This is an account of an actual trim I had a few days ago. Since coming to be an English teacher, my one and only salon experience in this country left a little something to be desired in the result. So, one evening over Facebook chat, I recruited my maybe-probably-mostly-platonic male friend/fellow musketeer to trim my hair for me. I figured--he cuts his own hair, so ostensibly mine shouldn't be too difficult? After some trepidation about mucking it up, he agreed, and I arranged to pop over to his apartment later in the week.
Though this account is also posted and discussed on the HairSnip Forums pages (pop by sometime! /endshamelessplug), I figured I might as not post it here. Keep in mind, though, I wrote it out mostly to preserve for myself. Like a pickle. Strange to pickle a haircut, is it not? To try to capture the sensations, the thoughts, the stream of consciousness. The conversations aren't transcribed perfectly, but they're the best that I can recollect. So enjoy it, or don't. I certainly did.
I wailed on the door a few times, sense of urgency fluttering at my stomach. The entry was blackened--no lights visible. Not too worrisome, because in these cold Tohoku winters, D usually retreats to the 'man cave' he's made of his tatami bedroom. "I'm coming in, it's frigging cold out here!" I yelled up the stairs, still blackened, and waited in his genkan. Still considered 'public space' in Japan, for all that D is American, and my friend. I know better than to barge into a bedroom, anyways.
A few minutes later and he came down the stairs. Cue nervous smalltalk, as the butterflies continued to riot, the way they do anytime my hair is soon to be involved. It was already after 6:30, leaving us only about a half-hour window before we met his Japanese friend for supper. "Got stuck behind a kei-truck the whole way down the mountain road," I lamented, before he turned the subject to other matters, an impending trip. Bill issues I couldn't help resolve.
And then, with a relaxed "Well," and no other real discussion, he led me to his sparse living room.
I say sparse because it's all hard-wood floor, and almost no furniture, aside from two wood kitchen chairs, a table, and a small doll's set in a parody of a leprechaun's dining room. It was tsunami'd, and he hasn't gotten around to replacing the furniture. Spends all his time in the man-cave, anyways. One chair is set out in the middle of the room, and he's got a comb and a black hand-mirror set on the table. Some towels. "Oh, you're prepared, I see!" I declare, in a bid for less awkwardness. Ironic, because I was always the Girl Guide.
"Mostly," he tells me as I peel off my coat at last. "One second." I flop into the chair, and he disappears for a moment, reemerging with a pair of scissors. Thinning shears. Normally not something I would ever let near my hair, but today? Well, I asked for it. I asked for an amateur, knowing this may or may not end badly, knowing he had precisely zero experience with women's hair. Zero experience, in fact, with any hair other than his own.
I'm shivering a little, owing mostly to the fact that it's about 10C on the first floor of his apartment. Mostly.
"So, how much do you want off?" He asks gently, less brusquely than you might ask someone 'how many eggs do you want from the store?'
"Like, an inch?"
"So like, this much?" he shows me at least two and a half inches with his fingers. He's American, and I'm the metric Canuck. This is his Imperial system. Not promising. My stomach flutters. This is not looking like it will end well, but at this point there's no chance I will abort. There hasn't been, since I asked.
I fish up the ends of my hair. "Like, this much?" I show him a real inch of my scraggly, straightened ends.
"Okay," he says, and we get a few more things ready. I fish a brush out of my purse, swipe it through my hair a few times wishing he'd do it instead, and plunk it on the table. The towels stay where they are--at midback, my hair is long enough for them not really to be effective. Clad in a grey sweater and a vaguely sexy black shirt, it looks like this cut will be capeless. I toss all my hair behind my shoulders, and he moves behind.
For a moment, I feel nothing but suspense. ". . . I don't even know where to start," his voice is incredulous, a little self-depreciating, but calm as always. It flashes through my head, not for the first time, that it's one of his best features. I have no idea what's going through his head at the moment. I probably would kill to find out.
"The ends? It shouldn't be too complicated," I try to reassure. Surely I'm betraying my own nervousness. "There's no layers or anything. It's just straight. The last time I went to a stylist she cut all the layers out," I mourn, then switch gears. "As long as you keep track of what you've done, it should be fine."
"Yeah, that's kind of why I stopped going to hairdressers," he admits, "They always changed things, from one time to the next, and I never really liked what I got."
"Makes sense. I like layers, the RIGHT kind of layers, but they're hard to follow up. It's the same thing. They usually end up too thin, or high, or ratty-looking. We don't have to try that today," I halfways-joke.
"Good idea," I can hear some relief in his tone.
