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Before and After

The last time I had my hair cut was seven months ago in March. This is an exceptionally long time for me to go without getting a cut. I love getting my hair cut but the idea of finding a place abroad and trying to explain to the hairdresser who most likely doesn’t speak English what I wanted, seemed like too much of a hassle. Besides, if I could hold off a little longer, I could stretch my beauty budget farther.

But Nellu hadn’t gotten his hair cut in more than three months, which meant he was sporting a full fro. Add in the beard he started growing the first week of India and you had a pretty hairy-headed man. He was going to need to get a cut by the time we arrived in Thailand and I decided I would go with him.

I don’t remember how we settled on the idea of a beauty day in Bangkok but we did. We’d get haircuts and Thai massages. There was a place down the street from our guesthouse that gives hour Thai massages for about six bucks. After all the overnight trains we had, we certainly deserved it.

There were also lots of hair studios in our neighborhood but picking from among the pack was certainly daunting so we asked our guesthouse host where he got his haircut. It turns out he didn’t use one of the small neighborhood salons but goes to Hair Olympic in Thailand’s mega market the Big C, which was right down the street. We scoped it out the day before. It looked like your garden variety quick cut hair salon. But I also noticed a woman with short, fire-engine red hair that I thought looked horrible. If she was a hair dresser there, the idea of getting my haircut at this establishment made me nervous. But Nellu swore she was just a customer. When we returned to the Big C the next day, I told Nellu, “If the woman with the red hair is there, I reserve the right to go somewhere else.”

When we arrived, the red-haired woman was nowhere in sight so we asked for two hair cuts. We waited for a few minutes before they approached us for our shampoos. I would go first. As the young woman shampooed my hair, my stomach jumped with nerves. Was I really going to let a complete stranger cut my hair in a foreign country? I didn’t get a chance to find a picture in the magazine to explain what I wanted. What if they didn’t understand me? They certainly couldn’t get any clues from my raggedy head. I tried to calm myself down by reasoning that my hair grows quickly and how bad could it be.

The young woman who washed my hair led me to a cutting station and got out the hair dryer. Would she be my stylist? She was cute and had cute hair so that was a good sign. She even brought me a few look books so I could pick hair model. Perfect. But when I picked a style, she indicated that another guy would cut my hair. Ok, he looked pretty cool so I was probably in good hands.

Nellu, on the other hand, I wasn’t so sure. It turned out that the woman with red hair did work there and would be cutting his hair! I felt bad, but his hair grows even more quickly than mine so I kept my fingers crossed.

The hairstyle I picked had long layers and a little definition around the face. Yes, there was a side bang but it didn’t look like a deep side bang so I thought I could handle it. When my stylist came over I pointed to the picture and he just went at it.

All the hair cuts I’ve ever had in my life start with the stylist taking a little off the bottom. This didn’t happen. My Thai guy took the scissors to my hair in what felt like a flamboyant over-exaggerated manner and started cutting pieces from the sides and back – big pieces in deep looking layers. Imagine a comedy where Martin Short plays an eccentric hairstylist and pulled pieces of my hair high into the hair saying, “We’re going to take a little off here and a little off here.” I felt like I was staring in that movie. At one point I wanted to shout, “Stop.” But he moved so quickly, I knew it was too late.

After a fast few minutes, he sent my original girl back for more blowdrying. As she worked on styling my hair, I came to grips with the damage. “It’s okay,” I thought. “It doesn’t look too bad.”

Little did I know I was in for another round. Forget Hair Olympic, it should be called Hair Triathlon. My hair dresser came back and instead of a just making a few touch ups, he went back at it cutting just as much hair as he did in round one. After a few more minutes, it was over.

In total, I think he spent less than 10 minutes on my hair. This is a far cry from the treatment I am used to where my stylist spends more than a half and hour sculpting my do. And even though my Thai guy didn’t take any off the bottom, I would say I have about 45 percent less hair.

It’s not the best hair cut I’ve ever had, but its certainly not the worst. In someway, he was willing to take risks that my regular hair dresser never would. My regular hair dresser knows way too well that I am a J-crew wearing, relatively conservative dressing/looking professional woman. He doesn’t understand that I want my hair cut to say that I am a J-crew wearing, relatively conservative dressing/looking professional woman…with an edge.

At times, my new do makes me look Joan Jett and it definitely gives my weak traveler style a little bit of spice. But when I wake up in the morning, I look like a refugee from Designing Women.

I think Nellu faired slightly better looking more like his usual self, despite the woman with the red hair. We paid and headed back to the guesthouse to take our “after” pictures before going back out for our massages. The massages were uneventful but lovely. I am so glad Nellu suggested we take them last, knowing full too well how stressful getting our hair cut could be.

~ Molly

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