Adventures in Haircutting

23 Apr

I had the day off on Wednesday and Nathan was home with Ida so I decided that it was now or never – I needed a haircut.  What’s that you say?  An appointment?  Pft, you’re obviously not familiar with a place that I like to call “Lil’ Lithuania”.

But first, some background.  I have a serious relationship with haircuts and am involved in a nearly constant pursuit for a new, better hairstyle.  I’ve had faux-hawks, pixie cuts, asymmetrical ditties, multi-hued masterpieces, hot-pink locks, bangs, layers, and an array of hilarious childhood haircuts that would make sprite come out of your nose.

Speaking of childhood, I think that’s where my coif-quest began.  My mother had a firm belief that we, her children, should be enabled to express our burgeoning creativity through our appearances (readers may recall my “hooker-chic” phase – my mother’s belief in creativity met it’s match there….).  I went to kindergarten on a regular basis with a note pinned to my shirt saying something to the effect of:  “Liz is very much loved and well taken care of at home.  We are encouraging her to express herself through her clothing choices.  If the water wings become a hinderance at any point, feel free to ask her to take them off.”  The idea of choosing between snow pants and a tutu seemed like a false dichotomy to me.  Both!  Why not both?!  I had a pretty liberal perspective as to what qualified as “clothing.”  Needless to say, many of my outfits were boundary pushing.

As part of this initiative, my mother also allowed us to choose our own hairstyles.  I wish she’d have had the good sense to record the conversations that must have taken place between us and the stylists who were tasked with administering these haircuts.  I believe at one point, I came in with a picture I had drawn…….  Obviously, I had some fantastic cuts as a kid.  I remember one in particular that made me look like a lion.  The front was a tuft of curls, the back a tangled mane and the sides were shaved with steps.  It was like a mullet to the 10th power.  I also looked exactly like Richard Simmons for a number of years, but to be fair, I think this was my mother’s design, born out of a fierce hatred for combing my curly mess (and my subsequent screaming).

Fast forward to now.  For a number of years, I’ve been cutting my own hair periodically.  I discovered in college that due to my hair’s curly texture, it’s quite forgiving of my hedge-trimmer approach to hair styling, and will pretty much shape itself into a stylish situation no matter what I do to it.  Every 6 months or so, I go someplace and have a professional assess the damage, and then I work from that general template with my home haircuts.  I even have a fantastic lie all worked out for when I need to deal with the inevitable looks of horror and confusion that the hairstylist adopts.  I just say that I’m an artist and for the past 6 months, I’ve been participating in a performance art piece where I let members of the audience cut my hair.  I later learned about Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece.  Great minds think alike (never mind the fact that her mind was generating an amazing art piece for the edification of humanity and my mind was inventing a lie to avoid the scorn of a hairdresser….).

Yoko Ono, being a badass artist in Cut Piece

So anyway, this brings us to Lil’ Lithuania.  I was having coffee one day at The Grind in Lincoln Square, when I saw a sign for $18 walk-in haircuts at the place next door.  Attracted by this unbeatable price, I ventured in to Studio 4 Hair.  Studio 4 Hair does not make a good first impression.  It is pretty filthy, everyone is speaking (yelling?) in Lithuanian and there are some mysterious folks that seem to be mostly just sitting around and drinking coffee (I use the present tense here because I’m pretty sure they’re doing this RIGHT NOW).  Driven by my sense of adventure and my desire to continue to have the funds to pay $4 for coffee (“I saved so much on my bi-annual cut!”), I forged ahead.  I have patronized this fine establishment 3 times since, and here are some things that I have experienced at Lil’ Lithuania/Studio 4 Hair:

If a stylist washes your hair, there is no towel or drying involved – it just sops all over your shirt.  I have learned to dress accordingly.  I say “if” because on my last visit, the stylist just sprayed my dirty hair with a bottle full of water (I hope?) and ran a comb full of someone else’s hair through it.

Blowdrying at the end of the cut is not included for your $18.  I always opt to leave with soaking-wet hair.

I went for haircut number 2 when I was 8 months pregnant with Ida.  I described the style I was seeking, showed a few pics (not hand drawn this time) of a sort-of hipster wedge cut and the stylist-woman started cutting away.  About half-way through the haircut, it became clear to me that things were not going according to plan, but not being one to make a fuss about such things, I just decided that I could always fix it up with my trusty school scissors at home.  At the end of the haircut, the stylist said “Don’t worry.  I make more conservative.  You are will to be mother soon.”  I got mom-cutted.  I think this is the closest I’ve come to being mugged while in Chicago.  I swore I’d never go back.

Last but not least, when I went in yesterday, a woman was cutting an older gentleman’s hair and a humongous, 50ish year old Lithuanian was lounging in one of the salon chairs, eating a donut and texting.  The coffee-drinkers were at their posts on the sofa.  I announced (to no one in particular) that I would like a haircut please and a frenzied exchange took place, resulting in me being directed to Mr. Donut’s chair.  I was thinking “Okay, so there must be another gal in the back and she’ll come out and cut my hair…. Maybe that’s what the screaming was about, maybe they were like “Tina!!!  Come out here!  You have a customer!”  But then, Mr. Donut wipes his hands on his pants and picks up the spray bottle and starts wetting down my hair.  I’m thinking “wow, Tina must be hot shit, she has a humongous assistant.”  THEN Mr. Donut picks up some scissors.  Oh God.  I started to panic.  I was thinking “Liz!  You’ve taken this crap too far!  Just cough up the $50 that everyone else pays for a semi-decent haircut in this city and be done with this madness!  Mr. Donut is about to cut your hair for christsakes!”  MD gets a phone call, and, of course, answers it.  He takes it in the back on the off-chance that I am fluent in Lithuanian and give two shits about his lunch plans.  I use this time to evaluate.  I think about bolting, but my purse is on a hook on the other side of the room and my wind-sprint out of there would be made more awkward by the zig-zag I would have to do to grab it.  This would also mean that I could never show my face at Lil’ Lithuania again and even though I was having a seriously dicey experience, so strong is my love for $18 haircuts that I was ALREADY thinking about coming back.  It’s a sickness I tell you.  So I decided that I was just going to ride this adventure to its inevitable head-shaving end.  There were hardly any words (I have yet to tell my performance art story at Lil’ Lithuania – I think the language barrier might be insurmountable and to be honest, I don’t think they’re phased by butchered locks) and there were some instruments of very questionable cleanliness.

Tell me that fat donut-eater didn’t give me a fantastic haircut!

Oh, Lil’ Lithuania.  I know I’ll be back, but I’m afraid of the next escalation.

I’ll keep you posted.

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