This weekend, I finally mustered up the courage to get a haircut in Beijing. That’s right, I went over six months without getting my hair cut (and I usually get it cut every 6-8 weeks). You might be wondering why it took me so long?
I was afraid.
Afraid of what could happen to my hair. It is naturally curly and that presents some challenges to both American and Chinese stylists. I probably could have put it on my list of stressors from last week. And how do I know that? Bad experiences. My first year in China, by about May my hair was too long and it was too hot. So I took a student to a salon and told them to trim a bit of length off. He ended up shortening my layers considerably and not taking length off the bottom. It was basically a mullet. That was fashionable in China at the time, but it was not what I wanted.
The next year, one of my teammates found a good stylist who even spoke some English. I decided that I wanted to get a more dramatic haircut. My hair was a bit longer than shoulder length, as you can see in the photo above (with some of the students I was teaching that semester). I found a picture of a woman with about chin length curly hair and took it with me to the appointment. I’m pretty sure that this woman had never cut naturally curly hair before. It is not a common hair texture in China, but the stylist knew a Brazilian woman with curly hair and she straightened it every day. In any case, she gave me a very good, very precise cut. It was chin length. BUT, she had straightened it before she cut it. So I left the salon with chin length straight hair. She assured me, “don’t worry when you get it wet the curls will come back.” I was mentally thinking, “and it is going to be very, very short.” And I was right. A couple week later, it looked like this:
So that was a lot more dramatic than I was anticipating. In the intervening years I have gotten better at managing my curls, gotten haircuts by a curly hair specialist, and become a bit more particular. And so my anxiety of finding someone to cut my hair that would do a good job and not give me a mullet (although those aren’t in style anymore, so it is probably less likely) or a dramatically short cut was pretty high. After I had been here a couple of months I started asking around to other women with curly hair, but didn’t come up with any good recommendations. There must be someone in this city who has experience with curly hair, but I don’t know where they might be or how much they might cost. So, six months went by and my hair got longer and longer and the curls flatter and flatter.
This week I decided I had to just get over it and get a cut. And I decided that instead of chasing around the city, I should try for something closer to home. In the shopping area (strip mall?) right outside the gate to my apartment complex, there are a number of hair salons. There are no proper restaurants, but I could have gone to any of these places to get a haircut. The middle one even offers “fashiomable perming.”
I decided to skip the perming, and all of these shops. I decided on the fourth(!) shop, which appears to be the most upscale of the collection and usually seems to be busy. You don’t need to (although I think you can) make an appointment, so Saturday afternoon I mustered up my courage and headed down. Here’s the before shot (with the salon in the background)!
I had to wait about 15 minutes before they were ready. They took me back to get a shampoo, and I realized that I hadn’t met the person who would actually do the cut. I said I wanted him (most hairdressers are men in China) to see it before we got it wet because curly hair wet and curly hair dry are quite different. They agreed to that and the hairdresser came over and looked at my hair. I explained what I wanted him to do (trim a little bit with some layers) and then went to get my hair washed.
My heart was beating quickly this whole time, because I wasn’t sure what would happen to my hair. My plan was to tell him to only take a little bit off, figuring he would probably take more off and that it would give me plenty of hair to work with if it turned out to be a disaster or I needed to wear my hair in a ponytail for awhile. Once I was seated in the chair, he gestured how much to take off, and it was about twice as much as I was hoping, so I gestured back how much I wanted off. To his credit, he listened and that’s about what he took off. He also gave me a pretty normal hair cut. My curly hair specialist in the states would cut notches in the bottom of the hair in some places at the end, but I think other than that he did pretty much the same thing as she did. Then came time for styling. He used a blow dryer with no diffuser on hair with no product, then added a bit of some sort of product in after it was partially dry. That’s pretty much the way to guarantee I have a frizzy head of hair, as you can see in the photo below.
After my own styling, it looks better, although not that dramatically different than the before picture, since I didn’t have much cut off. I’ll probably go back in 4-6 weeks and get a bit more taken off, now that my anxiety isn’t quite so high! I can afford to go back in 4 weeks because the cost for this cut was only $6.50USD.