The kids were in desperate need of haircuts and my Mandarin is still pretty pitiful, so last night we met Mark at the hair salon. He had recently gotten his own haircut without incident, so he was officially in charge of the operation. To prepare for his trip to the salon, Mark had spent his entire Chinese lesson learning all of the language necessary to avoid a horrible haircut. His teacher was reluctant to help him because she feared the possible repercussions from his potentially disastrous trip to the barber. She eventually gave in, and now Mark can successfully ask for such necessary things as a perm (ha!) and can give some basic instructions as to the length and style of a haircut. Armed with this information, we braved the Chinese hair salon.
Of course, since we are currently having a pretty bumpy ride most of the time when it comes to China, this adventure had to start with plenty of grumping and grumbling. Lucas was determined not to let the scissors actually make contact with his precious locks. Not even our usual teasing comparisons with Justin Beiber would make him change his mind. He likes it in his eyes! Leave him alone! We trudged to the salon and during that ten minute hike managed to have one person trip and fall (Henry), another person get their feelings hurt (Ava), and one more just continue the rant from home (Lucas) until we were all ready to throttle each other. One poor unsuspecting woman had the nerve to smile at us and count all my little blonde children. How lucky to have three and two of them strong boys! So cute! I managed to turn my snarl into a smile for a few seconds but the kids continued to bicker. She quickly crossed the street, jumping through the bike lane and two lanes of traffic. I secretly wished I could follow her. Even the very real possibility of kissing the bumper of an oncoming taxi seemed more pleasant than walking with my demonic kids.
When we finally met Mark, I eagerly surrendered the children to him. He seemed confident that he could handle the haircuts although he made a point of mixing up some words in front of the kids just to freak them out a bit. Did that mean “haircut” or did it mean “perm”? Hmmm… he couldn’t remember. Wouldn’t Lucas like a perm? Lucas did not see the humor in this and quickly corrected his father. Apparently, someone else had also been doing a little work on his Mandarin salon vocabulary.
Our arrival in the salon created pandemonium. This was a very Chinese place with only a few stylists even able to say a handful of words in English. Once it was made clear that the three kids would be getting haircuts, they were whisked away by a gaggle of high-heeled, short-skirted shampoo girls. Mark promptly sat down to read but I was a little nervous about leaving the kids alone. After all, they had never had this kind of salon experience and with our bad attitudes this could go either way. I followed the kids upstairs and arrived just in time to see them all getting ready for the shampoo. The girls were giggling and fawning all over the kids and Henry’s friend had whipped out her cell phone to take pictures. She posed him like a Chinese kid with his head cocked to one side and his fingers in two peace signs and snapped away.
She took photos of the other girls with Ava and Lucas and then began to lather up Henry’s head. In China, you lay flat for the shampoo and rinse, so the kids, who are used to maybe not even getting a wash at the salon, were treated to the full experience.
They got head massages and Henry got more attention than he has since infancy. The shampoo girl lathered him up and then cooed at him like he was a baby, putting her forehead up against his and exclaiming over his cuteness. She even went so far as to pick him up after the shampoo and place him gingerly on the floor rather than let him climb down from the wash station.
The actual cuts involved more fawning and photos. Random people from other parts of the salon came over to gawk at the children. The boys were finished first. Lucas came away with his dream haircut—still in the eyes and shaggy enough that no one at school even noticed he had changed anything at all when he arrived at school in the morning.
Henry got maybe his shortest haircut ever. I was worried about him looking like a boiled onion, but the stylist left the front a little longer to make up for the back. As he stepped back to admire his work, the stylist first positioned his own hair in the front, and then made Henry’s match before announcing that he was finished. Lucas’ hair suspiciously resembled his stylists’ as well. They had made the boys into little blonde versions of themselves.
Once the boys were finished, everyone could turn their undivided attention to Ava. Again, cameras came out and multiple people spent time admiring her hair and eyes. The other stylists were now free to sit with her while her hair was cut and to shower her with admiration. In a mix of English and Chinese they complimented her as she smiled and nodded. She had asked me earlier if they would blow dry her hair so it would be straight and she was thrilled to discover this was a regular part of her haircut. Leaving the salon she told me that this had been “the best day yet” (hooray!) “except for all that time I spent at school” (boo!). Sort of a win? Sadly, we will take it.