"Quite enough challenge." We banter like this for a while. I can't quite tell when he's started cutting--there're no hands running through my hair, scalp to tip, as I craved; there's no comb out, no final check. No checking for permission. I'm sitting here, not fleeing; clearly that's all the permission required, and I appreciate that. There's not a lot of firmness tugging at my scalp either, it's all very light. Probably not pulled taut--realizes the part of me that's actually concerned with the outcome. The scissors make a weird sound--not their usual decisive snap, but quieter, more apologetic. I try not to think about the grating--thinning shears aren't apt to leave a healthy, clean cut.
I try not to shiver, and it feels as though he's about a quarter of the way across my back, when he says, "You don't have scissors with you, do you?"
"No, I didn't think of it," I laugh nervously. "I figured you had 'em." In fact, I'd stared at a pair of newish 400 yen paper scissors sprawled on my desk, back at my apartment. Wondering about this exact scenario. I'd also thought of the $50 pair of stylist's quality shears I'd ordered online a year ago, back in Canada. Shears I'd carted with me all the way to Japan, tucked in my luggage, just in case. In case of what? In case of this exact thing, or of a lover, or in case I didn't have the balls to go to a salon, or just . . . to loom threateningly at me, deliciously, from the back of a drawer. My little secret, so dirty and clean at the same time. Now that just such an occasion had come, to bring them out from their hidey hole would speak of too much premeditation, too much thought. It wouldn't be just a hey-friend,-can-you-do-me-this-bizarre-favour-later-this-week? My own foolishness overwhelms me at times. Guess I should've slipped the cheapies in my purse. "Don't those ones work?"
He tched. "Well, they do, but . . . it doesn't cut it all at once. It takes like five or six times. It doesn't get it all."
"Hmm, don't you have other scissors?"
"No, but I bet S does," he names his apartment's neighbour, our fifth-year sempai (mentor) and third musketeer. He disappears, grabs his Android, and plops it in my lap. The screen is set to her contact info--evidently I'm meant to call.
This is become a comedy of errors, and I am to play my part in it. Some diffusive, brief instructions later, and one call that somehow goes to an out-of-service number, ("Why on Earth don't you have her number? Do you just always knock on her door?!") and S picks up.
"Hello," I chirrup into the phone.
"Hello . . . ?" comes the befuddled answer.
"I'm at D's house." My wattage doesn't dim.
"Yeah, I was wondering . . . you called my house phone."
"Oh, I didn't know that was working."
"They fixed it a month or two ago."
"Oh, well, do you have scissors?"
"Yes . . ."
"Can you bring them over?"
"Okay, see you soon!" I chip in cheerfully, taking the phone away from my ear because I really don't feel like explaining this. S has this way of sometimes making me explain things, long and painfully drawn out, when I just want to say 'nevermind' and have it over with. I'm not sure if I hang up, or if she does. I don't know how to work the Android.
Let the comedy of errors continue.
S takes her sweet time. I guess she's getting ready for dinner, too. D's heard the whole conversation, so in the meantime, he resumes chipping away at my hair valiantly, with the scissors he's got. I kind of wish I could feel more of it, but can't owing to the grey sweater. But, it's too cold in his apartment to go without. (Central heating, Tohoku. Get on board!) I don't even know where he's cutting.
Apparently D also realizes this. That I don't know what he's doing, that is.
He pauses, and comes around front so he can kind of look me in the eye. "Why don't you see if that looks like enough? I mean, I can always take more off, but I can't exactly put it back on," he jokes.
"Mmkay," I agree, and follow his gesture towards his bathroom mirror. He doesn't follow, but waits in the living room. I swivel and investigate my back. It's shorter than I'd asked for--maybe by two inches or so. A glance at the chestnut-coppery snarls by the feet of the chair, confirms this. The colour looks bright, warmer than I expected, against the wood floor. I try not to let my glance linger too long. "Looks good!" I declare though my cheer is probably taut over my nerves. I hope it doesn't show. I'm not lying, anyways; a fact that surprises me.
I reclaim my seat, and he resumes work for another five minutes or so. At which point, S knocks at the door. I jerk my head, following the sound, and no doubt D's fistful of hair comes flying out. "Sorry, I guess I shouldn't've done that," I apologise. "Dangerous."
"No, probably not the best idea," he agrees, resuming.
"Come in," I exclaim, despite the fact that it's not my house. "D's cutting my hair," I tell her cheerfully, as if it's the most natural thing in the world, just before she turns the corner.
"Whoa. That's . . . random." She looks more than a little taken aback, dull-toned, and disapproving enough to make me feel like I've got my hand caught in a cookie jar. Filled with seaweed and peanut butter cookies. Or something equally weird I'm not supposed to want. "That explains the scissors." She hands them over to D, who accepts them with thanks. They're nothing special--standard plastic-and-stainless-steel, everyday-use household scissors. Pretty much the archetypal scissors of my childhood, but with orange handles. Proceed with caution orange. She takes vantage from the corner, arms across her chest and draping skull-and-crossbones scarf. "What brought this on?"
