I just got semi-bangs (I HATE bangs) from a zealous Turkish hairdresser who spent most of the haircut making lusty eyes at his blowdrying assstant boy. He seemed to think all white girls want to look like Brigitte Bardot. Okay, it was semi-awesome (minus the bangs), but pretty dang ridiculous when I left the salon and went to work lookıng like an Austin Powers femme-bot.
Now I'm (evidently) a big baby when it comes to haircuts. Throw a language barrier into the mix, and I'm biting my nails just looking at the shampoo. See, when it comes to hair, I'm a fussy kind of lazy. I don't intend to put much time into styling. I want all the bits to be long enough for an "I give up" ponytail. And yet, let's be honest, I want it to look good.
The trouble with language and cultural barriers is that I can't communicate this. I know that the fault is entirely my own, to traipse into a salon in a foreign country and seek services through a mix of phrasebook, mime, and magazine pictures of Beyonce in which her hair looks mermaid-like. I know that the stylist, not having a clear idea of what I want, has to use some personal judgement in the matter.
Texture is also a factor; in East Asia, I recall a stylist consulting with his colleagues before attempting my 'do. In an area where people have a homogeneous type of thin, straight, shiny hair, my nest of waves/frizz are downright alien. In China, a team of beauty school students chased me down the street, asking me to take part in their "hair thesis" (final project, I assumed). It seemed that styling a foreigner's atypical hair would really prove their stylist skills.
I got a bad haircut once in Shanghai, where the stylist gave me a post-shampoo neck massage that was so soothing, I barely noticed what the scissors were doing until the final snip, when I looked in the mirror and saw a choppy Harajuku* mullet on my head. See, I had assumed that in a cosmopolitan city like Shanghai, the stylists would be familiar with all textures of hair. The hairdresser had likely assumed that if a backpacker sought a haircut in Shanghai, she must want a Shanghai-style haircut; trendy, spiky, Rod Stewart-esque.
And you know what? Maybe getting made over by the hands of a local stylist is just one element of getting to know a culture. Hair grows back. The biting (but yes, funny) memory of a trendy Chinese haircut on my vain little head might have been worth the fuss.
*(yes, I know Harajuku is in Japan, but it paints a clearer picture, no?)