Friday, February 27, 2009

More Than a Haircut

When we moved here five months ago, everyday was a battle of the firsts in Spanish. First phone call, first bank transaction, first taxi request, first grocery store experience, etc, etc. Of all the firsts, one of the most daunting ones was put off until today: THE HAIR SALON. It wasn't a calculated delay, per se, but I certainly wasn't going to go out of my way to check it off the list.

Even in the US, going to the hair salon is not my idea of pampering. I may like someone massaging my head as they give my hair a good shampooing or the way my hair smells and looks after stepping out of the salon, but deep down inside, it's a dreaded feeling to have to go. And here's why. Hair salons can be the ultimate test of language finesse, not only because something tangible (my hair!) is in limbo, but it's usually a place where conversation, and not silence, is valued. For me, being the introvert that I am, hair salons are daunting endeavors by the stylist to engage in a tell-all psychologist/patient relationship. So, naturally, if it's not something I particularly enjoy doing in the States, it's not something I would enjoy doing here in another language. 

Before I left, I smartened up with some "hair" language, like haircut, sharp angles, layers, parted off to the side, and a picture of what I wanted (just in case the Spanish didn't compute). As soon as I walked in (or, rather, knocked on the locked door), I was warmly greeted, and some of my salon and Spanish fears faded. I got asked the usual foreigner questions, and feigned a few "si's" when I had no idea what the stylist was saying to me about my hair. It was probably something like "you have dry hair, you need to buy our products" because, on several occassions, they did try to sell their products to me while I was strapped to the chair. And not just hair products, they offered me a manicure, pedicure, AND facial. 

Unless someone tells me otherwise, I am going to assume that this is salon protocol in Mexico. Or maybe salon protocol for seemingly rich foreigners in Mexico. While I did receive a nice haircut, and the shop owner was genuinely kind to me, I didn't like the product pitches. I can deal with the language barrier or the discomfort of having to sit in a chair and spill my beans, but please don't tell me I need a facial. Besides that, I am proud to say that I have, again, chartered new territories in my Spanish life. 


  1. Good for you, Alice. I am very proud of you. Onward ever backward never. I started out the same way and now I am right at home in the barbershop. I tell the barber jokes and everybody laughs. I don't know if they laugh at the jokes or at my Spanish. I don't care. It's lots of fun and I always get a good haircut :)

  2. Im so thankful that I have my husband around every time I get my hair cut. The first time I thought she was asking if I wanted her to straighten my hair and she was asking if I wanted bangs. AHHHHH that would have been bad if my hubby wasnt there.

  3. Lack of language skills invite all kinds of confusion. Yesterday she asked me if I wanted my hair blow dried or straightened. When I replied, "Both," she looked at me funny. I mistakenly thought she was asking me which I liked better.