"It was time. Overdue, and time. And D knows how to cut his hair, so I figured I'd ask him to cut mine."
"Aha, kind of!" he cuts in. Wielding the new scissors by now, he's too preoccupied (I can only assume) for much conversation. Their timbre is different. The snips would be more noticeable, more solid to me if we weren't talking over them.
"Why didn't you just wait for Snow Festival? It's like two weeks. Yoshi could've done it." The tone rings just as dull. She means Yoshi, her Japanese boyfriend, trained as a hairdresser but now working at his parents' ramen shop several prefectures away. She's talked about him before--frequently. And he calls often. And speaks to her in English--another luxury.
"Why didn't I think about that?! Because that would make sense!" I'd smack myself in the forehead if I weren't worried about dislodging something important. I'm earnestly surprised. That's definitely not something that factored into my options. Salons, yes. D, yes. But Yoshi? That'd slipped my mind.
"Would he do that, anyways?" asks D from behind me.
"I'm not his girlfriend," I tease a little. Yoshi has never cut his girlfriend's hair--he's always been too worried he'd mess it up. We all laugh.
"He might be nervous with any foreigner, but he'd probably do it," S considers. She talks a bit more about her hair experiences in the country. Clearly, if I'm unleashing D on my hair, I'm in need of advice. She's been here five years, and another foreign teacher's hairdresser wife has always cut her hair. She's got some extra challenges--rather thin, almost weightless, fluffy-curly auburn hair. It works for her; she rocks it. But Asian hairdressers are generally nervous about handling it, and she's careful about who she entrusts it to.
"Uhh, your shoulders are straight, right?" D cuts in. "I . . . think so?" I reply, reshuffling my shoulders a little.
"You think so?"
"It feels like it . . ." Concern naggles again.
"Ohh-kay," he replies, not entirely reassuringly, before diving back in. S steps around back to investigate, but I guess she's got her pokerface on because she doesn't say anything too worrisome.
A couple more minutes with some light conversation, and I hear something more final. "Okay. I think it's done. You better go have a look."
"Why don't you mess it up a little first?" advises S, and so my familiar fingers rake across my scalp. Were it that it were D! Strikes me as odd, counterintuitive even, that he's been severing the ends of my hair for the past several minutes, but ruffling through the rest of it is somehow too intimate?
A couple more snips. Maybe five or so?
"All right. Go take a look, and see if there're any weird pieces." He steps back, with pride or what I'm not really sure. I don't really catch the expression on his face, just the sight of the pile of hair on the floor that is far more than I would've expected, before I crane before the bathroom mirror.
I flip my hair around a couple times before prancing back. "There's just one . . ."
"Well hold on to it--" S begins before she sees that I've got the offending piece--about 3 inches longer than the rest, sourced from the right of my occipital--grasped in my right hand. "Whoa, that is a long one."
I sit back down, and hand it off to D. He promptly snips it off, and makes two other small cuts. Then, nothing.
"Good?" I ask.
"Good," he confirms.
Do you like it? What do you think? I should ask, but I don't think to in the fleeting moment. It's not very often that a woman gives a man the opportunity to prepare her the way he'd like--even within restrictions as strict as mine, even with our strange mostly-maybe-platonic-chemistry. At this moment, I wish tonight's dinner wasn't halfway-arranged as a blind date for me, with his Japanese friend, and he and S as introductory chaperone-wingfolk or whateverthehell that passes for here.
"Okay. Let's get going?" asks S.
D concurs. "Let's roll."
"So what're you going to do with all that hair?" S asks, eyes skimming over to my pile behind the chair. Nobody really makes a move to clean it up. I shove my brush in my bag, and we start to gravitate towards our coats.
"Ah, I'll deal with it later. I think I'll make a mustache or something."
S erupts with laughter. "You should, you definitely should! And take pictures!" We laugh our way out of the cold apartment, into the even colder night. I try not to think about my pile, and that last glance-back image that's blazed in my memory, clear as any snapshot. The part of me that I'm leaving on D's floor, for him to do what he wishes with. He's setting me up with his friend, so I guess . . . I guess that should be pretty clear.
Three to four inches off my hair, with the odd strand still scraggling extra-long, to clean up myself later. If I play the numbers game, that's two to three inches more than I reckoned, and two to six months-worth of growth, depending on how slow my scalp decides to be. I'm above bra-strap length again. But amateurish, imperfect, and less flattering to my waves as it may be, this haircut's not one I'll complain about. It's the best haircut experience I've had in a long time.
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