"Women are the guardians of continuity. If the hearth moves, they move with it. Remember, it is the gypsy women who keep their men on the road."

~"Boomerang Love," Jimmy Buffett

Big Bang Theory

In the middle of the Drag, next to Sam’s Computer shop, there is a tiny little salon that offers $9.99 haircuts. Interestingly enough, it is named Sophia’s Beauty & Barber Salon (meta, I know). The owner for whom the shop is named is a living legend with reportedly has the fastest scissors in Austin, possibly West of the Mississippi. Having witnessed her give 3 haircuts in less than 20 minutes, I can testify to the speediness. This Sophia is a buxom Middle Eastern woman with platinum blonde hair and a demeanor reminiscent of a madame in a classy 19th century Western brothel. She is probably the closest thing I have ever had to a “regular” stylist, in that I have visited her 3 times in a period of 2 years. We might as well be going steady.

Although it was very quick (which is per usual for Sophia), I vividly remember our first encounter. I was going through a somewhat tumultuous phase when a haircut would “symbolize” much more than a haircut, and I was feeling somewhat reckless. As I started to explain to her the various options I was considering, she nodded along impatiently, as if I were intruding on her valuable haircutting time with meaningless talk. Finally she interrupted me in her rich Persian accent, “I understand. Very fashion, not classic.” Obviously, that was a very generous paraphrase on her part, but before I could quantify her assessment, she had already made the first snip. I had actually brought some sample pictures with me, but she seemed to have her own vision in mind, and I was a little concerned about interrupting her. 15 minutes later, I was sporting the shortest haircut of my life, and I loved it immediately. I haven’t looked back from short hair since.

For some girls, your relationship with your hair stylist ranks up there somewhere between babysitter and ob-gyn. I have never been one of those girls. Nevertheless, being in a foreign country, my intuitive sense of what constitutes a dodgy, low-budget, or classy establishment was a bit skewed. On top of that, there is always the tricky element of language. For this reason, I considered just letting my hair grow during the 9 months I would be in Argentina. It would certainly be a way to fit in better. Short hair seems fairly uncommon among Argentine women. The vogue appears to be long and wavy. Still, after two months of having my hair in “ponytail” length (that is the interim length between manageably short and long enough to actually style, so the only practical option for keeping it out of your face is with a ponytail), I decided it had to go.

Since I was going to be chopping it off, I decided there must be another way for me to incorporate the local aesthetic into what was to become my first foreign haircut. I mentioned earlier that the Argentine style was mostly long and wavy. Well, there is another predominant feature: bangs. Lots of bangs. I haven’t had bangs since elementary school. If you have seen the school portraits, you would probably understand why. Ever since I became old enough to take an active role in my personal appearance, I have firmly resisted this look, either due to emotional trauma, a burgeoning sense of adolescent rebellion, or some combination of the two. After 18 years, I think I'm finally ready to bring it back.

I ended up in a nondescript corner shop in a mall that was on my way to work. I would have preferred to wait until afterward so there was no hurry, but because of siesta and silly working hours, that was a logistical impossibility. There were only two chairs in the shop, and there was just one young girl working. Before I even sat down, she told me that I would need to be paying in exact change ($30 Argentine pesos), because she didn’t have anything else in the register. That may sound like a red flag, but this situation is so common in Argentina, I don’t think anything of it anymore. As it turns out, she was not only incredibly competent, it was a very enjoyable experience. To begin, a cold front had rolled in the night before, which inextricably affected the hot water levels in the apartment. Having hair washed by a professional is always a pleasurable experience (especially because hairstylists also tend to have very long nails) but this time was particular tantalizing because it involved steaming hot water.

As far as the actual haircut goes, I originally wanted the Rihanna. The stylist regrettably told me that my hair was not "long" enough for this style (I have no idea how that works), and she suggested a look that would work very well for my face: short in the front, long in the back – essentially the exact opposite of what I requested. Still, she said it with sweet conviction, so I agreed. The entire time she was cutting my hair, we alternated between pleasant shop conversation (where are you from, how do you like Tucum├ín, have you been to any good boliches, etc) and little tidbits of pelo-wisdom on the best way to maintain what would undoubtedly become a fierce look. For a basic shampoo and cut, I was impressed with the services involved. I had the full nutrient, blow-dry, style treatment, and she even gave me some bobby pins to “train” my hair to part correctly. Admittedly, I haven’t been keeping it up as she would probably like, but the appeal to short hair is how little actual maintenance it requires. I guess I should probably enjoy the laziness while I can, since I apparently have to let it get quite long before finally getting my Rihanna on. On the other hand, I may be able to get used to this:


DESS said...

this is nice..

Sophia Kwong said...

Thank you, Dess!

It's growing very quickly, so it probably looks very different now.

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