Okay, so it’s not really Hallowe’en but I went to the hairdresser’s today and that’s just as scary in China (right, Mary?). I was confident, though, because I was in Jiaxing and my hairdresser, Abo, knows a thing or two about cutting hair. The only thing I am really really sorry about is that I checked my cell phone (with the camera) in my backpack in the coat room.
My hairdresser’s shop is called Arachne. I thought about that as I was getting shampooed and massaged (more of a pounding, really, but boy it felt good!). Did the shop owner know that Arachne was an ancient Greek weaver who challenged Athena to best her, won the challenge but angered Athena who turned her into a spider, to weave evermore? Would he know that the word arachnid stems from this Greek myth? Did he know anything at all about the spider meaning? I looked around. Possibly he did. There are no spiders hanging about but the ceiling motif and design on the window seem to be a kind of web-like. If I overlook the inexplicable interlocking chains hanging from the ceiling, I can see that the wall design is also sort of a criss-cross affair. Would it ever be possible for me to broach this topic with my hairdresser? No, no is both the short and long answer.
The place is giant. From the outside, it looks incredibly average in size and design, but inside, it’s huge–at least 6 times bigger than the place I go to in BC. There are 16 cutting stations, 10 sinks, at least 16 chairs where hair is washed (which is not the same as the sink area), another dozen chairs where customers get their hair coloured and permed and staff members loiter while they wait for a job to arise. The stylists are all male and all of them are fashionistas and hair freaks–they favour a more boufant look and change their hair colour frequently, although I have noted that mahogany seems to be a favourite. Really, a poor choice for an Asian, I think. It just doesn’t work that well with their skin tone. (Don’t be alarmed, Mary. Your colour was more cherry than mahogany). But, whatever, he’s rocking it.
As I was having my hair shampooed, Abo appeared behind me. I saw him only briefly and noticed that he had some sort of peculiar hat on his head, sort of like one of those funny phony-hair hats. Turns out it was really his own hair with a towel wrapped around his face. He had seriously bleached it, to the point that it had turned yellow and was breaking off in chunks in his fingers. He keeps all the side and back hair really short and grows the top out, about 8 inches in length, and then pulls it back, puffs it up and ties the ends with an elastic. It was this long piece that he had dyed and which was now disintegrating in his hands. After he cut my hair and sent me back to be coloured, he decided that he needed to condition his own hair, he did so, then wrapped his head in cellophane, marking the beginning of the strange visuals that began to appear around me.
Is this a big thing at home? I sat between two women who were undergoing the bride of Frankenstein perm treatment. First, set the hair in rollers. Next, plug the rollers into a machine, one plug to each roller. Attach foam thingies to prevent hot roller from touching head. Insert long colourful plastic double-chopstick-like stick things, to further prevent roller from touching head maybe? Why oh why didn’t I have my camera? Really, it was amazing, especially the part where the young apprentice gave himself a shock pulling the plugs off the rollers.
My colourist arrived to apply the dye to my hair. He’s already got it mixed. He knows me by now, knows my colour, knows that the two spots behind my ears need extra time to take the dye, so he starts there and works his way around my head. When he’s finished, I get the Saran Wrap wrap and sit back to enjoy the scene.
There’s a grandmother who has accompanied her daughter so that she can babysit while daughter gets her hair done. She spots me and holds the baby up so I can admire her. I do but the child is oblivious. Abo comes back and shows me more of his hair in his hands; the colourist laughs. Abo laughs. He understands that it is only hair and as we know, hair grows back from even the worst cut or colour (right, Mary? Gawd, do we know this!) A client who has had her hair blown and styled takes a seat in the colour section to have just the top of her head re-coloured: it didn’t take so it’s more of the same. I am loving this whole scene when my colourist indicates that a junior is going to take over my shampoo. I give cause for laughter when I don’t immediately stand and head to the sinks. They think I know what they are saying! Hey guys, I am merely faking it. Give me a bit more body language and I’ll be with you.
In Abo’s chair, I commiserate with him and his hair problem, miming that he will have to cut. He agrees and by spreading his fingers, indicates the 8″ will be reduced to about an inch and a half. He has stopped the cut he is giving his current customer–he is incredibly busy, dealing with as many as 6-8 customers at a time–in order to blow dry my hair. This is the first I see of my new colour and guess what? It’s mahogany! Apparently not the best for we Caucasian types, either. But, hey, it’s only hair, right? I head to the front to pay but I don’t have enough, am short about Y20. Abo takes pity on me and let’s me keep the two wrinkled up 5’s that he must think are the only bills between me and starvation. Of all days! Really? This trip was deserving of a fat tip! This is China!