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Seven Hills

Boston-area exploration, travel notes, crafty things, and other Somervillainy.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Hair Diaries: The Unwanted Haircut

Katie and others may be embracing the Posh Spice bob, but when I went to the hairdresser's yesterday this was the last thing I wanted.

When I told my stylist I'd like something a little different, I was thinking a few more layers around my face, at most. I should have known we were going to have a poor communication day, however, when she made a suggestion prefaced with - "you're probably not going to want to do this." She then went on to describe a deeply angled, short-at-the back cut.

Never once did she utter the "p" word, but it had to have been her inspiration. Inside I was thinking, this is the best she can come up with? I mean, we're talking about a lady who has a daughter in high school and can still pull off a tartan micro-mini with black tights and motorcycle boots. You wouldn't think she'd go near a hairstyle trend launched by a perma-tan Spice Girl. It's part of the reason I like her.

Anyway, as gently yet firmly as possible, I let her know that while I appreciated her suggestion, I really, really didn't want that haircut. And speaking of this, why is it necessary to tread so carefully with hairdressers' feelings? Sure, it's their idea, but it's your head. Do they need to take it so personally if you don't want them to express themselves on it? I understand that it might get boring to do the same haircut time after time, but we do tend to go away for many weeks before we come back and ask for it again. Aren't there lots of other styles and colors to attend to in the interim? That's where the variety should come from, in my opinion. So I told her, let's keep the length (a little past the shoulders) and do some long layers. And yes, angle it a bit towards the front, since the back grows out so quickly.

I think that's where I made my mistake. "Angle it a bit towards the front" became "angle it dramatically," and somehow through free-association, "keep the length" became "chin length." I don't know about you, but I see the shoulders as a major line of demarcation when it comes to hair, a Mason-Dixon line of coiffure aesthetics. Both can look good, but once the hair clears the shoulders, the sum total of the effect is more than the matter of a few inches, because it means the difference between the hair resting on something and the hair hanging in space. If I know my hair will be hanging in space, I will make special requests regarding the way it is cut. It always bugs me when a stylist tries to shame me about minding that it's "too short," when the fact is, it makes a difference. It's all too easy for this miscommunication to occur because they usually start cutting at the back, so you can't really see how much they're taking off until they get around to the front, by which point it's too late.

Now, I don't have anything against the classic bob, or even the Posh bob (the "Pob," I guess we're calling it). I have even asked for such a look on many occasions. But for some reason it has also been foisted upon me against my will, more than once. Why, why? Can they not see from the back how much neck they are exposing with their carefree snip-snipping? Do they feel it is their stylist duty to give some sort of definition and shape to my pin-straight, baby-fine hair, even if the only style truly suited to it is the one I have forbidden theme to create? Is the bob simply my destiny, one that all of us are powerless to resist? I don't understand.

My first, and worst, bob assault happened when I was just out of college, working as a waitress in Cambridge. I was strolling down Newbury Street one afternoon when a young woman stopped me and asked if I'd like to get a $10 haircut at Vidal Sassoon as a hair model. Money was tight, so this offer appealed to me. She flattered me, telling me I had the perfect hair for it (baby fine and pin straight, that is), and promised I could have any style I wanted. "Great," I said. "Just as long as I don't have to get a bob."

"Oh," she responded, "I wouldn't give you a bob anyway. It wouldn't look good on you."

Well guess what happened - the day I went in for my discount haircut, the students were practicing a very special style at Vidal Sassoon, the one on which the whole baby-fine, pin-straight Sassoon look was built. The classic bob! When I expressed concern, my young stylist told me she would just do the cut longer. Unfortunately, each time her terrifying teacher swept by to check on her progress, she would screech at us, "Shorter! The classic bob is much, much shorter! Up, up, right at the nape!" I gathered my courage (this lady was really scary) and piped up, "But I told her I didn't want a bob." I might as well have been Oliver Twist asking for gruel, such was her outrage that I dared express an opinion. "You are the hair model! You are here for her to practice. You are here for her to learn THE CLASSIC BOB."

At this point I tried to just leave, hair half finished, but the student begged me to stay, hissing pitiably, "I'll get in trouble!" Grrr. I grudgingly let her snip at my shorn tresses a little longer, my fury welling uncontrollably. One thing I forgot to mention here is that I had just days before been in a bicycle accident and broken a bone in my hand. I had a big cast, the break was still throbbing, and it was my right hand so I struggled to accomplish the most basic tasks. This didn't do anything to enhance my patience, and made me feel even more powerless sitting under the nylon cape with sharp scissors pointed at my head. I told the student that unless she wanted me to lose it, I needed to leave, immediately. She quickly unsnapped the back of my cape.

I hurried off to the coat room, but that horrible teacher followed me, and actually had the gall to try to chew me out for shirking my sacred duty as a hair model, standing in the doorway of the closet, shouting. But I had reached my limit with the Sassoon fascists. It might have been the pain medication talking, or maybe it was just pure hair rage, but I found myself raising my cast like a club, then whacked it soundly against the door frame, right in front of her face. It got her attention -- she stopped yelling. "She promised me I wouldn't get a bob," I said. "I'm leaving now." And I made my way past her to the door.

But before I got there, the teacher caught up with me one final time, and without a word, she handed me my ten dollars.

You can see why I might have developed an aversion to this particular hair style. As for my experience yesterday, nobody bullied or berated me, no casts were thumped, and when I expressed dismay at the completed look, the stylist did attempt to make some adjustments, though she also tried to persuade me this was exactly what I'd asked for, was in fact the same haircut I always get, at which point I started to wonder if she'd gotten me confused with another client.

She also made one other gaffe, and colored my hair a shade darker than I'd wanted. The result is an overall look that bears a lot of similarity to none other than Katie Holmes.

And perhaps here I've found my answer. Maybe my stylist isn't distracted, bob-obsessed, or anything else. Maybe she's just following higher orders. Maybe she's ... a Scientologist!



At 1/28/2008 4:10 PM, Blogger Christina said...

I laugh at the cast-thumping but feel remembered horror at some of my own hair catastrophes! This wasn't one of them, but sometime last year I was at my stylist and she talked me into getting the new thing (which was overcutting layers instead of undercutting them, whatever that means). She told another stylist she was giving one of these cuts, and they high-fived. I wondered if they were having a contest, like the ones we had at TGI Friday's about selling the most appetizers. It turned out okay, but we went back to undercutting after that.


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