Taper, Trim and Snip: Nine Countries, Nine Haircuts!

Today is a guest post from Robynn Bliss. Robynn has written other posts and beautifully articulates the complexity of living between worlds as it relates to normal life events. In this post she takes us on a journey through something common to women and men everywhere, haircuts!

One of my ridiculous claims to fame is that I’ve had my hair cut in 9 countries. It may seem a silly thing to say at a dinner party or over coffee with a friend, yet remembering those nine countries keeps me connected to my story while at the same time holding out hope for a trim in a tenth country somewhere, sometime!

Pakistan

Growing up in Pakistan meant many childhood haircuts. The ones where I’d sit on the edge of a charpai (rope bed) in our courtyard so mom could cut my bangs, or perch on one stool on top of another outside Utopia house in the summer with the wide expansive views of the Himalayas and my chin tucked into my chest so the back of my hair could be trimmed by Auntie Carol. Then there were the boarding school haircuts in dorm rooms—some quickly and surreptitiously done by friends by the light of flashlight, others by dorm mothers with proper plastic sheets and the hair cutting tools to taper, trim, and snip!

Canada

Returning to Canada for college meant inexpensive haircuts for a dollar downstairs outside the student lounge by college girls anxious to earn extra pocket-money. After graduating and moving to the big city I could afford a haircut by Blair at Blessings and Co –a stylish, extravagant salon with warm lighting and classical music in the background.

Mexico

One Christmas my cousins and I travelled down to visit my aunt and uncle who were staying in Southern California. On Christmas day all 5 of us descended on friends wintering in Yuma, AZ in their RV. Vera cooked up a turkey in her miniature oven and prepared the fixings on her tiny stove. We ate Christmas dinner around the picnic table outside. On Boxing Day we decided to cross over into Mexico. I had needed a haircut so why not in Mexico? The back alley beauty parlour proudly boasted 4 women in floral aprons all sitting around gossiping in Spanish with nothing to do. They were thrilled for the business and for the distraction. “Haircut?” I enquired. Off they prattled an excited affirmative. They decked me out in a green sheet and started in. “Taper?” one asked. “Yes, taper it up in the back but then keep the longer layers in the front. Don’t cut my bangs! Cut it short over the ears.” I made my wishes known. “Taper?” she repeated, it was apparently the only English hair word she knew. She kept saying it as she cut and primmed and pranced all over my head, “Taper?…. taper?… taper?…” I kept smiling and nodding, “Sure!”

India

Lowell and I eventually married and moved to India. After a futile attempt to grow my hair so as to look more like my neighbors, one of my most notorious haircuts involved a four star hotel in Delhi, a friendly beautician, an excellent haircut and, at no extra charge, a terrible case of head lice! There was another memorable haircut from a friend who had a beauty parlour in her home. When I got home, Lowell, who isn’t particularly observant about things like hair, asked, “Is it supposed to do that in the back?” My sweet friend had hacked a chunk of hair out of my style. It took several months to grow it out!

England

One year as we were headed back to the US for meetings, I emailed ahead to ask my friend Dianne in New Jersey to please make me an appointment for a haircut immediately after we arrived and before the meetings began. Our route had us going through Kuwait City. There we encountered technical difficulties and were put up in an airport hotel for 24 hours. Next stop was London. Because we had missed our ongoing connection we were once again graciously given a room at The Edwardian Airport Hotel –the nicest hotel we’ve ever stayed in—for another 24 hours. Knowing I had missed my appointment in NJ, I walked down to the lobby of the hotel and discovered one of the best haircuts I’ve ever had at one of the highest prices I’ve ever paid!

Thailand

There was a haircut in Huahin, Thailand. Actually there were two. The first one, where the hair cutter (again) chopped off a little too much resulting in a hole on the side of my head. This was directly followed by another where a fellow traveler and tourist made a brave attempt at correcting it with a towel over my shoulders and a pair of nail scissors in the hotel lobby!

United Arab Emirates

A trip to the UAE to visit friends resulted in a luxurious experience in a posh beauty parlour. The Arab women, free from their black robes and public restraints, were chatty and outgoing. The latest fashions were uncovered, beautiful black hair was let loose. There was a vibrant intimacy in the air. Nails were painted, unwanted hair was waxed off arms and legs, faces were massaged with fragrant creams and oils, eye brows were shaped with dancing threads and of course hair was washed, cut and coiffed. It felt to me like I had entered a strange new mysterious world. It was a sensual and sizzling place. And I had my hair cut there!

Nepal

Kathmandu provided me a haircut at a funny little roadside parlour. The walls were covered in laminated pictures of lovely Chinese women with modern hairdos and Bollywood movie stars. The hair cut was inconsequential but I remember my senses being blasted with poignant incense burning, the garish vermillion paste and grains of rice on the forehead of my hair cutter and loud raucous blaring of those same Bollywood stars blasting their tunes.

