Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Split ends and searching for 'the one'

I've always been a little envious when I hear friends mention their wonderful, long-term hairdressers. The one who really understands their hair. The one who knows how to make their hair the perfect colour. The one who cuts the layers just right. The one who will squeeze them in for an appointment at only a moment's notice.

I've never had that kind of relationship with a hairdresser. I've been looking for 'the one' my whole adult life.

It's been somewhat of a half-arsed search, though.

When it comes to hair, I'm low-maintenance. Actually, I'm pretty lazy with my hair. I have no desire to spend half an hour, every morning, trying to tame this beast with a blow dryer or hair straightener. I can't even blame this on the kids because I've always been this way, although during my working days, I probably spent a little more time on my hair in the mornings. These days, it mostly just gets pulled back into a ponytail. Especially during the summer when my friend, humidity, pays a lengthy visit. Sydney summers are not kind to my hair. Wavy, frizzy hair can get very 'boofy' and mine is no exception. A lot of hairdressers cut the layers wrong, and this only adds to the natural bouffant bird's nest that is my hair.

Exhibit A - tamed and flattened
by a hair straightener, but
the frizz is still there.
The consequence of spending minimal time dealing with my hair is that after a while, it starts to look rather ratty. Split ends evolve into entire family tree branches, all from a single strand of hair. It's not for the faint-hearted.

This means I delay going for a hair-cut, highlights, treatment, or whatever it is that people have done to their hair, because I'm usually quite embarassed about my neglected, crowning... well, not glory. A shame, because there's nothing I love more than a good old scalp massage, and what better way than to have someone else wash your hair?

The comments I've had from some hairdressers have reinforced my reluctance. I will never set foot in so-called trendy salons again after getting grilled by a hairdresser in one such establishment, when I lived in Melbourne:
"So, what shampoo are you using?" "...Dove?" (a look of disdain flickering across her face)
"What? You bought that in a supermarket? Don't you know that supermarkets sell the worst shampoos for your hair?"
"Feel it." (rubbing a lock of my hair between her fingers) "Can't you feel that coating over your hair, and how disgusting it feels? That's what cheap shampoos do. They coat your hair with petroleum. You shouldn't be putting that in your hair."

Another thing which doesn't endear me to a hairdresser is when they begin to slag off on whoever it was who'd last cut my hair. "I don't know what that stylist was thinking. I mean, look at the way those layers are hanging!" (In other words, "You hair looks shit, love, therefore so do you.")

Nope, there aren't many hairdressers out there that I've felt the love from. On the rare occasion that I've decided someone was okay, you can bet by the time I've made my next appointment - six months later - they've moved on to another salon.

Socially, I'm picky. When I go to get my hair cut, it's me time. Especially since having kids. I don't want to be pulled into silly conversations. Honestly? Some of the happiest haircuts I've had have been when the hairdresser didn't speak much English. I don't want to talk about myself, and I don't want to answer a million questions. I don't want to hear about so-and-so's cousin's wedding plans, either. I just want to sit in my own bubble of thoughts - perhaps with a magazine - and enjoy having my hair played with. Mean-spirited? Perhaps. Shyness? A bit of that, too.

Another part of the problem is that I've moved around a fair bit over the years. Not just different parts of town, but different cities. Different countries. Makes it a little difficult to form an attachment to someone who cuts your hair.

Which brings me to the here and now. Moving to L.A. has meant I need to start looking for a decent salon again.

My first effort was last August. I googled salons in my area, picked one at random, and looked at their website. The prices were reasonable, so I rang to make an appointment. I was told that they don't take appointments, and to just walk in. That should have sent alarm bells ringing, but no.

Happy to be leaving the kids with J for a few hours, I hopped on a bus and arrived at the salon. As the hairdresser showed me to my seat, I noted her heavily broken Armenian-English. Good, I thought. I can get on with some reading. That was when I saw the chair I was to sit in. It was covered in hair. Other people's hair. Ew.

The hairdresser seemed oblivious to this, and I was left with no choice but to brush the hair off with my own hands. As she began to do her thing with my hair, I glanced around and noticed the salon was filthy. Hair everywhere. Although the end result was a decent haircut and highlights? I vowed right then never to return.

A few days ago, with no plans for the day and all the bills paid, I realised my hair was looking pretty pathetic, and in need of some salon-loving. Back to the  google drawing-board. I found another salon in the local monster-mall, only a short drive away, so bit the bullet.

And guess what? I had a good experience. The salon, rather than blasting out the latest top of the charts pop music (which usually makes me want to bang my head on the nearest wall), played music that J and I listen to at home. Songs I actually knew, by the XX. The Strokes. Depeche Mode. Moloko.  Bonus points right there.

The hairdresser was friendly and asked me questions, but wasn't pushy. She complimented me on how soft my hair felt and wanted to know what shampoo I'd been using! (supermarket-bought, by the way) She was chatty at times, but also gave me lengthy periods of silence to sit in my own thoughts. A good balance. On more than one occasion, she told me how cute I am. I think it was my accent.

At the end, she hugged me. I'm not a hugger and reserve this sort of interaction for only my nearest and dearest - so I wasn't expecting this... awkward! Is it the American way for hairdressers to hug? When I later told J, his response was that I must have given a very good tip. However, the hug was before I paid. She was sweet, so I won't hold the hug against her.

My hair? Currently looks shiny, is minus mousy-coloured roots, slick and frizz-free. It won't last. I'm lazy with my hair. But I like it right now, and tell myself that this time will be different. This time, I won't let six months pass before getting it cut or highlighted again. This time, I might try styling it more often, instead of hiding it pulled back.

This time, I may even go back to the same hairdresser...

Exhibit B - The Faery's hair, and how my hair used to look, decades ago.
I would kill to have hair like this now.
She'd better appreciate what she's got while it lasts...


  1. I have had hairdresser ishoos all my life.

    The problem, as I see it, is twofold. 1. I have shit hair and 2. I have never had the cash to pay what I need to in order to properly maintain my hair.

    I have seen the same hairdresser for many years though. And she's pretty good. I still don't go often enough but she's pretty good and reasonably priced. In saying that, I always feel drained after seeing her because she hammers me with all her woes for two hours straight.

    Hang on? Isn't the customer meant to pour their heart out to the hairdresser? My hairdresser has it arse about. What a jip.

  2. Money is a BIG factor why I don't go often. I always feel guilty after, like that money should have been used for greater good.

    I've washed my hair since writing this post. The sleekness is no more. Boo.

  3. I'm with Angie - shit hair and no money. It's a killer combination.

    We go to Express Cuts now for $10 Wednesday when both kids and myself get a trim for $30.00. Of course, they don't style or blowdry so I walk out of there, looking appalling but out here nobody can hear you scream anyway.

  4. I'm kind of glad I don't have to deal with frequent kiddy trips to the hairdressers - something tells me the Faery wouldn't be terribly cooperative!