Friday, January 18, 2008

Making The Cut

This morning I woke up and, sort of spur-of-the-moment like, decided to get my hair cut.

I hate having my hair done here. Everyone knows this. I’ve never, ever, never-not-once been totally happy with the results. The cuts are always too short, too chopped, too harsh somehow to suit me. Plus I find the manners and professionalism of Norwegian stylists sort of appalling: brusque, rushed, and utterly disinterested. And the price of such cursory service? Inflated beyond belief. Too many times I’ve walked out of a Norwegian salon feeling vaguely butch and thoroughly taken advantage of. So I tend to put off going back as long as possible.

Nevertheless, my current do had reached a certain level of intolerable shagginess. It needed doing, and I was determined to see it done. So I took a bit of extra care with my clothing choices; I put some make-up on, groomed back my unibrow a bit. One wants to look one’s best while sitting under those harsh lights in front of acres of mirrors with little else to look at for a good 30 minute stretch but one’s humble self. Or is that just me?

I’ve found a place nearby where my reaction to the finished cut is generally more “Meh, it’ll do” than “Sweet Christ in heaven! Are you drunk?” And the outrageous prices are tempered by the fact that the staff all wear the same colored, fitted t-shirts (a different color for each day of the week), so you feel like your money is really going towards something worthwhile and good. Or something.

I didn’t have an appointment. By and large, it’s just not the done thing over here. Appointments are not usually made more than 2 or 3 days in advance, and as long as you’re not fussy about whom you want doing your do, walk-ins are common and welcomed everywhere. And this morning, at 30 minutes past 9, I was just such a walk-in.

Right away I sensed something different about the woman to whom I had been assigned. She was courteous. Polite. Formal, even. She asked was I ready? Would I like to have a seat? Instead of the belligerent grunts and gestures—you sit, I cut—I’ve come to expect. When she asked what I’d like done, she actually touched my hair, looked at my face, considered the task at hand, before saying, “It seems a little heavy on top. I’d like to see it stacked a bit more. Is that okay with you?”

Flustered and embarrassed by such attention, I blushed a little and said, “Yesyes I think so,” all in a breathy rush. Who was this fey blond creature with the funky, asymmetrical bob and the chunky granny glasses? I was mesmerized.

I tend to be pretty tone deaf when it comes to Norwegian accents and dialects. I’ve lived here for 12 and a half years now and still the only dialects I can identify with any certainty are Mister’s and the one spoken here in Bergen. Everything else gets labeled in my mind as either ‘not from around here but intelligible’ or ‘not from around here and completely unintelligible’ then processed accordingly (Meaning, I either pay attention, or I tune them out but continue to grin and nod my head politely. You might be surprised at the amount of time I spend vacantly nodding and bobbing my head like an asshole when I’m out in public. Mister would be horrified, though he must suspect by now.)

I knew from the way she was talking that she wasn’t a local, but she spoke so clearly and so slowly that I had no problem understanding her, and we chatted easily back and forth while she washed and rinsed and combed out. It wasn’t until she was ready to start cutting that she mentioned that she was German and had only been living in Norway for just over a year.

Duh! How dumb am I? She’s not even Norwegian. No wonder she’s so nice! Ah, and she’s German. No wonder she’s so professional!

At one point she asked me, very gently in case it was a sensitive subject, if I’d ever considered some color to cover up the flourishing crop of grey at my right temple. I explained to her that I sometimes have it done when I’m home for the summers, but I refuse to pay the price of the upkeep over here, so I kind of gave it up altogether. This led us to talking about other difference between here and there. At one point she asked point blank, “So are they better at cutting hair over there?”

I looked around the salon—two other stylists, three other customers, all Norwegians as far as I could tell. I didn’t want to get either myself blacklisted or her fired, so I said diplomatically, “Well, I don’t want say ‘better’. But there are some pretty big differences. They just have another sense of style over there. It suits me better.”

“Right. I see,” she nodded, “They’re very fond of the blunt cut here.” She looked at me pointedly through the mirror.

“Yes! Exactly.”

“They don’t know much about undercuts.”

“No! Nothing at all!”

“And,” she pinched two strands of hair on either side of my forehead, leaned down, and squinted into the mirror to check for evenness, “They’re very lazy about styling,” she finished quietly into my ear.

And just there. Just in that moment. I wanted to kiss her. With tongue.

Her name is Marianne. And she’s my new best friend. She’s “looking forward to seeing me again soon.” And she hopes that I’ll “be satisfied, but please to understand that it will take at least two more cuts to really get to know my hair.”

She wants to get to know my hair. Gulp. Flutter. Swirl. I’m the luckiest girl in the whole world!


Anonymous said...

Jamie, I'm so totally happy for you! Finding a good hairdresser is hard, more so in Norway. No wonder she's from out of town. I always seemed to look like some sort of Q-tip after getting my hair cut over there. Thank goodness I'm back home with hairdressers that can deal with kinky hair! Have a great week-end, Claudita

The Alpha Grandma said...

OMG you're the only person I know who can turn a routine hair cut into a comedy act. You're SO funny! Since I've heard the frustration for so many years, I'm also thrilled for you.

Now do you start to panic about how long Miss Germany will stay put? I mean, now you have to care. Is she married? Is she stable? Is she of child-bearing age, which might put her out of commission as a stylist? How far ahead are you going to have to book an appt. to make sure you get her? SO MANY UNANSWERED QUESTIONS!

So, what you DIDN'T say was the cut? I want to see picts.
The first time I took you to get your hair cut, you were about 2. Being a single mom, I had no extra money for such luxuries, so I trotted you off to the Beauty College where a nervous-nellie-newbie took a huge chunk right out of the crown of your sweet little head! Both her mentor and I gasped at about the same time and the same intensity. But I followed up with "Holy shit, girl! What have you done?"

The upshot was, at that point, it all had to come off, and you were destined to look like a little boy for the next 6 months. BUT, there's an upside. They told me it would make your hair grow in thicker. So that's the story of why it's heavy on top.