Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mama Always Said

Jerusalem. My mother always said that male hairdressers were the best because they knew what it took to make a woman look and feel her best. I imagine that she took this from my grandmother, who has been going to the same man named "Anthony" to do her little grandma style blow out every week for the past 30 years.

I have been in need of a haircut for about 3 months, but holding off until I could no longer stand my mane anymore. The truth is that I hate to have my hair cut, and from the looks of other women on the strict and austere streets of Jerusalem, I am positively frightened by what I see. Beyond my basic fear of being fleeced of my shiny, dark mane, what I particularly hate the most is the look of exasperation on the face of each and every hairdresser that has ever run her hands through it before remarking, "Oh, have a lot of hair, don't you?" Then, for the next 45 minutes to an hour, I am subjected to the sufferings of one hair dresser after another taking a whack at my locks.

The truth is that it could be worse. I have very fine hair and a lot of it. When it is not long, it can go wavy and frizzy in humidity, which can be a bit of a mess. A reflection of its owner, my hair typically has a mind of its own, and so the shorter the hair, the bigger the friz-'fro. Now that it is well on its way to snaking down my back, I have every intention to keep it this way for the duration. Shorter hair is simply too much hassle. Aside from this, the only vanity I have about it is that I must be very careful with it that it does not turn rust red in the sun. This has been a problem since childhood.

It happened that I was doing my laundry today (in the Arab side of town, of course) when I decided to spontaneously wander into the hair salon next door. I was greeted by a nice man with beautiful eyes who took me straight to the sink. Despite my view of his exceedingly hairy armpit in the muscle shirt he was wearing, he scrubbed and massaged my scalp better than anyone has ever done before. I thanked myself that it was early in the morning, and his armpit was yet to smell like one. His name was Ameet, by the way, and he did the smart thing of applying conditioner and brushing my hair out in the sink before attempting to put a comb through later. Very smart man, that Ameet. I honestly wanted to kiss him on the mouth for this. Phermones flying and hairy armpits notwithstanding, I was clearly in good hands.

After the washing, I was shuffled to the next chair, where the owner, Ahmad, came over and flamboyantly asked me what I wanted. Between my broken Arabic and his non-existent English, we figured it out. Much to my amazement, Ahmad was not the least bit intimidated by the mane as other hairdressers in America have been before him. This was a man who clearly knew his way around the hair of the Mediterranean. He looked at the color and texture of my hair with joy and fascination. He squealed in delight over the dark-chestnut tone with auburn highlights that I inherited from my Irish father's side of the line, and he seemed to practically salivate over the consistency of the abundance of fine hair.

"Like Arab, but not fully Arab," Ahmad said in Arabic with a laugh as he commented on my hair, face and skin tone. "You could be like...a...Lebanese!"

"The Lebanese women are beautiful!," assured Ameet, with a universal lisp that defies any and all language barriers.

Oh yes, I was right at home.

Ahmad quickly went to work cleaning up the edges and battered ends, and 15 minutes later, I emerged with a sleek new 'do. (And a half-understood lecture on more intensive conditioning.)

Then, at last, Amir came along like a true vigilante with his blow dryer and round brush for the finishing touches. Somehow without a straightening iron, he blew my hair pin-straight. G-d bless him. It was freaking amazing. Truly a cultural experience.

Meanwhile, while each one did his job, the other two fussed and clucked behind me, sometimes taking turns to go outside to smoke their cigarettes, other times checking their SMS messages on their phones. Whether I believed them or not, they roundly agreed that I was the prettiest and nicest customer to come into their shop in a very long time. They begged me to please send all of my pretty friends. Of course, this caused me to laugh when I realized that the only other women in there were geriatric Jewish women who came for their weekly blow-outs. (I laughed again at the thought that my grandmother is probably doing the same thing with Anthony right about now, only on her side of the world. G-d bless her.)

Although I had plenty of women pour themselves over my hair before, having my hair done in sequence by 3 Arab men was definitely a new cultural experience. It was so nice. It felt like home. (For the first time in my life, I didn't feel freakish for having more hair than the Baby Jesus...because we all know that he was a Palestinian Jew, too...)

If only I could bring them all home with me.



Anonymous said...

I have a similar head of hair - fine and in abundance - and have an appt for a cut today. If it doesn't work out, I may just have to head out your way for a 'do over.

VJ said...

What no Supercuts over there? And little Baby Jesus? Hardly had any hair at all! I know, I was there. (Well not really but I've seen enough creches, and he's never got hair there). Cheers & Continued Good Luck, 'VJ'

Kim Ayres said...

That's a stunning photograph!