Years ago a group came from Kansas to visit some others in Varanasi, the city in North India where we lived. When I heard that one of the visitors was a hair stylist I begged for a haircut! Judy popped by our house and there in the middle of our dining room on the banks of the Ganges river she cut my hair, another friend’s hair, and our girls’ hair. It was such a treat: a good haircut right in our own home.

United States

Now that we’re in Kansas that same Judy cuts my hair monthly. Coming from my world, it seems shamefully extravagant to have a good haircut that frequently. I pop over to her house and she cuts my hair in a room tucked off her dining room. Judy previously worked in a high-end salon and now works out of her home. She massages my scalp with a conditioner that smells expensive: all coconut and pineapple lather. She massages my soul as we talk about significant things: marriage, and grace and God. When the cut is done, she styles and spritzes and sprays and pretends that I’m a wealthy client.

Pakistan, Canada, Mexico, the UAE, England, Thailand, Nepal, India and of course here in the US… mine is a story punctuated by interesting haircuts in far off corners of the world. I wonder if and when the 10th country will be added to the list. On occasion I regret the places I’ve been where I failed to get my haircut! Even as I settle into the Midwest, my soul and my hair long for an adventure somewhere in a far off corner of the world sometime soon!

23 thoughts on “Taper, Trim and Snip: Nine Countries, Nine Haircuts!

  1. Robynn, I remember in Varanasi when you asked me to cut your hair. This is something Bill has wanted me to do for years (I will now cut his hair) but at that point I would barely touch a pair of scissors for fear of ruining the appearance of another person. I thought you were very generous in your remarks that your hair looked fine. I had no idea then of your history with haircuts or I might have been a little less fearful! I am thankful I did not give you lice. Thanks for your entry.

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  2. Oh Robynn, I can picture that little girl with her Mom and Auntie Carol–and a few housemothers–what vivid memories you are able to bring back. Thanks for the fun read.

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    1. Auntie Eunice! I was remembering Auntie Beth who used to cut hair. Whatever happened to her? I don’t even remember her last name? She was the little girl’s houseparent it seems to me…. do you keep in touch with her?

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  3. A memorable haircut: We had not been in the US very long and had THE great picture taking appointment around six one evening. For the first time in my life I had long hair. My sister and a friend (Ruth Didier) clearly thought something should be done about it and made appointments for a hair cut for me and a facial by Ruth herself. As the stylist was slashing away I said that I really didn’t want it that short. “This is how Ruth said to cut it,” she said. It was all styled and sprayed when we went to Ruth’s house. She sold Mary Kay and did her work on my face. I was a bit late getting back to the place where we were staying and was a surprised that no one had even started getting ready for pictures being taken. I dashed over to where the boys were playing a game and said they had to get ready right then! Being absorbed in the game, they hadn’t paid attention as I walked into the room. Obviously startled, David jumped straight up exclaiming, “Oh, I thought you were Ruth Didier!” They were some of the best family pictures ever;)

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  4. Isn’t it Tony Bennett who sings “I Left My Heart in San Francisco?” Now we have to create a song just for you: “I Left My Hair In….” Neat blog.

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  5. this is Marilyn’s Mom – have to clarify in case you mistake me for your own Mom.
    What a delightful post! I quickly read the title before breakfast and was wondering out loud at the table what countries they would be – I knew Canada, Pakistan, India, and the US. This is amazing. Most Amazing to get head lice from a 4 star hotel! Would love to see you, Robynn. I mostly remember you as one of those very cute little girls in Terry and Tom’s boarding group in 1980 or 81. Do you remember them?

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    1. I’m so very honoured that you remember me at all!! Uncle Tom and Auntie Terry were some of my favourite dorm parents. We very nearly got to see them this past summer. We stayed in their place but they weren’t there! — I’ve followed your family from a distance through friendships with Marilyn and Ed. God bless the Browns!

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  6. Selfishly thankful that you’re settling in to the Midwest…but understanding of the
    wistful longing for adventure in other parts of God’s great world!

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  7. Loved this, Robynn! We will be in South Africa from mid-December to March. You are so welcome to come and have a haircut in my home country and make it country nr 10! Missing you xx

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    1. Lowell – I totally believe you whatever Robynn says…:) Your wife is a great writer. I don’t know if she has ever told you but your newsletters were some of the only ones we have read regularly over the years…they always had insight and were very honest.

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  8. Loved this post, Robynn, and the sweet glimpses you provide of people and places! A travel writer I enjoy, Rick Steves, says that one of his favorite ways to learn more about a new place is to have a haircut there — he often avoids getting a haircut prior to his trip so he can experience that haircut in another place. Thanks for sharing your stories!

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