January 9, 2011
Our son starts school tomorrow and is in desperate need of a haircut. My husband suggests that we go to the mall next door where we will surely find a hair salon. I’m thinking this is not the best strategy and as we walk in the direction of the mall I check out the neighborhood for a stand-alone salon. Kitty-corner from the hotel I spot an attractive storefront that houses a modern looking hair and beauty salon and say “Hey, that looks nice, let’s just go over there.”
As we walk towards the salon we see a flurry of white on the other side of the doors. We stop at the steps and realize they are lining up to open the door and greet us. Stepping inside, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed because each of them is welcoming us and offering their service. I can’t respond quickly enough and can’t figure out which person is in charge. The four young women are dressed identically in white uniforms and are wearing their hair pulled back tightly in plump smooth buns. Like a choreographed dance their arms are extended gracefully toward the styling chairs. I am doing my best to explain that it is only the little guy that needs a cut. A little more scurrying and a paper is produced in which they have written two different numbers. With a bit of sign language and referencing the service menu I get it! One price is for cut only and the other for cut and wash.
I select cut only as they show my son to the chair and they begin to carefully drape him. Two of the young women take our coats and request that we sit. The chairs are very comfortable and give us a direct view of the back of our son’s head and his face through the reflection in the mirror. The salon is quite chic and immaculate. The décor is done in a shiny white marble with textured black leather and has a cosmopolitan atmosphere. Just as we start to relax we are presented with Chinese tea which is being served in what looks like typical beverage glasses. We both nearly drop them as they are very very very hot.
It’s a sight to see my son draped and sitting there in this chair with his own cup of tea. I am warning him to wait until it cools when a very fashionable young man approaches the station. His own haircut is immediately eye-catching – extremely short all around with a section of very long and very black hair that starts from his forehead and hangs down well past his eyes. I am wondering if he can see clearly enough to cut. My husband is over there trying to control the situation and is using over exaggerated hand signals to demonstrate how he wants it cut. I’ve already accepted that this is going to be an adventure and it’s just going to be what it’s going to be. As he sits down he says, “Maybe I should get a cut too”, to which I reply “Maybe you should wait and see how this goes first.”
Watching the stylist cut I am pleased with his progress. My son’s hair grows in an uneven spiral which results in his hair never laying quite flat. (We called him Rooster when he was younger if that helps give a visual!) The stylist’s technique has all the hair laying flat, so far, and though I like what he is doing I think he needs to stop cutting now as it is really short in the back. He’s pulling the hair on the top of the head straight up which makes me think that he is giving him the same cut he has. It looks nice on him, but I’m not ready for a rocker style haircut on my 9-year old!!
I know the stylist has won my husband over because he just went to the counter and asked for a wash and cut too. One of the young women in white uniforms, #18 Wei Wei, takes him to the chair right next to our son. He is sitting down and she is draping him. This seems a bit odd as don’t you usually wash before you cut? Now she is lifting a bottle and applying something to his head, and as she rubs it in, it is really lathering up. Oh my gosh, she’s massaging his head with the shampoo. While I am sure I have a quizzical look on my face, I have to physically hold back my laughter as I catch a glimpse of my husband’s reaction in mirror. This is a man who has never wanted a massage in his life and has let expensive gift certificates for massages expire. Now he sits here, at Wei Wei’s mercy getting what seems to be a pretty intensive head and neck massage. I hear him sighing over there and wonder if he knows everyone else probably can too. Boy, I wish I was the one that asked for a wash!
I am quite comfortable and relaxed as I wait for them to be finished. My second tea was just delivered and it is just as hot. I’ve also noticed that at some point the sound track was changed from Asian pop to music they must think I would like. It hits me as being funny, and smiling to myself I quietly sing along ….Funny face, I love you, Funny face, I need you, These are the sweetest words I’ve ever heard, Funny face, don’t leave me, Funny face, believe me, My whole world’s wrapped up in you…
My son’s finished and the haircut looks really nice although the front is actually shorter than I would like it to be. I tell him it looks great and wonder if he has noticed that he looks a little like a baby porcupine. He’s entertaining himself by rolling back and forth on a clear lucite cutting stool and they seem to be getting a kick out of him. Every few minutes they offer him Chinese candies and I feel proud that he is not intimidated with the language barrier. His patience is getting a little thin though as he just asked “Mom, what the heck are they doing to Daddy?” Puff the magic dragon lived by the sea, and frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee… Forty-five minutes have passed and the head, neck and shoulder massage must be done as they are strolling towards the back of the salon. My son follows them and returns shortly to report “Daddy’s laying down and the girl is rubbing his head again.”
Another fifteen minutes passed until they returned. I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw such a big smile on his face. Sitting there he really does look relaxed. From my vantage point I notice that Wei Wei is just standing there next to my husband and it doesn’t seem like she is doing anything. I am thinking “Let’s get this show on the road and what is she doing anyway?” I am starting to feel annoyed that this impromptu wash is taking so much time and the cut hasn’t even started yet. I think I am even more annoyed that he seems to be enjoying it so much. I turned down the offer of a third cup of tea and asked my son to roll over to see what she was doing. He quickly rolled back with a smirk on his face and his eyes stretched wide and declared “Mom, she’s cleaning his ears!.”
Now there are two ladies in white over there. Each is working an arm and a hand. I can hardly wait to have a debrief from my husband. Is that smile genuine? Is he really enjoying this as much as it looks like he is? Has he changed his view of massage? An hour has now passed and with their snapping of his the fingers, we seem to be at the end of the service. The stylist that did my son earlier has come back to cut my husband. As he cuts, it seems to me that he is going way too short for the shape of my husband’s head, but who am I to say? My son seems to be on the same wavelength as he rolls back over on the stool and whispers, “Daddy’s hair looks pretty stupid in the back.” I agreed with him making a pact that we would never share that with Daddy.
It’s over, the stylist is done and my husband is finally getting up. Oh no, Wei Wei is coming back…hey where are they going? I can’t tell if I my agitation is due to this spending so much time waiting (which was unplanned) or from the envy of all this attention he is getting. Once again in the back room she gave him one last wash and massage before the stylist completed the service which now was upgraded to include wind. (which means blow dry)
As the stylist is finishing up, Wei Wei and two other young ladies come over to where I am sitting and offer me a VIP program. Even though I don’t speak Mandarin and they don’t speak English, I get it. If I prepay 1000RMB now all future services are 50% off. I repeatedly thank them saying “not today.” The bill for my son’s hair cut and my husband’s 60 minute massage, cut and wind is a whopping 115RMB ($17USD)! They write on a paper that if I buy the VIP pass today our services would only be 58RMB ($8.50USD). Can you imagine? I am still stunned that we received all this great service and hospitality for so little money. The VIP pass is a really good deal but we are in temporary housing and will not be living in this neighborhood too long. I am not ready to commit to the first Salon we have gone too…and besides, my husband hasn’t seen the back of his head yet.