Tuesday, April 12, 2005

I speet on zee detergents

While in grad school, I discovered The French Hairdresser, a hair stylist worth splurging on. Although his rates were high, his haircuts were magical. I had been searching for a hairdresser like him all my life. At my first appointment, he allowed for an in-depth consultation, which started with his saying, “Tell me about you.” So I told him a bit about myself, about how I desperately needed help with my hairstyle and how I am lazy as all get out when it comes to actually styling it. “Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Yes. And you dress how, like thees? You are casual, no? You do not wear a lot of the makeup?”

“Yes!” I said. “Exactly! I don’t spend hours on my hair and makeup, but I need to look better than this. But I don’t know how to tell you to cut my hair, I need you to tell me how you think my hair should be cut. Because I’m always wrong.”

“Oui. I understand. I tell you what I will do,” he said. And he described my upcoming cut. I gave my approval. While he was cutting my hair, he asked me what shampoos I use. I was a little embarrassed, but I admitted that I had lately been using Suave.

He choked. On his own bile, I think. It seemed that Suave shampoo was his anathema. “Suave! Ptuh! Suave, it ees not zee shampoo. In France, Suave would not be allowed to be labeled as zee shampoo. Suave, it is zee detergent. Suave, it dries out zee hair, but it makes zee head oily, so your hair, it is oily at zee top and dry at zee ends.” But the thing is, my hair actually was oily at the roots but dry at the ends. And my hair never use to be oily and dry like that. So this was the first convincing evidence I had ever had that cheap shampoo is no good, and the expensive kind may be worth it.

“Do not use zee Suave anymore,” French Hairdresser told me. “Try this shampoo. Eet ees expenseeve, oui, but if you do not like eet after two weeks, I will take it back at no charge.” Well, you can’t turn down an offer like that. And of course, I didn’t bring it back, because it was totally worth the money.

As time passed, I learned that The French Hairdresser took his job very seriously. His haircuts took at least an hour, because he cut with such care and precision. Someone once came over to ask him a question while he was cutting my hair, and he very nearly bit her head off with a curt, “I am working.” When The Doktah, who of course started to go to The French Hairdresser as soon as I told her of his amazing magical haircutting powers, wanted to get a short haircut to look more professional for her post-doc, The French Hairdresser refused to do it because her hair was too beautiful. She had to go to someone else in the salon.

The salon was located a few doors down from the physics building, and the alternative hairdresser was stunned to learn that The Doktah and her beautiful hair worked right on the corner. He told her that they called the intersection containing the physics building (and, let’s face it, the engineering building) “The Corner of Ugly.” So imagine what torture this parade of sloppy people was for The French Hairdresser. He seemed to take it as a personal insult when people failed to groom according to his high standards. He would gesture at the people walking by on the street and say, “Look at them. Why do zey not dress better and use zee hair products. I do not understand eet.” They really made him angry. I tried to defend them, saying that some people don’t think that their appearance is so important, but he would have none of it. “Don’t be reedeeculous. It ees a simple matter to style your hair and wear nice clothes. These peoples, I do not know what zey theenk. Bah.”

That first haircut by The French Hairdresser was a turning point in my life. That expensive haircut marked the beginning of my journey to becoming a vain, vain girl. Next stop? Red boots. The Doktah was my enabler along the way. But it really started with The French Hairdresser, who gave me the best haircut I had ever received. Yes, it was more money than I had ever spent on a haircut, but, oh, what a haircut. It was easy. It was manageable. It looked respectable even if I didn’t have time to blow dry it. When I did have time to blow dry it, I could actually repeat what he did in the salon. Do you understand? I could style it myself! For the first time ever! And he guaranteed his haircuts for eight, instead of the usual six weeks. “Eef you need zee haircut again before zee eight weeks, I do it for free,” he told me.

I didn’t change completely overnight, though. I couldn’t bring myself to throw out the Suave; too much of a waste. So I left it at the gym and only used it there. But the next time I went to see The French Hairdresser, he could totally tell. I lied when he asked me what shampoo I was using, because I couldn’t bear the shame, but he knew. Oh, he knew.

How I miss The French Hairdresser. I have been searching for someone to cut my hair properly ever since I graduated, but I am so spoiled now that no one can satisfy my needs. Haircuts should take at least an hour. The first place I went to after moving back to Massachusetts, the entire haircut, from wash to cut to blow dry, only took 25 minutes! How can that be any good? I have finally found a stylist I am pretty happy with, but I still long for my French Hairdresser. My new stylist didn’t even scold me for waiting so long between cuts. Where’s the love?

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