“No one likes it, apart from blind people, and I’m sure even they can sense it’s profound ugliness as it passes by.”
― Richard Curtis, on bad haircuts
This week, I had my haircut. Hardly exciting, I realize, but not only is it refreshing to have huge clumps of dry hair hacked away and no longer be confused for Phil Spector, but it’s also a fun way to explore the town and test my Japanese skills. By fun, of course, I mean the kind of “fun” you have when you fall off a cliff in New Jersey and have to gimp walk the four-hour trail back to Manhattan. Even so, today, I wasn’t followed through the woods at dusk by four smiling men in hoods.
The traffic along the main streets made the air thick and nauseating in the heat, but I figured my best bet for a decent salon or barber’s – maybe even with staff that spoke some blessed English – wouldn’t be in the backstreets far from the city center. After nearly an hour of aimless walking, I considered pulling out a map, hoping some locals might help a stupid tourist find the station and, subsequently, a decent, cheap, English-friendly place for a haircut nearby.
I’m both miserly and careless with money, depending on the day or how much coffee or vodka I’ve had at the moment. When it comes to haircuts, though, I don’t feel it necessary to spend upwards of $30 or $40 on a haircut, particularly when I’ve not much hair to cut in the first place, I’m generally not fussed when it comes to a particular desired hairstyle, and I could save that money towards gifts to be sent home to friends and family*.
*I project this will happen sometime in November. Good feelings about November.
Passing blue-white-red pole after pole with “menus” of fixed prices – the cheapest one of which advertised a trim for $35 – I happened upon a blue-and-green pole in front of a slender building. I immediately and boldly went inside after deliberating for 20 minutes around the corner. Two women in their 40s stopped mid-chat to appraise me, the one taking me in as one would a dim puppy, while the other, the barber, eyed my wild, wind-blown hair dubiously.
The Japanese I poo-pooed so gracefully came out something like this:
“Yes. Cut. Man. Hair. Good. Good? That’s fine. Yes?”
In all honesty, I might’ve told the women I was going to cut them, but after saying “yes” a few more times, I was shown to a chair.
One thing remains true about getting my haircut, no matter the country, and that’s the unwillingness of the hairdresser to leave the bloody length as is in the front. On one occasion in the States, a hair cutter (I refuse to call her a stylist of any sort) insisted she cut some of the length in the front; I held out, and when she had finished, she stood back and said with obvious revelation, “Wow, that actually looks really good!”
Unfortunately this time, not much conversation was had, but I watched my butcher hack cautiously, as she paused every few minutes, furrowing her brow when she observed the unbridled gaijin tufts winging out over my gaijin ears.
“Lots of,” I imitated Sloth from The Goonies. “Cut. Lots.” In time, the poor woman made a few minute snips in the back to signal the end of the haircut and commenced a tossle-and-brush-down procedure that felt a little more punishing than necessary.
After I had received my change, the woman pointed at the paper yen and then my pocket. I panicked, thinking I was supposed to tip, and was put off guard even more when she asked if I had my mother’s or father’s hair. My escape was a mad blur of more monosyllabic beginner’s Japanese.
“Yes. That’s fine. Yes. Thanks.”
I went to the park for a bit of reading and for locals to gape at me as they passed – my favorite pasttime – and started to wonder when I stopped trying. No longer studying Japanese, nor doing much in the way of botany and plant physiology – simply stagnating and waiting to scramble at the last minute when it comes time for my next move.
My mother will begin her new job this summer, a change she seems quite excited about (including the financial aspect, heyo!), and I’m immensely proud of her. Of course, when I say “proud”, I do mean that but also jealous. Some may say this is a startling mindset for a son to be jealous of his parent, but what I would give to have her drive, and who are you to say so?
I make no resolutions here, nor do I generally make resolutions ever; it sets the bar far too high. So far, I’ve ran a marathon, met a few decent folks, and managed to use the word “poo-pooed” in a blog post. Aside from that, I’ve a long way to go if I want 2014 to be the banner year I imagined it would be.