Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Have I mentioned that I hate haircuts? I especially dread the ordeal in Vietnam where I have to explain what I want and spend an hour or two chit-chatting in a second language. I made the mistake again of using the word for "layers" and ended up with another bad shag. I must strike that word from my vocabulary. Instead I need to learn how to say, "Could you please do that clever snip-snip technique where you cut out a few strands at a time in just the right places and my hair miraculously has volume and texture instead of hanging flat and limp against my face as it was created to do." If anyone can translate that, I'd be forever grateful.

Given my distaste for beauty treatments, you would think that I would choose a hairstyle that doesn't require frequent cuts or a salon that is familiar, but no. My hair looks stringy and unkempt when it is long, and I've yet to find a salon I can visit more than two or three times before I have to cut and run. The staff at one place kept pestering me to teach them English. At another place they pressured me into manicures and massages and even conned me into an expensive hair treatment by starting it before I could refuse. Instead of holding my ground, I generally skulk away in search of a salon where I can get a simple haircut without being bullied into styles and products and services that I don't want or need. Does such a place exist in the world?

This is all complicated by the fact that I am still a redneck at heart. I try to put on a sophisticated face, but beneath it all I will always be fresh from the woods. I would so much rather be sitting under my favorite tree by the beaver pond than prostrate in a salon with a twenty-something Vietnamese girl massaging each arm, another at my feet, and a fourth shampooing my hair. In the woods I am myself. In a salon chair, I am not. All the moisture travels from my mouth to my palms. I stammer and trip over things and find myself completely at the mercy of the stylist.

"Could you please just trim it a little?" I ask timidly.

"Trim?" the stylist asks with one raised eyebrow and a heavy undertone of skepticism. "When was the last time you had this cut?"

"This," I think to myself. "Is it really that bad?"

The stylist runs his fingers through my hair, frowning and clucking. I crumble.

"Well," I hear myself saying, "what do you think...?"

I should know by now never to hand over the keys so easily. I always get taken for a ride. I go in for a trim and come out Florence Henderson. Will I never learn?

At least this time the staff let me off gently when it came to services and sales pitches. I only had to smell three or four products and refuse a manicure a handful of times. The arm-massage girl prattled on about the importance of keeping up one's appearance. She insisted that being beautiful makes a woman happy. The stylist chimed in and claimed that he had never met a woman who couldn't be made beautiful with the right effort. I momentarily wondered what he was implying, but decided not to open that door. I made a feeble comment about how inner beauty is what really matters. They didn't seem to hear me, so I rallied my courage and insisted more eloquently that beauty of the soul ("innards" in Vietnamese) is what makes us truly joyful and that outward beauty will only fade. Undaunted, the arm-massage girl smiled and said, "Isn't it best to have both while we can?"

In the end, I managed to walk out with my shag and an extra fee for shampooing and blow drying that was unavoidable. I came home and shed the obligatory post-haircut tears, then made dinner for the guys. Life must go on. After all, inner beauty is what matters, right.


  1. Oh Heather, my heart breaks for you!! I both laughed and cringed for you. But I have to admit, it's just as bad in the US! I have yet to be pleased with a haircut unless it's from my sister-in-law who I see 3-4x/yr. I just go to the cheapest place I can find now in-between. Still stumbling often with language barriers even 'round here. And the in-your-face push for styling products and any extra purchases they can squeeze out of you. But I think because it's in the US, we don't mind so much the "no, thank you" and running out the door. I can see how you'd want to be tender-hearted in your situation and careful not to offend. I'm so sorry though that this is so traumatic, but yes... inner beauty and godliness is what really matters. And you have it in spades, girl! Hold that head up high and pretend it's the best cut you ever had! People will never be the wiser. ;)

  2. You cannot write a post about that and not post a picture! I bet you look super cute. It is nice to know that some things never change (referring to your dread of haircuts).

  3. Thanks for the encouragement, Rochelle. Things are a little more complicated here, but I had the same problems in the States with haircuts. I guess I just need to embrace my "uncoolness" and not stress about my ignorance regarding the lingo or my cheapskate refusal to spend money on beauty products. Glad to know I'm not alone.

  4. Hey Jo. I was hoping the "some things never changing" referred to me being super cute. :) Ah well, 'tis true that this quirk is not new. I briefly considered a photo then nixed the idea. I'd rather people think "Surely it isn't that bad." than say to themselves "Ouch! that IS unfortunate."