An enlightening visit to the hairdresser's
Yesterday I paid a visit to the peluqueria, the hairdresser's. The moment I stepped through the door, I had the uncanny feeling that it was going to be a long drawn-out session so I settled down in the chair to read my magazine while the new assistant started plastering my hair with a pleasant-smelling, gooey mixture. Interestingly, there was an article titled "Qué nos dice el espejo?" about what the mirror tells us and about our image. Before we go out of the house, we look into the mirror to check our appearance. Mortified by what we see, we attempt to domesticate our unruly hair, lift our chin up high to stretch our double chin into oblivion, breathe in deeply to pull in our stomach and turn up the corners of our mouths in a smile. Then, much happier with that result, we leave the house with this image etched into our memory for the day. Ironically, somewhere down the line, anything from a few seconds or minutes to several hours later, our hair has resorted back to its original rebellious state, we've slouched and breathed out revealing unsightly doughnuts bulging around our waistline, our double chin has dropped down and the frown or worry furrows have settled into our face again. Yet in our mind we have our slim, smiling image accompanying us. Interesting.
I glanced up and looked in the mirror. There were dozens of square metres of mirrors here in the peluqueria so it was impossible to escape from them. And I was not at all flattered by what I saw looking back at me. With her hair scraped back off her face and sculpted with a mud-like paste into the comical form of a gushing fountain, sat a lady at least 10 years older than me in a white hospital gown. I didn't recognise myself. It was worse than the photo plastificada on my FM3 card for all eternity. Embarrasing. The hairdresser's, along with the hospital, must be the only place outside the intimacy of our homes and close families where we willingly (or in many cases, unwillingly) allow others to see us in the most ridiculous, humiliating pose. Our flaws and defects and wrinkles are blaringly and uncomfortably bared to all. The hidden "you" that you wouldn't think of exposing to your neighbour, unless of course she happened to be sitting in the chair next to you at the hairdresser's.
I secretly sneaked a peek at my neighbour. I could hardly see her. Two stylists were working on her hair. Dressed in black and pink, and wearing a stylish black leather apron with the pouches bulging with tools of the trade, they were deeply engrossed in their task. I half expected to see saws and hammers and monkey wrenches being wielded as they applied themselves to doing a total DIY renovation process. Her head was sagging under huge Brownie-like dollops of hair scooped up on top of it. The hairdresser on my side was coating the remaining long locks with thick black paint or what could even have been creosote, the smelly black liquid we used to splash on our wooden fences every year. She looked worse than me.
My furtive glances were interrupted by the assistant announcing that I could now go to Torture Chamber No. 1. I followed her meekly, like a lamb to the slaughter, trying to avoid looking in any of the mirrored-walls. She sat me under the roasting machine. Whenever I sit here, a picture comes into my mind of featherless and headless chickens turning on the roasting spit. It was already hot. Now I was being fired in the kiln like a piece of pottery. Not only was my hair taking on a crackly solid feel but my wrinkles were being hardened into deep petrified furrows. One of the ladies nearby was sharing her intimate phone conversation with all of us in the room with her. You don't have to shout so loud, I wanted to say. We can hear you perfectly.
Over in the other corner, another dama had obviously spent plenty of time carefully selecting her clothes for her outing to the hairdresser's. She was dressed in a shiny white top of skimpy proportions, slinky black trousers and gold shoes with 8 inch heels. Her hair floated down to below her waist and she was having Jorge attach long black wispy extensions. Judging by her comments, nothing satisfied her and Jorge was bravely trying to re-hash the mess at the back which I could see but she couldn't. She didn't seem too happy with the image in front of her either.
Normally I enjoy the hair-washing session but on this occasion, with a painful stiff neck, I braced myself for Torture Chamber No. 2. With my head creaking backwards, my legs dangling pathetically in the air, and a very bright light shining straight into my face from above, I was ready to confess everything. I just wanted them to get it done as quickly as possible. Then came the fingers kneading my skull, sending electric shivers and shocks down my spine. Not today, please! I just want to sit up normally again.
Back in my chair, with my magazine creased from clutching it so tightly in the previous room, I contemplated the person staring back at me. She was a definite improvement on the one I had been looking at earlier although she'd obviously just been dragged out from the bottom of a lake. Her hair dripped and hung lankly around her face. I settled back as the final leg of the process began. Towel-drying, combing, head pushed down, snip, snip, snip, head to the side, snip, snip, snip.... blow-dry...snip, snip. I glanced over at my neighbour again. She was comatose, showing no sign of life. Now the two peluqueras were brandishing devices which looked like hungry crocodiles, snapping at her hair. Vast columns of steam were hissing up towards the ceiling. It looked like a scene from Indiana Jones, not the hairdresser's. I wondered if she knew what was happening. Maybe they had drugged her. Over the other side, a young mother who I had noticed earlier feeding a bottle to a small baby on the sofa, was now sitting in a chair, her hair in a mucilaginous tangle, stabbing at a laptop keyboard with her fingers, her right foot rocking the baby in a car seat on the floor. I thought back to the days when I too had to multi-task like her with a young child and toddler. I'd never tried taking them to the hairdresser's with me like that though.
Finally, it was all over. Jorge was putting the finishing touches to his work of art and as I looked long and hard at the person in the mirror in front of me, I was happy. I was happy to face the world with that image etched into my mind. A transformation had taken place. It didn't matter that in a few minutes, the polluted air rushing through the car window would begin to reduce my hair to its original state. I walked out of the hairdresser's, chin lifted high, breathing in, a smile on my face... It had been quite fun after all.