Wednesday, August 27, 2008

this is N16

The barber spoke no English, but fortunately one of the other three did and translated for me. Scissors, no clippers, short on the sides and back, longer on top. The same instructions I have given barbers since I was old enough to get my hair cut without adult supervision. There was one little boy in the salon who was clearly too young to be there on his own, but his shy smile suggested either that he knew the barbers or found the whole exercise of having his hair cut extremely amusing. He got to sit on a plank of wood that raised him to a manageable height for the translating barber and was also covered with a special yellow kiddy bib with cartoon characters. I've never been good at instructions for barbers. Some want clipper numbers and I can never remember whether the lower numbers mean shorter hair or the other way around. Others seem satisfied with less exact descriptions of length, but some demand a bewildering array of specifications - shape, depth, texture, straightness or lack thereof. With my Turkish dude, I was having trouble getting across the bare minimum. Once he took my glasses off, I couldn't even keep track of what he was doing visually. Everyone else in the salon was Turkish, except for a one-armed black guy - but he was getting his head shaved completely, so his linguistic abilities didn't seem particularly relevant. My head is dunked forward into a basin and warm water run through my hair, shampooed, massaged, toweled dry. There is something very sensuous about having your hair washed in the middle of a working day. I think it's the feeling of droplets of water trickling down your earlobes and neck when the rest of you is fully clothed. It doesn't seem right somehow, deliciously transgressive, out of place. My dude begins working furiously on my hair and goes on for quite a while. No conversation (obviously), just his hands gently and firmly pushing my head this way and that. Shave? No. I think he's finished and get up to go, but he smacks me back into the chair. Out comes a razor and he takes the hair off the nape of my neck and from behind my ears. Then he fishes out a little agarbati-like wick, lights it and SINGES THE HAIR OFF MY EARS. At first I smile because of the novelty of this method of hair removal, but then it gets fucking scary. This has got to be in violation of some EU health and safety directive, I think. Doesn't Turkey want to join the EU? But he's done before I can contemplate my petition to the ECJ. Next he fishes out a pair of scissors and clips away at stray nasal hair. What next? Trim my pubes? Back into the basin for another shampoo and towelling. Upright again. Blow dry and comb. The razor is fished out again and slapped against the comb so that every eager little hair poking out of my head in the wrong places gets the chop. So much has been done, that I'm not sure what I have left (the glasses are still off). Next, before I can refuse, wax. Just a little to mess things up a bit. He squeezes a few drops of aftershave onto his hands, rubs them together and slaps my face. OUCH! {tingle} A few jets of manly perfume in all the right places, towels removed and I am ready to go. £13. Whew, relief. Almost exactly the same as the non-concessionary rate in Oxford. I put on my glasses. He's got it exactly right. Something has been gained in translation. I walk out of the salon smelling like India (specifically like the Hamaam/Lifebuoy demographic).

[To judge the results, come to my party on Friday. And if you want the same, you'll find this place on Stoke Newington Road, on the right if you're heading north, just after Arcola St. I'll go back and find out the name of the place tomorrow.]

This has got to be in violation of some EU health and safety directive, I think. Doesn't Turkey want to join the EU?

laughing so hard my stitches hurt.

I'm going to have to start supplying you with some vocabulary for your day-to-day life. Not sure that I can be useful re: barbers, though, remember the haircut I got in Bodrum?
you got a haircut in Bodrum??? Can't remember... the BOREDOM seems to have blocked that out! can we skype soon?
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