I needed a haircut.
I was thinking hard of where to go for a haircut because I wanted something new. My hair reaches a certain length and then it’s like it gets tired of life. The ends get brittle and dry. My scalp gets itchy. Hair falls out. A lot. I’m just forever pulling it all back in a ponytail.
That’s when I know it’s time.
I don’t have a go-to place for haircuts, nor do I have a trusted or favorite hair stylist. For years, I’ve followed my mom’s lead, joining her on parlor-day-Sundays, getting mani-pedis and haircuts from people that do hers. My mom, she’s not loyal to establishments, but more on the few people that can do her signature ash blonde color just the way she likes it.
When it comes to salons, I’m not picky. I don’t mind paying for a premium at a posh salon, or sitting elbow-to-elbow with other clients that are too chatty for my taste in a salon that doesn’t even offer iced tea (‘yun talaga ‘yung sukatan e ‘no haha). I’ve had someone come over to give me a haircut, and I’ve gone to the garage of a friend still studying hair styling for a one-of-a-kind haircut and color combo.
I just want a place that delivers.
The usual salons, I’ve noticed that they’ve been giving me slight variations of the same cut now – a long bob. I’ve tried different branches of Bench FIX, Chronicles Salon in Glorietta 4, Azta Salon in Alabang, and other places. In their book, hair types like mine only get that kind of hair cut.
And this style is okay! It’s okay until the blow out wears off. It’s okay usually until the third week, and then I’ll book a hair treatment primarily for the back massage and the blow out, so I can feel good about my hair again. And then I’m back on the ponytail.
And always, they will just blow my hair straight.
I’m the odd wave in a sea of straights. The persistent curl amidst a culture that insists straight is the hair of goddesses.
No change. I’ve been designated to a particular hairstyle or risk never looking nice again.
Unless I take up their offer for Brazilian Blowout, or Keratin treatment, or whatever ‘temporary straightening’ is called nowadays.
My kind of hair has been a magnet for that kind of sales talk for years. Just when I start getting the feeling that the assistant blow drying my hair is so nice and friendly, he’d ‘casually’ talk about how great their relaxing or rebonding treatment is. After the stylist shows me what he did with my hair, he tells me how it’s going to grow out even better with a straightening treatment. Psst, I can even get a discount.
It’s not as infuriating anymore, it’s tough to fight mainstream norms after all. Usually I’d reply with a smile and a “masaya akong kulot” (I’m happy with my curly hair), and they know not to pursue further.
Not to say that I haven’t fallen for it though. Because I have. Once and never again.
At the peak of the Korean beauty trend in the country, while everybody was getting digiperms I got my hair straightened. I fell for a new adjective, something I didn’t think would be neither applicable nor effective on me. She said I would look ‘young’. It had such an impact on me (do I look old???). I paid a hefty price, literally and figuratively.
My hair – naturally curly and wavy, but also naturally thin – fell limp on the sides of my face. The straightness was severe and unnatural. It’s like the wind couldn’t blow through it. It was like a helmet.
With curly hair, I’ve always thought that we were more prone to bad hair days and that the hair tended to have a life of it’s own. But with straight hair I realized that consistency is a curse. The look is predictably the same each day. So with curly hair, you know you’re treated to a great day when it decides to cooperate.
People who have had this treatment know the drill – you’re not allowed to tie it back or use a headband. This doesn’t usually happen either, but to me, the message was loud and clear: Never do this again. I got such horrendous acne because of it. I had to get weekly facials just to manage the breakouts. I’ve always had bouts with pimples but never this severe.
In spite of that awful experience, I’d still try and go to Korean salons. For the record, the salon where I got that treatment, Ark Hair in Polaris Street in Makati, is long gone. When I used to live in QC, I’d regularly go to Tony & Jackey. I’ve gone to Mr. Shin a couple of times. But in spite of the nice staff and the good service, I found myself still looking around.
I tell J and Macon a story.
I went to Park Jun on a whim once, in desperate need of a new look. I used to go there before too, but my old stylist was gone and she got stuck on a rut with me, too, hair style wise.
It was my first time with this guy, and I asked for a really short cut, or whatever is possible with my hair because I am aware that the shorter it gets, the wilder the curls get. We had a bit of a miscomm because it was the shortest hair I’ve ever had and I just wasn’t ready for that. I panicked and felt awful and complained and they gave me a discount for the trouble.
The catch is, it turned out to be a really great haircut. It looked nice. I got compliments. And then I felt bad again because it turned out that the guy did a good job after all when I complained. I haven’t been back in Park Jun since.
Until last Sunday. When I was feeling the symptoms of ‘old hair’ nagging and I was just in Glorietta anyway. And because both Macon and J told me that I’m being stupid and that I should just go back there.
So I did. I realized a couple of things.
This masayang kulot found what could be a favorite salon, at last. It doesn’t mean I won’t be trying other salons, but now I have a good idea on what to look for.
I just found a stylist that worked with what I got – my naturally curly hair. I wasn’t given a hair cut that had a short shelf life or needed a lot of other stuff.
Usually, my hair would be tucked in on one side and flipped out on the other. This girl, what she did was she bunched my hair together on one side so it looks nice all wispy flipped out. She didn’t fight my hair, she worked with it.
Maybe all a curly haired girl needs is a hair stylist that doesn’t look at curls as a wild thing that has to be tamed. Maybe a curly haired girl needs to be looked after by somebody who sees curls as a beautiful thing.