Getting a 'Hair'y Situation
Straightened Out...
Me, my mooncake and my newly-straightened hair.
October 6, 2006

Today was a day dedicated to chilling out, reading, people watching, etc. I thought the Summer Palace would be the perfect place to accomplish all of
these things.

On my way to the subway, I made a spontaneous decision to turn into a random hair salon. My venue for chilling out, reading and people watching
just changed…

My hair had been
long overdue for a little TLC. It has been growing like a weed for the past six months. Yes, six months with absolutely nothing done
to it. But none of this really mattered since 99% of the past five months my hair had been immediately pulled back into a clip.

I have been feeling so scruffy lately that I knew things had to change. The first thing would be my hair. This was something I was more than willing to
treat myself to. Heck, after all of the scams I have fallen victim to in the past couple days I deserved to do something for

My hair would get the pampering that it has waited months for…

I can’t count the number of times in the past five months that I have wished that my hair was tame and presentable. But no matter what I did or what
type of conditioning products I used, it would always dry into a frizzy mess. The only answer was to always just put it back in a clip or up in a ponytail.
The majority of my hair strands literally have not seen the light of day.

Until now.

With all inquiries, answers and additional comments done entirely through the use of charades skills, I would somehow effectively communicate that
I wanted my hair cut and permanently straightened. Everything was going fine until they whipped out a pricelist. The prices weren’t the problem as
they were in readable numbers. The difficulty lied in the fact that the pricelist was a grid (just like tic-tac-toe). I was able to understand that the
horizontal column referred to hair length. Of course my hair would fall into the ‘long’ (i.e. most expensive) category. But at least this would eliminate
two of the columns. Now it was time to make sense out of the vertical column. Charades was not working with this one. They would say something in
Chinese thinking I might understand part of what they were saying. I would then respond in English hoping they would understand part of what I was
saying. Both sides would fail miserable with trying to get across what we were saying.  The prices went from least expensive (on the top) to most
expensive (on the bottom). Originally I was going to go for the middle number – this system works great when picking out wine from a list you are
unfamiliar with. But this wasn’t wine I was dealing with. It was my hair. Only $14 separated the middle option with the most expensive one. I love no-
brainers…though it would still be nice to know what the actual option was. I just didn’t want the mid-option to be something like straightening half of
my hair and have the other half be curly. There are some…um…interesting hairstyles out here and I sure as hell didn’t want to sign up for one of
those! I pointed to the priciest option on the list and it was as if they were shocked to see someone pick this option. It was 400 yuan…or $50.

This process reminded me of a hospital. There were the scrub techs, the residents and the head surgeon. The resident sat me down and had the
surgeon come over right away. They were now looking at hair that was completely foreign to them (no pun intended). From the expressions on their
face, I am dead serious that they had never seen hair like mine. And it wasn’t because I am not Asian – it was entirely due to the fact that my hair was
in a league of its own. The surgeon would take a strand and separate it as far down as it would go (split ends are at least good for something, huh?) and
evaluate what he just saw. They were highly strategizing the plan of what to do with me. At times like this, I was more than happy to not understand
the language as it never feels good to hear people say negative things about you…or your hair, for that matter.

The surgeon left the area and the resident started by taking me to the sink. She got my hair rinsed and prepped. Another resident came over and they
started by slathering solution on my hair, taking big sections at a time. When they were all done, I just sat and waited for a while. Bringing my ipod
was a godsend. Then I got rinsed again, blow-dried and waited again since the surgeon was tending to someone else. It took a little while (you know
doctors!) but he came over and got his straightening iron ready for me. It was time to pump my hair full of ions. This is when the scrub techs were
called in. These were the oh-so-lucky ones to literally hold pieces of my hair while the surgeon did his straightening magic one what seemed like ten
strands of hair at a time. There were about three of them who rotated throughout the entire process. My hair was eventually fully straight and
ionized. The resident came back and it was now time for more solution to be slathered on. Afterwards, there was more waiting time. She then came
over and started saying something to me in Chinese. I she then ran her hands through my hair to fully straighten it again. I was unaware that I wasn’t
allowed to move in the chair. I guess when I shifted at one point, my hair did as well. I now had a chaperone for the rest of the time I had to wait as the
resident sat next to me. I just sat there like a statue in fear of getting reprimanded. My hair would get rinsed one more time with some solution stuff
and I would be treated to a neck massage while I waited to be summonsed by the surgeon.

The time had come to lose a few inches of hair. Halleluiah! I told him what I wanted – a simple straight-across deal. The thousands of Chinese women
I had seen in the past couple of days highlighted the fact that these people go layer-crazy. And when I say ‘crazy’, I mean it! Layers that you would
never wish on your worst enemy. I wanted none of it. He ended up cutting the perfect amount of hair and blow-dried it just a bit to look as straight as
a bone.

Before I settled the bill, a little bit of charades was in order again. With my now-advanced skills in this game, I concluded that I was not to wash my
hair for the next three days. Nor was I allowed to put my hair up, pull it back or put it behind my ears for the next three days.

I went out of the salon feeling like a new woman! If my hair could talk, it would be saying “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, I’m free at

Follow Up…

I went to dinner that night with four of my friends from my Trans-Mongolian trip. People I had spent three consecutive weeks with. As I waited for
them in the lobby, every single one of them would look right past me at first. It took all of them a few extra seconds to realize that they did, in fact,
know me. Isn’t it crazy that straight hair can make that much of a difference on a person???

Another Follow Up…

After never having my hair on my face for so many months, this whole not putting my hair up or even tucking it behind my ears is proving to be a bit
challenging. I still have one day left of this. I can do it…but it’s hard work.

And Another Follow Up…

When I was purchasing something today, the Chinese woman asked if I had my hair straightened in China! She told me that she could tell as it looked
like the hair Chinese people have when they have the procedure done. I can’t count the number of times in my life that I said how envious I was of
Asians’ straight hair. Ladies and gentlemen…it is with great pride that I say that I now have Asian hair!
Back to China.