Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Base Price of Going Blonde

On a semi-lark, I walked into a hair salon to have my hair colored. I wanted to try blonde. It's on my list of "100 Dreams." I've never been blonde and thought I would like to try it.

I found myself flipping through a large book of hairstyles, and found one or two examples that looked right. A stylist with white, fastidious hair and his collar buttoned asked, "Now, what do you want?" He was flat-lipped in his delivery. I told him I wanted to try blonde and his jaw dropped. His co-worker, who was crossing off appointments in a book on the counter, cocked her head and smiled in a way that said "crazy."

"It's on my list of 100 Dreams," I smiled. A short, plump man with a walk like a pigeon said, "Your Bucket List." I corrected him. "No, a list of 100 Dreams. The word bucket implies something I'm not ready for yet."

My stylist introduced himself to me as he sat me in the chair. His name was unique and reminiscent of high school English classes. He walked in the back and produced a large gateway folded book filled with little loops of hair in different colors. Each loop was marked above with a number. He held the book up to my head and said, "You look like a 6. Well, maybe a 5." I got a lecture against going blonde. "You know you can't put color on color and go lighter, right?" He ran a hand through my hair. "And with all of this, it's going to be a base price of $150. Then there's color and cut."

He talked me down off the ledge of blonde, and onto the concrete sidewalk of brunette. Together, browsing the Book of Loops, we chose a brown that matched the summer lightened ends of my hair. Fine.

In the time that passed we discussed teaching, poetry, the War of the Roses, Prince. We shared our mutual distaste for certain Christmas carols. He shared a story about an 11-year old girl who came in wanting a "scene" hairstyle for a big event. "I wouldn't do it. She was pre-pubescent. It would damage her hair. I said 'Honey, life isn't about things. It's about people, knowledge, and experiences.' So I just straightened her hair and she was happy."

My hair was piled on top of my head and covered and goo while he cut the hair of three other clients. Iridescent snowflakes twirled above our heads, advertising "Cut, color and style from $59.95 and up." A couple of older women got some extra hairspray applied to their holiday teases.

As my stylist washed my hair, he chatted with someone across the room. "God brings certain people into your life for a reason," he said. His fingernails scritched my scalp. From my angle I could see right up his nose. Fastidious there too. All of his buttons were completely and neatly threaded through their holes. Years of experience lined his face. He taught high school English for thirty years, he told me, "and then they offered me an early retirement. Of course I took it!" Now he cuts the hair of women who try to make rash decisions.

As he cut my hair, I asked for bangs. "No. You don't want bangs. You told me you pull your hair back a lot. Do you want to be like a 16-year old, pushing your hair out of your eyes, and looking out at people from a curtain of bangs? No."

We talked about Lord Byron's real name as he dried my hair. "You know, only one person I've asked knew the answer. It really tripped up my students. I asked a lady working in customer service at Price Chopper. She got it right away. You never know. There's this lady, in her 50's, working at the grocery store who knows Lord Byron's real name."

I failed his quiz, but now I know.

The short pigeon walker complimented my stylist's work. "She was a 6, and we just took her to a 5!" he laughed.

My hair looked neater, and a little lighter, if not all that different. Possibly redder? It wasn't what I asked for, but then, life isn't all about what you want. I put my coat on and walked to the counter to pay for the experience, the new person in my life, and the knowledge that I was given. I tipped generously.


Kristen said...

I'll send you a box of my favorite super-strong Japanese hair bleach. Has a Yakuza cartoon guy on the lablel. Powerful stuff.

Strip your hair down to pale nothingness, and then you can dye over it any color you want: pink, purple or a nicer blonde.

Don't let people talk you out of your dreams. Boo, fastidious hairdresser.

Be prepared, though - it's hard to dye it back to a darker color if you've bleached it a few times - the hair doesn't hold they dye well, you sort of have to darken a bit at a time. But it grows back the right color, so you can always cut it short and start over. :-)

Hair is awesomely fun to mess with - a renewable resource!

Indigo Bunting said...

When I read you, I want to write, and when I read you, I want to never write again. Which is my way of saying I love reading you.