The challenge of a haircut in Thailand

Our first haircuts in Thailand
Today we decided we needed our hair cut. We set off on the scooter and drove through our neighborhood. There were several places that indicated “haircut” but oh…they looked scary. We have a beautiful house at the end of a little street, but we live in a “neighborhood.” Yes, you know what I mean. Not a neighborhood like “the hood,” our neighborhood is more like a community neighborhood. The streets are lined with road side carts of food, and pork legs and chicken bodies dangle from hooks behind glass. It is on this road that you can dine at the little “mom and pop” restaurant and where you can sit on small plastic chairs in the dirt and share your meal with the flies and the dogs. There are also small “grocery” stores that look like large closets with someone in the back on a couch watching TV. All this is normal and fine if you are hungry or need a bottle of water, but this is not fine when you are looking for a place to get your hair cut.
Think of how scary it is when you go to a new salon for the first time. At least for me, I worry they will cut too much or do some “new look” that they think will be so great! So, picture the feelings we had today as we passed one “hair salon” after the next of small, dirty rooms, with old ladies sitting on the floor, watching the time go by.
We thought we might go downtown where at least we had a chance of a decent haircut, but along the path, we found a place that looked promising. The first place we stopped, the ladies were young, the blowdryers looked modern, and it seemed appealing enough for us to want to stop. But when we got off the scooter and pointed to both of us while making a cutting gesture with our fingers, the ladies indicated that they would not cut Manny’s hair. Not quite sure why, we got back on the scooter in search for another.
Soon after, we found another place that met a similar criteria. Again, we asked with our pictionary expertise, “can you cut both our hair?” Again, the girls responded to Manny, “No.” Confused, that perhaps this was a cultural thing, a man emerged from the salon and indicated to Manny to go two doors down. So he went there, and I stayed.
Not knowing if I would come out with a “bob” or my hair spiked, I forged on open to whatever would come. Now, these girls spoke NO English whatsoever. Most people know a few words, and in the end we get by. But here, I was on my own. Surprisingly, the girl washed my hair with the attention of an acupuncturist. She shampooed me twice, conditioned me twice, massaged my scalp for 20 minutes, rubbed my temples, my eyes, my neck and completely relaxed me. After that was done, I was escorted back to the bench while I watched the other two stylists “tag team” the woman in the chair getting blow dried. Two blowers, two brushes, they pulled and blowed this girl until her hair was as straight as a piece of straw and as shiny and smooth as silk. My worries began to fade.
I could see they were looking at me, wanting to make me feel more comfortable, but did not know what to say, so using the little bit of Thai that I have learned so far, I asked, “Man sa we lat?” (I am thinking this means what is your name?). But, the woman just looked at me funny and then pointed next door and said, “XY&^#$.” Not understanding that response, I tried to correct my accent a bit and really stretch out the words and let my mouth open as I said, MAAAN SAAAAA WEEEE LAAAAT? (This is how they do it, they really draw out their A’s.) Again, confused she really looked at me as though I had two heads. Checking my memory to be sure I was saying it right I was sure I was saying it close enough, and then it hit me. That was not “What is your name,” that was “vegetarian.” All of a sudden I busted into laughter at my own mistake. I shook my head and tried to make an erase sign (but was not really sure how to do that one so I just repeatedly made my hand flat and moved it back and forth trying to erase our confusing conversation and start over.) Then I asked, “con chu a ry?” Ah, yes! She indicated with her eyes. And she responded “Da.” Ok!! “Da!” I repeated. Then I pointed to myself, “Katie.”
When she finished with the other woman, she motioned for me to sit in her chair. I gathered up the ends of my hair and brought my fingers to the very edge motioning for her to just cut the tips. Smiling, she nods and I think we are both crystal clear. She combs my hair out, and all of a sudden before I can say, “Wait! That is too much!” Wack! She cuts about a full inch off the end. Resigned that it is too late now, I let her go, hoping her idea is better than mine. Snip, snip, snip, she cuts all the ends and then before we can “discuss this further,” she grabs my hair about 3 inches up from the end and holds it at an angle and WACK!!! I gasped as I thought she was giving me a full on layer job. But, I don’t see any hair fall, and I realize she is just texturizing my ends. I almost had a heart attack. Again, I let her go, and keep my mouth closed, not wanting to confuse her or stop her in mid cut. I kept on smiling while hoping that soon, her creativity would be over. It was. She blew dried my hair beautifully, and it was the first time since arriving to Chiang Mai that I really feel pretty. All in all, once again, it turned out ok.
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