a bargain and an adventure.

Last week I happened to drive by my regular haircut place, Famous Hair. Just so you know, I am fully aware that Famous Hair is a ridiculous name. I guess hair can be famous, for instance, Donald Trump has famous hair. But that's hardly a selling point. In case you can't tell by the nonsensical name, Famous Hair is the kind of place where you just walk in and get a cheap haircut. I've been going to such places since I left my hometown, as I am unable to devote whatever time and resources is required to find an actual stylist. I like being able to decide that I need a haircut today, and I really like paying $14 for the service. My results have been mixed. I've gotten several bad haircuts, many serviceable haircuts, and a couple of really great haircuts. The last time I got a really great one was at Famous Hair, which is why I kept going back, even though I rarely got the stylist that gave me the great haircut, because he was often booked. Why couldn't I be bothered to book him myself? It's almost like I don't care that much about my hair, and that is why it will never be famous.

But Famous Hair is no more, because that location has been turned into a Great Clips. Or a Smart Cuts. Was it Super Snips? I don't know, but I really didn't want to go there. I look down on those places. I am too good for Super Snips; I demand Famous Hair. If only I had taken the time to book the great stylist who used to work at Famous Hair, I would probably have his new location and I could keep getting great haircuts somewhere else.

I am not sure when I had my last haircut - as you can tell, I'm pretty lax about all things hair. I stopped curling my hair every morning over a decade ago, and then I stopped blow-drying it, and now I can't even be bothered to wash it every day. But whatever haircut I'd gotten before (which had been deemed serviceable) had grown out, and it was looking neglected. And honestly, I'd been feeling a weird urge to do something crazy, like dye it hot pink. I've never dyed my hair a normal color, and so I blame the desire to go nuts on having a baby. Like a mid-life crisis. I'm too young to be a mom; I have young hair. I thought maybe a new haircut would whet my appetite for change before I did anything that would scare my infant.

So I took to the internet to find a new haircut place. Searching for "raleigh haircuts" only gets you barbers, because men want their hair cut, while women want their hair styled. I found lots of results for "raleigh salons," but they charge a lot more than $14. I cannot imagine that kind of haircut that $50 gets you. That haircut better do my dishes. Will this haircut soothe my baby and guarantee that I am victorious in all arguments with my husband? Then I'll pass, thanks. Some of the salons are also bars, which seems very convenient and hip, until you consider that maybe your hair only looks good until you sober up.

Then I happened upon the website for the Paul Mitchell School. I could have a cosmetology student cut my hair for $12. It sounded like a bargain and an adventure.

The Paul Mitchell School certainly looks like a real salon, with blaring hits of the 90s and a warehouse feel. The students were dressed in all black, and many of them had funky hair styles, so everyone looked a bit goth. I was introduced to Kelli, who would be taking care of me today. The first thing she did was have me sign a waiver, saying that I understood that she was a student and was therefore released from any damages. I wasn't sure if that included anything worse than a crappy haircut. I cut my husband's hair, and I did get his ear one time, so maybe there was that. Then we talked about what I wanted that day, and I had come prepared. Usually, I act dumb and surprised, as if I didn't know they were going to ask me that question, because the truth is, I don't ever know what I want. Sometimes I really do go in there and say something like "I want something that I can wash and do nothing else that will look good." Some stylists run with that, glad that finally someone recognizes that they are the expert here. But mostly they look scared that whatever they do, I'm not going to like it. While it would be an excellent learning experience for a student to encounter a customer such as me, I had previously googled "haircuts that look good air-dried." The internet said a layered bob was what I wanted, and so that's what I told Kelli.

She filled out a little sheet, then went off to fetch Barry, who is a teacher at the Paul Mitchell School. They discussed the plan (layered bob), felt my hair and talked about what products and the kind of layers to cut to help my hair look its best. I enjoyed the attention and felt like I was going to receive personalized service. We had a plan for my hair! Barry signed off on my hair plan, and Kelli outfitted me in a smock and took me back to the sinks.

The best part of a haircut is when they wash my hair. When I was growing up, my mom took me to a lady named Marilyn who cut hair in her basement salon. Marilyn had long fingernails, and when she washed your hair, she used them to give the most exquisite scalp massage. I've never encountered anyone else who used their nails, and I can only assume it's discouraged at places like the Paul Mitchell School for some hygienic or liability reason. But even without Marilyn's magic fingernails, having someone else wash my hair under warm water rates highly on the list of life's simple pleasures. They charge extra for it at the walk-in places, and I always pay for it, even as I skipped the dry and style option.

Kelli was just rinsing out the conditioner when a weird noise started ringing through the building. I thought it was part of the music, like maybe this was when everyone stopped what they were doing and did a dance featuring combing and clipping hand motions, but when I opened my eyes, Kelli was looking around, confused. Someone came by and told her it was a fire alarm, and that we needed to exit the building. Kelli wrapped up my hair in a towel and we walked outside to the far end of the parking lot. Of all the things I expected from getting my hair cut at a cosmetic arts school, a fire alarm was pretty low on the list, somewhere below synchronized dance breaks.

We stood outside for five minutes or so. It was a beautiful day. I looked like someone who, well, had been in the middle of a haircut. Kelli kept apologizing, but I kept grinning like a galoot, because it was just so funny. Whether I was going to receive a good haircut was still yet to be seen, but I was certainly having an adventure.

Finally we all filed back inside like schoolchildren, and I took my seat at Kelli's station. She proceeded to cut my hair. The only warning I would give someone who was considering having their hair cut at the Paul Mitchell School (besides the obvious one) is that it takes a long time. Some of that is inexperience, I'm sure, but I think the students are also going slow to make sure they do their best work. At every station, the stylist was hunched over and squinting, as if they were cutting hairs one by one. So carve out a couple hours rather than a half hour and you'll receive the most meticulous haircut of your life. But hey, they're up to code on their fire safety!

Generally, I prefer when the stylist does their job silently and I don't have to talk to them, as the conversation inevitably ends up being about my job, which is boring to talk about with people who aren't particularly interested in computers. However, I discovered that having a child means I have so much more that I can share with the average person. We talked about babies and birth and husbands and drastic postpartum dye jobs, and somehow I really bonded with my randomly-assigned cosmetology student.

After she was done with the scissors, Kelli swept my hair off the floor and gathered it in a ziplock bag, which is pretty creepy. I mean, we bonded, but it's a little soon to be collecting each other's hair. She said it was for dye tests. Otherwise, she would have to do tests on hair that came from a big box in the back, where it was all mixed and matted together. I agreed that sounded kinda gross and gave my blessing for her to practice dying on my discarded hair. I trust that she won't use it for voodoo dolls, but I did sign a waiver.

One of the other teachers came by to survey the job. She took the scissors and did some kind of trimming thing where they seem to cut a millimeter off every third hair. I don't know what this does, it's hair science. The teacher signed off on my new cut, and Kelli was beaming with pride over it. I don't know anything about hair, so the effect was that I felt good about it. It was shorter than I had planned on and is a total mom haircut. I fear I may end up back at the Paul Mitchell School to get pink streaks put in, as soon as I'm feeling ready for another adventure.

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