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Published: March 12th 2007
Before the cut.
It was ridiculously long.
I went in for my first haircut last week. It was another great experience. There is something very odd about the salons here. They stay open until 11 PM, some even later. I inquired to a Chinese friend about it, and also read a little in a newspaper as to why this could be. Apparently some (in truth very few) hair cutting businesses are real ambitious businessmen…they use the salon as a cover for running a black market prostitution business. There are salons on every block, comparable to a Starbucks shop in Seattle (by the way, I am ironically typing this e-mail in a Suzhou Starbucks…who serve burnt and expensive lattes), and who don’t open until 9:30 AM.
Supposedly the salons with dual prostitution businesses have the retro style spinning candy cane looking decorations outside the entrance. I just wanted a simple haircut. Who knows whether the haircutter was trained and competent—she could just be a floozy.
So I nimbly walked into the salon last week, terrified of what they might do to me. If you have seen recent pictures of me, you know it was about damn time, I look like a chubby German woman. Seriously, more
than once Chinese people have thought I looked like John Denver. I needed to take drastic measures. John Denver? No one aspires to look like John Denver.
As I was saying, I walked into the salon. They really try to solicit you. If they see that you are even considering walking in, they run out after you and grab you. So I walked in. The place was packed. The salon was flooded with hairspray, men who had girly haircuts, girls with manly haircuts, and everything in between.
So I sat down. A woman greeted me with a courtesy shampoo. She used a ketchup looking squirt bottle, and scrubbed me up in the chair, not a sink. After she scrubbed me for about 15 minutes, I went to the washing area. I was greeted by another kind person. This man was lurking in the back of the shop. Sadly, it seemed his only job was to rinse. He was the rinser. He rinsed me good for around 10 minutes, then rapped my head up in a towel, squeezing to the utter limits.
I proceeded back to the conditioning station, where the shampooer (and conditioner) lady conditioned me with
a mustard looking squirt bottle. She mustarded me for around another 10 minutes, then sent me back to the rinser lurking in the corner. He rinsed me for another 10 minutes, and rapped me back up to the limit.
I went back to the conditioning stand, where another woman greeted me for a scalp massage. She rubbed my head for 5 minutes or so, then moved to my neck…down to my shoulders…all the way to the small of my back. Don’t worry, she stopped there. I didn’t expect to get a 10 minute back massage at the salon, but I am in China, so any assumptions I have or had are probably wrong.
And finally to the actual haircutting. You guessed it—done by someone else. This man’s hair was bigger than his head, and his head was bigger than his waist and the size 0 women’s jeans he was wearing. He had nice, delicate hands, so I thought I could trust him. After around 40 minutes, he finished. During this time, the hair-sweeping person had to stop by my booth multiple times. The sweeper just goes around the store and sweeps anything he could find. An audience also
accumulated at times. Foreigners maybe don’t frequent Chinese salons too often.
He really thinned me out, but I think it looked ok. It is very popular for men to have big hair here. They are the Vidal Sasoon marketers dream clients. After the cut, I asked for a little styling gel. He pointed back to the rinsing man lurking in the corner. So I walked back for my third rinse. This lasted around 5 minutes. He then rapped me up again in a towel, and I went to the shampoo and conditioner booth for a hair dry. After the dry, I went back to my haircutters booth for a “style.” He grabbed the gel and shaped my hair into a tall, poofy square, just like his. I laughed on the inside, paid the attendant, and walked out. Total time spent at the salon—hour and a half. Total cost-- $2.40. And you DO not generally leave tips in China, it is considered disrespectful. The tip is included in the cost.
At this salon, their were loads of workers, the shampooer, the conditioner, the rinser, the back rubber, the greeter who got me in there, the sweeper, the on-looker, and
He poofed it up into a square.
the attendant behind the corner. How can they possibly afford this? To look at it from another angle, as an American consumer, why do half the things you buy these days—regardless of the familiarity of the company or brand—have a “MADE IN CHINA” stamp on the back of them? Additionally, why do you think China’s trade surplus might eventually be as big as our deficit? Hmmm…Words for thought.
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