I wanted, with shorter layers than I wanted while they kept talking in Arabic and then saying in French, oh, let's ask the American! And they would never ask me anything. The hair dresser then made an attempt at drying and styling my hair with just a blow dryer and a round brush, something which has not worked since I was in high school. However, I must give her credit...she did a better job than I ever would have thought, but it took her half an hour to complete the drying job. All the while she kept commenting to herself that I had soooo much hair, and she had really screwed herself by trying to style my hair like this and how much different sections of my hair were annoying her because they wouldn't do what she wanted despite numerous tries. I already knew that! Should have just asked me! Why do you think I use a straightner set to 450 degrees...it's the only thing that works! However, I am happy. My hair is cut, and once I take a straightner to it, I'm sure it will look fine. It may be a little shorter than I wanted, but that just means I can wait a little longer before attempting my next foray into les coiffeurs. And on the bright side, I am now the star of the KB, France...that American girl!
And how much did this set me back you might ask? Still a whopping 25 euros because of my long hair...