Sunday, March 13, 2011

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

“So how did you get into cutting hair?”
In the last year and a half, I have heard this question from nearly everyone who has sat in my kitchen chair sporting a stylish black cape.  The jury is still out on whether they’re just striking up a friendly conversation, or concerned about what they will look like when I’m done hacking away with my scissors.  But, I don’t charge for the service, so I’m sure it’s hard to resist.
To answer the question, I’ve cut my husband’s hair ever since we got married, and started cutting my own about ten years ago. I had recently had the best haircut of my life (thanks, Rann!), but at $45 for just the cut, there was no way this seminary student was going to be able to do that every eight weeks.  What can I say?  I’m cheap.  I tried several $12 chain-salon haircuts, but soon decided I could do just as well on my own.  And if I butchered my coif, I could always go running back to Rann to have it expertly doctored.
I also cut the kids’ hair, and the dog’s.  And fortunately for our current community, I had some friends in Texas (equally cheap, apparently) who were my willing guinea pigs before we came to PNG.  To my great surprise, they were all repeat customers, including the sixteen year old boy who generally refused to let anyone touch his curly blonde locks.
I knew that services like haircuts could be hard to come by here, being a community filled with academics, so I brought along my scissors and my willingness to give haircutting a shot, just in case.  I didn’t get past the first three weeks before requests were coming in.
Despite my lack of training, I routinely do anywhere between 3 and 8 haircuts in a normal week.  In the last two and a half weeks, I have had 21 haircuts and a couple of consultations with mothers who want to learn to cut their children’s hair.  Who would have ever guessed?
Last night I cut hair for my friend in the photo above.  The woman has piles of hair.  It had been a while since I cut it last, and, after I finished the trim, I asked her if we had thinned her hair last August.  She said, yes, she thought so, and yes, let’s do it again.  However, with the first snip of the thinning shears, she shrieked, “Sharon!  What are you doing?
I just laughed.  You’ll never miss it.
I convinced her to trust me and kept on thinning.  She swallowed her fears and let me do my thing.  The picture above was taken when it was all over and she had just gotten a glimpse of the volume of hair on the floor.  She’s laughing behind her hand … really she is.
Though she was happy with her haircut, not everyone has been.  I have had three notable situations over the eighteen months where the person was less than satisfied.  The first was a woman who came to me with super-thick hair, long enough to reach her waist.  She wanted to have enough cut off to donate to “Locks of Love,” and she was headed to the coast for four months of orientation training.  We discussed how stiflingly hot it is at the coast, and how she would want it short enough (and thinned) so that it wasn’t too hot, yet long enough to pull up in a ponytail.  I did what she asked me to do, so I choose to believe that it was the sheer shock of going from waist-length to just-below-the-shoulder-length that caused her very, very pained countenance upon completion of the job.
The second to-be-unhappy customer brought me a picture.  As if that’s not dangerous enough, her words to me were, “This is the closest I can find to what I want.”
That’s very specific, thank you.
I tried as best I could to figure out what she wanted, but apparently I overshot it significantly.  A couple weeks later she apologized for the way she had reacted when I handed her the mirror.  I must be a completely insensitive dolt, though, because I hadn’t even noticed.  Though short, yes, I thought it looked very cute on her. Then, and this is the funny part, she said she forgave me for the haircut.
I don’t think I’ve ever been forgiven for a haircut before.
At least not that I knew about.  :)
Last week, I cut the hair of one of my ten-year old students.  This boy had long, shaggy blonde hair which he had grown out for a school event.  Now that the event was over, Mom was the impetus for him to seek a trim.  Fortunately, she came with him, because he was rather tight-lipped about what he wanted.  That or he was embarrassed to see me in this capacity, one or the other.
Mom tried to glean from him what he was hoping for, and then interpreted for me, adding her own opinion into the mix.  I gave him what she wanted.
But, it was not what he wanted.
His tears broke my heart.
I never thought that a 10-year old boy would care that much about what his hair looked like.  I have cut hair for several teenage boys, many of whom, like my friend in Texas, won’t allow anyone to touch their hair under normal circumstances.  I always felt honored (albeit a bit nervous) that they trusted me to cut it.  But this kid is ten, and shorter in stature than my 8-year old.  I never expected that reaction.  He ended up having it buzzed short.  A bittersweet consolation prize.
Aside from these three dramas, most of my victims, er, clients are happy enough, especially, I suppose, considering the alternatives (no cut, self-cut, spouse-cut, or worse.)
After all, I offer a double-your-money-back guarantee.

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(Updated 13 April 2013)