Monday, June 4

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Russian Hairdressers

Here's the thing about being Russian. You're not allowed to do things the simple, rational way. You have to do them The Russian Way.

Let me paint you a little picture. For a few years now, my family has been going to an amazing Russian hairdresser who also happens to be a maniac. Not to generalize that all Russian hairdressers are maniacs - it just seems like the hairdressing talent is in direct proportion to the crazy.

In case any of my readers decide to become Russian through paperwork or surgery, I thought I should let you know the secret inner world of going to a Russian* hairdresser. 

A Russian hairdresser will cut your hair in her living room. Salons are for "foreigners" (the generally accepted term for non-Russians - and yes, expats insist they live in a country full of "foreigners") and girls just starting out. If this woman can handle scissors without hurting herself, she'll have her schedule full of Russian women eager to get a proper haircut.

A Russian hairdresser will cut like her work is about to be entered into the Microscopic Hairdressing Olympics. This is probably the best thing about my last hairdresser - she did beautiful work, carefully sculpted to the last micrometre. For the record, speed doesn't count in the Microscopic Hairdressing Olympics. Which is why she'll -

Take three hours to do a trim. No matter what time you go to the hairdresser, it'll be dark outside by the time you leave. This is one of the reasons I look like an overgrown hobo most of the time - getting my hair cut isn't a lunchtime errand. It's a whole thing. It's a couple of hours for me, a couple more for my mom, and I'm not even gonna go into how long my blonde sister takes - I think we had to camp out overnight when she first got her foils in. But hey, at least the hair dresser will:

Be cool if you bring your own picnic basket of food, drink and books for the long wait for freedom. Did I mention there's no TV and only a handful of Russian hairdressing magazines for entertainment? If you go without provisions, you're a dead man. I don't know why local people (perhaps more to the point - normal people) are weirded out if you bring your own food to these sorts of situations. Everyone's just supposed to starve and act happy with their rations of tea and Marie biscuits. That's not okay, comrades! We need sustenance for this five year plan! Which is made even longer because your hairdresser will...

Stop mid-cut for a cigarette and a chat. My sister and I aren't very  chatty (my Russian skills aren't good enough to defend my life and my choices) so it's always mom's job to smoke and gossip in twenty-minute sessions. It doesn't really matter to the hairdresser whether she's mid-cut or not. She knows we're not going anywhere. Nobody gets off the rock. Nobody wants to get off the rock because the saltwater's gross, and your hairdresser will always...

Treat every hair like precious silk. Russian hairdressers have to study for two years before they get certified. They take this shit seriously.  She'll refuse to do bleaching / dying that will leave your hair in a worse condition, even if it means giving up the money she would've gotten for that job. Local (normal? human?!) hairdressers, in my experience, take your money, screw your hair up and promise it'll be okay if you use this conditioner or buy that treatment. Which doesn't work. Your average hairdresser will be okay with smiling and taking your money, whereas...

A Russian hairdresser will give you her unfiltered opinion about your life and your choices. Spoiler alert: her opinion will never be a happy-clappy one. Everything from your skin to your career will be criticized, loudly and without regard to those silly little things called "feelings". Which you're not supposed to have anymore anyway, since they should have been killed by shopping and vodka a long time ago. It's okay, you're new. You'll learn. Hangovers are like boot camp for your liver.

I went to a non-Russian hairdresser (gasp!) over the weekend because I was young and foolish and thought I didn't need to spend a day being judged, criticized and smoked on to look good. The local hairdresser took half an hour, she spoke to me like a normal person and not a criminally deranged toddler, and at the end of the day, my haircut was... meh. Just meh. Not fantastic. Not hideous. Just a normal, ordinary, "foreigner" haircut.

Yes, I want to go back to my talented maniac of a Russian hairdresser. It's sort of like a pilgrimage: first you set off on the long journey there, (and of course a Russian hairdresser must always live at least half an hour away from you). Then you followed by hours of verbal abuse, discomfort and borderline-starvation (you'll never bring enough snacks. Ever.) But at the end of the day, you are renewed. And as you stumble home, emotionally broken but aesthetically bouncy, the bad stuff fades away and you're just left with a seriously kick-ass haircut.

It may sound crazy to you. But that's The Russian Way.

*I have a feeling this post will attract a lot of Russian Bride For Yourself! spam because I use the R word so frequently.

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