Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Paul is a Dork

I arrived in Paris needing a haircut. Maybe “needing” is too strong. When it gets too long, my hair will make me look like Gov. Rick Perry, minus the guns and the Jesus. I was squarely in Mitt Romney, territory, but heading south quickly. I decided that I was going to get myself a cut, with any luck transforming me into Rick Santorum, or, dare to dream, Marco Rubio. Meeeeee-ow. (I have secret hopes to one day evolve into Scott Brown back in the day, but there is only so much a hairdresser can do.)

I chose the salon responsible for transforming me into a well coiffed fiscal conservative quite strategically. Of course, I could have done some online research to find an English-speaking stylist, but what would be the fun of that? I am here to do French things and learn French ways. The people here don’t get their hairs cut in English, they do it in French. If I wanted North American convenience and French food, I would have moved to Vancouver. No, I moved to France to experience a different way of life. Sometimes this will mean eating a cheese course after my main dish. Other times, it will mean getting a haircut at a place that doesn’t necessarily speak English. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Right or wrong, I also assumed that a French-speaking hair stylist would be better than an English speaking one. I am not sure if this is actually true, but I attribute a certain higher level of stylishness to the French, and the more French they are, the more stylish they should be. Obviously, if one cared to learn English, they would be less French, and therefore worse at cutting hair. Logic is pretty sound, isn’t it? While I am at it, I should throw in the stereotype that gay people are more stylish than us straight folk. With the assumptions in my model now fully detailed, here is how my haircut would look with the different variables:

 Haircut quad.007

I passed by a few salons on our daily walk to and from our apartment to Malcolm’s school. One of them appeared to be quite inviting, meaning that the price of a man’s haircut was listed clearly on the window outside. My choice of salons was totally validated, as the people inside were all dressed in black. I am not sure if was because they were stylish, or just served as a signal to me that they might be as French and as gay as I wanted them to be. Things were looking up, but I couldn’t enjoy the revelation as I was still rehearsing how to say, “I would like a haircut please.” in French. I must have practiced it a hundred times while walking to the salon.

There comes a time in almost every conversation I have here where the person I am speaking to realizes that I have no fucking idea how to speak French. I am decent at the rehearsed pieces, but things really start breaking down when they ask me a secondary question and I look I just farted and don’t want to accept blame. It’s not so much that I don’t know many French words. I do. I know several. The big problem is that I don’t hear so good. People say things to me and I can’t put together the words they are using until after I already know what they are talking about. Sometimes, I just repeat what they say to me, hoping that they will just fix my problem for me. It is quite irritating for everyone involved. As a result, most exchanges go like this (in varying forms):

Good sir, with your permission, I would like a bottle of wine.

Of course! Would you like red, white or rose?

Yes, red, white rose.



[Swearing under breath.]

{An eternity of uncomfortable silence.]

I am sorry, I don’t understand.


Oh, I see. Red. Please. Thank You.


So it was, yesterday I managed to spit out, “I would like a haircut, please.” to the woman at the front counter of the salon. She replied with something that I had no earthly idea about. I stared back at her, showing her my bottom gums in a bleak display of humility, before saying I didn’t get it. She rolled her eyes and pointed at a coat closet, pantomiming taking off a jacket. Only having a shirt on, and not wanting to take it off while I got my haircut, I said, “No thanks” and quietly wished that an English-speaking heterosexual were nearby to give me a mullet. Where is David Hasselhoff when you need him?

Then, things changed.

I don't know what people must say when I walk in to their shop, but I can guarantee that it isn't, "Yay!"

I don’t know what people must say when I walk in to their shop, but I can guarantee that it isn’t, “Yay!”

The woman behind the counter emerged and had me slip on a white coat over my clothes. Made of a thick paper-like fabric, it wasn’t so much a coat as a doctor’s jacket. I have done many things in my life. I was an All American Debater in College. I graduated from law school. I watched every episode of ER when Malcolm wasn’t sleeping through the night. At no point during any of these, however, was I offered a white doctor’s coat. After being offered one at the salon, however, I was beyond the moon, slowly pressing my hands down the length of the coat silently telling myself, “First, do no harm.” I have never been so honored by a piece of clothing.

Strutting like Doctor Doug Fucking Ross himself, I was lead downstairs and beckoned to wait by a bank of hair washing stations. When one became available, a black shirted effeminate man motioned for me to sit down and put my head back into the sink to get it washed. I beamed at my good fortune and vowed never to leave France. He washed my hair, and even rinsed and repeated. It was awesome.

In retrospect, he probably had to repeat because of the haircare products I use here in France. I have reached the point in my sad little life where my haircare, body care and face care products are all manufactured by the same company. Right now that fine company is “Adidas.” I picked up a bottle of the all-in-one at grocery store when we got here to make life easier and to avoid having to navigate all the various choices at a specialty store. The bottle promises 400 ML of lather that will cleanse my “face, hair and junk” with the same “high energy.” Well, maybe it doesn’t say quite that, but it is undoubtedly something close. I am sure the man cutting my hair could hear my follicle’s cry for help and opted to wash a second time to remove all traces of evidence that my hair was cleansed by a sporting goods company.

Having successfully washed that Adidas right outta my hair, I returned upstairs to the stylist’s haircutting station. After sitting me down at his outpost, my stylist dropped a contraption down on top of me that was particularly beguiling. It looked like a flaccid vinyl record, and it secured snugly around my neck and was designed to ensure that none of my hair would make it home with me after the haircut. It was pretty rad. I imagined that, if my hair protection system were a real album, my album would be Al Jolson, because, you know, I am so cool. (True  to form, not a single cut hair was able to sneak down my neck and return home with me. What a system!)

My stylist probably asked me how I wanted my hair cut and I politely asked if he spoke English. He said that he didn’t, so we had to navigate the rest of our time together with glances, shrugs, raised eyebrows and nods, (pretty much the same way that gangsters communicate with each other non-verbally before robbing a bank.) Hair really is a language of its own, though, and after taking my mane in for a while, the hairdresser went to work. He seemed pretty intent on doing a good job, and 30 minutes later, I was three quarters of an inch of hair lighter, but still looking every bit the sophisticate that I am. I smiled.

My new friend offered me some product to wear out, and I initially demurred, since I don’t usually use any. Then, I changed my mind, figuring that any product that this guy could offer me would offset much of the damage that my “Adidas” shampoo was doing back at home. He put some grey goo on my hair, and I walked out of there feeling good, looking somewhat Santorum-esque and a proud that I didn’t take the easy way out. I could of. Maybe I should of. Things will get easier here for me, though, one silly step at a time. I am venturing. I am gaining.

I am ever so slowly becoming fiscally conservative, and ready for a cheese course.

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2 responses to “Haircut”

  1. Brad says:

    I can’t imagine that salon even remotely qualifies as fiscally conservative. Check your wallet, you’ll see. Oh look, it’s empty. Told you.

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