On requesting an appointment for a haircut, the receptionist retorted back in an alluring voice, “You are in luck today, M’am. Our French hairstyle director, Pierre, is available, if you can make it at noon.”
Hmm...a French Stylist! Just like a French kiss, the thought of a French hairstyle conjured up images of patisseries, wines, cheese, cosmetics, romance and…the Indian stereotyped image of Eiffel Tower! Then emerged the fear of the unknown. No doubt, the risk of going to a new hairstylist was significant. I was past that age where a hairstyle could be treated as a fleeting crush. Well, it was a serious affair. A hairstyle is a matter of personal identity or crisis. Now it may be hard for men to understand this mental turmoil. For me, hairstyle is as grave a matter as a man deciding what company to work for.
I arrived on time. I was escorted to my hair-cutting chair. With hope in my heart and Holy Mary on my lips, I waited for him to turn to me. He just looked at me. Felt my hair. “I don’t need a very short cut. All I need is layers, just to add volume. You see!” However, I got no indication or acknowledgement out of him. All he did was, take out his scissors, pulled my hair and started chopping them at a 45-degree angle. Could it be the mark of a true craftsman? Or maybe he does not understand English. I didn’t know whether to feel lucky or doomed. He was at it with same dexterity and commitment, as a French composer orchestrating his first ballet performance. For a while, it was just the snipping of his scissors and the uncomfortable silence between us.
I decided to break the ice. “So where are you from?” “From Paris,” he said. Hmm, that Eiffel Tower association was not too far off. “So what brings you to India?” me trying hard to engage him. “My wife’s from India. She’s studied here and wants to live here.” Oh great, feeling happy that I hit his answering button. “What does she do?” “She’s an engineer but has her own company now.” An engineer, you say? Pouncing on the chance I’ve been waiting for. “I’m an engineer too,” I said, with the hope that he will take the cue. He should know that as an engineer I would have a certain geeky reputation to protect. That a hanky-panky hairstyle just won’t work.
For the next 15 minutes, his scissors seemed more daunting than a surgeon’s knife. My heart sank with every snip, rose back up at each swizzle. I got the impression that my hair was posing a challenge that was bringing out the fighting spirit in him. Finally, the golden words, “There you are, pretty lady! I grudgingly turned up to see my own reflection. My hair was certainly shorter than what I wanted it to be, but it did look cute in a non-conventional yet conventional sort of a way. I could learn to live with it. In fact, even flaunt it without being flamboyant.
For the next time though, I’d go for a French manicure before I think of a French coiffure. Nothing against Pierre, but I don’t think I have the stomach for so many butterflies.