First, I have a question to put to you. When I was visiting in the US recently I saw plenty of ads for the Lifetime show “Crazy, Sexy Cancer.” Of course, I can’t get it on TV here in Belgium. Did any of you see it? What did you think? Any idea where I could get it (if it’s worth doing so)? I’m interested in what ya’ll thought.
As for the hair: you can see in the hospital photo from yesterday that my hair was quite short during my
incarceration stay. Still there. But short. It had been just that Monday afternoon (the day I would go to the hospital) that I found the nerve to cut it off. While it had made me sad to approach that move before, suddenly, Monday, I was ready. It was raining madly and my bouncy curls had turned into a proper afro. I’d like to say that I’m young and hip enough to pull off an afro, but trust me, I am not.
Do you ever have those hair days that are so bad you want to just cut it all off? You wish you had the nerve to really “give it what for” (as we’d say in the south) and teach it a lesson? Well, nothing like the knowledge that you’re going bald to present that opportunity. Del came home from work and I said, “Hurry up. I want my hair gone and I want it gone now.” I wanted to take advantage of this moment where cutting my hair would be my sweet revenge on it, not chemo’s revenge on me.
The first 3 salons wanted to close and refused to take me. We entered the locally dreaded chain-store salon. (Simply, Belgians are biologically predisposed to dislike anything overtly capitalistic such as a chain store. That’s my theory anyhow.) So the store says they’ll gladly take me. I explain clearly, “I’m currently receiving chemotherapy, and my hair is going to fall out any day, so I’m not sure whether to bother paying for a cut or to just shave it off.” I don’t necessarily want them in my business, but I figure it’s pertinent information. If a cut is too expensive, well it’s just not worth the money seeing as how I’ll have it for a few days probably. I had been convinced that my hair was already falling out. (It wasn’t.) Actually, I was hoping they’d be kind enough to offer me a cut without the price of the “wash” included. They didn’t.
Regardless, I decided to pay for the cut. I asked them not to wash it, as I had just done so and seeing as how (I thought) it was falling out I’d rather not have someone else handling the scalp. They are kind and polite and say “sure”. Then direct me to the washing seat. I guess this is still how they want to wet it. A guy comes out and does so, informing me that my hair does not seem to be falling out. (Whoopee!) He proceeds to wet my hair in a manner that pretends to wash it, only without soap. I have to ask him several times to be more gentle.
Then we go to cut. I think I don’t like this guy, but figure I’m just nervous. (I wasn’t.) I tell him that I want it to be 1-2 inches long and that I want him to first save a few locks so that I can make a head scarf with bangs sewn into it later. He says okay.
Then he starts cutting. The ends. Very carefully. I don’t think he’s doing the right thing, but don’t see how he could have gotten it so wrong. Del assures me he just has his procedure. After several minutes of futsing, he asks me to stand up, back to him. He walks around me, squinting at the ends to measure whether or not they hang evenly above my shoulders. He has not saved any locks of hair either. Something is definitely weird.
He sits me back down and resumes delicately snipping the ends. Using my best “I was a communications major” tactic, I hold up my hand with a kind smile and say, “I just want to be sure we understood each other here. I asked…” and I repeat my instructions clearly. He nods and say, “yes yes of course,” and we begin again.
For the next five minutes (or more) he does exactly the same thing. Pulling the ends to meet underneath my chin, the way stylists do. Still not cutting any locks to save. Procedures or not, it seems ridiculous to waste both of our time carefully styling the ends. I want it chopped off dammit!
This time I put up my hands in a “time out” gesture. I say, again in very clear French, “I still think there might be confusion. Let’s stop and discuss what we’re doing with my hair.” He squints at me with a look of disgust. (You know, the way only French-speakers can. The only thing missing is a cigarette dangling out of the corner of his mouth.)
“What?” he snaps.
I begin to explain again, and with only several words out of my mouth he throws up his hands in exasperation and turns to the ladies at the desk. “I don’t understand her,” he spits, as if I’m not sitting right there. This pisses me off because I know for a face that he can understand me, he’s just being a bitch and doing that thing that people from Brussels do: they just refuse to listen.
I’ve been speaking French long enough to know that, yes, I have an accent. But no, it’s not that strong. I’ve learned to judge when I am not speaking well, and when the listener is simply not listening well. I was speaking very well. People in Brussels are famous amongst expats for either not caring what a customer wants, and/or not attempting to listen to someone who’s a foreigner.
The manager that he turned to comes over from the front desk to help out. I explain to her (again, as she is the woman I originally spoke to in the store) what I want, and suddenly, with her standing there, he magically understands me! Then he continues to cut my hair, saying, “you told me you wanted 1-2 cut off.”
“No, I said I wanted 1-2 inches remaining.” He has the nerve to argue back at me, even though he doesn’t attempt an explanation for why he didn’t save any locks of hair like I also asked. He now does so, though they are now probably too short to do what I intended. I take them anyway. He cuts my hair roughly. I sit there and plot his slow death in my head. The end of the tale is: I got it cut to how you saw it yesterday.
So while my hair would one-up me by jumping ship in a week or so, for today, I had taught it quite a lesson!