Mark inherited my love of walking, a weird fondness for broccoli and an addiction to cameras. He also has my hair—it’s soft, fairly light and very thick.
On the plus side, he had never needed a hat in winter to keep warm. On the downside, he needs to have his hair cut often.
I used to love going to salons in France. For around 20 euro (with my student discount), I’d get a nice scalp massage, a cup of hot tea, a cookie, a silly magazine to read and a fresh look—a great pick-me-up treat.
One of the first things I did when I came to Canada in 2002 was to get a haircut. We had just been travelling all around Latin America and my hair was long, uneven and very dry. I was looking forward for a pampering session but instead, I got a very rushed stylist who didn’t even bother looking at me. I was shocked that a ten-minute haircut cost $60—without tip, because I didn’t know I was supposed to tip (major faux pas, I know).
Over the years, I must have tried half of Ottawa’s salons. The funny thing is, I don’t care about my hair. I don’t dye it, I don’t style it and I don’t blow-dry it. I want simple and practical haircuts. I haven’t had a total haircut disaster but I have never had a really good haircut in Ottawa either. And I truly dislike salon “etiquette,” from the pressure to buy products to the fuss about making another appointment ASAP, from tipping to staying loyal to one stylist.
I stopped going to the first two salons because getting an appointment with “my” stylist was harder than booking lunch with Barak Obama. The third one lost me when my haircut went from $40 to $65 “because the junior stylist is now a senior stylist.” I stopped going to the fourth one because when I said I didn’t want a blow-dry but just, you know, my hair dried, the stylist handed me the hairdryer and said, “there, you can do it yourself.”
Okay, you got it. I have no luck with salons in Ottawa.
I was hoping things would be different for Mark.
For the first few months, I cut his hair myself. He had his first professional haircut in Nantes last Christmas. The stylist was efficient and in 10 minutes, she fixed a year of “mommy’s haircuts.”
When I came back from Central America, it had been almost three months since his French haircut. I took him to Supercuts where the stylist seemed terrified by the toddler sitting in the chair—Mark didn’t even have the chance to fuss or cry, the haircut was that fast. Unfortunately, he barely cut anything.
Mark needed another haircut. I decided to try Chiquicuts, a salon that specializes in kids.
We dropped by one Sunday, right after the snowstorm, to see if they could take Mark. “Sorry, not today, fully booked.”
“Can we make an appointment?”
“We are booked.”
“All the way through 2014?” I asked.
The receptionist finally looked up at me and sighed. I felt like the very uncool girl trying to join a private party. “We are booked for the next two weekends.”
“How about Monday?”
“I only have 12 p.m.”
Phew. That was harder than getting Mark into an elite private school.
On Monday, at 11:30 a.m., I explained Mark he was going to have the chance to sit in a cool car and have his hair cut. We arrived at the salon shortly before 12 p.m.
“Hi, I have an appointment for Mark…?”
“… This is Mark.”
“Yeah, you can wait.”
The salon was empty but for two stylists on the phone at the reception desk. Since no one had told us where to wait, I took Mark around, showing him the toys, the cars and the balloons.
After ten minutes, Mark was getting antsy and so was I. Finally, one of the two stylists came over and told me to “strap him in there.”
I am not fussy about Mark. He is a kid, not a special snowflake and I don’t expect people to treat him as a little emperor. But he is no longer a baby, he is a toddler, and we are in a kid’s place—maybe she could have taken a minute to look at him and say “hi.” Her attitude threw me off.
I strapped him in the car and used my special weapon—the pacifier.
“What number on the machine?”
“The clipper. What number?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “We’ve never used a clipper, always scissors.”
“Why? Is there a particular reason for that?”
“Er… Scissors did the job?”
I could sense Mark’s discomfort and I could see the tears coming.
“Just cut his hair a bit shorter.”
“Why does it stick out like that?”
“… Because he needs a haircut?”
She sighted and started cutting.
And Mark started screaming.
Not the “I’m being fussy” cries, the “I’m terrified, please do something” cries. Trust me, I can tell the difference. I have seen him scared before, at the doctor’s office for instance.
It was awful. Mark was trying to get out of the car, struggling and clutching to me like a feral cat, and the stylist just kept on cutting. “Move, mom, you’re in the way” was the only thing she said.
I just wanted it to be over—and so did Mark.
After a few minutes, she stopped.
“You could have told me it was his first haircut!” she accused.
“It’s not,” I said coldly.
“Okay, you calm him down,” she said before going back to the reception desk to make more phone calls.
I just couldn’t calm Mark down. The only way to end this was to leave the salon but I wanted him to have the damn haircut because we weren’t going to go through that every day and his hair was half-cut.
Eventually, she came back and finished the job as I was fighting with Mark to keep him relatively still. He screamed so much he ran out of tears and sobbed helplessly.
His head was wet, we both had hair everywhere but she pronounced the haircut done.
I handed over a $20 and left.
Mark and I stood on the parking lot.
“I promise, we are never coming back. Now let’s have a cake at Starbucks.”
We walked the few blocks to the coffee shop and Mark started laughing again.