Archive for December, 2010

The Hair Mafia: a Man’s Perspective

Monday, December 20th, 2010

By:  David Beckham in Lebanon

I have two barbers. How did this happen? Well, pre-2006 I had one, Fawwaz, and I think he was a hybrid of a barber, you know at times while he would be at my Tin-Tin hairs, I would tend to think a philosopher holding a pair of scissors was standing behind me. I didn’t really care that he had more words to say than hairs to cut. I went to him out of sympathy, especially knowing that my hairdo didn’t need Jacques Dessange to attend to it.

Then comes the Divine Promise. A couple of weeks after the war started, we moved down from Mechref to our Beirut flat. For me it was a breath of life, this change. Mechref was isolated and we were living with no power, no water and we actually started minimizing our meals in size and frequency. Not only that, but I also had two dogs to feed and so the situation was tough because they underwent some rationing too. Moving down was like a move from Omaha into NYC. I had access to dog food, power, regular running water and I felt useful since I would pop by the office in the mornings; I also immediately joined an NGO that was catering to the migrants. So I was with my family, with my dogs, close to my girlfriend, and amongst my friends.

The only thing that was missing after settling in was a haircut.

So I walk over to Fawwaz’s and find him shut. Fair enough, there is a war going on. That is understandable. I try again and again every few days, until 1701 was ratified and post-1701 and still no Fawwaz. Meanwhile, my islands of hair were making themselves more and more visible. I tried one last time a week after 1701, but to no avail. I managed to get his number from his neighbor and I called him up. His co-worker picked up and told me Fawwaz left the country, illegally of course.

I was shocked and I needed a haircut. After hearing those words on the phone, my tone was suited to presenting a funeral ceremony. I felt like Olmert and Nasrallah had conspired to remove the rug from under my feet and did so swiftly without my noticing it until a few weeks later. One of the uncountable losses of 2006.

By this time our football league was back on, but at a different venue. Our first venue turned out to be a weapons-storage unit for Hizballah where it looked like a volcano had erupted. All that time, we were playing on top of those Khaybars and Raads. After the game, I asked my teammate who has my hair genes where he gets his trim. He showed me a dude who’s a couple of buildings away from our Beirut flat.

I went in there the next day with a picture of Fabio Cannavaro lifting the World Cup and told him, “This is how I want my hair cut.” It was magic ever since. The dude is an old school dude, but that’s exactly what made me like him. He’s always unwrapping his towels and blades. This dude, Moussa, was also infected with the philosophy syndrome except that he was gifted with timing. My trim would take a maximum of 15 minutes, most times 10 minutes, and he would adequately end his conversation with the last stroke. It was amazing. Fawwaz would spend at least 45 minutes doing the same things.

Four years later, Fawwaz, with two kids and a wife, decides that being an immigrant in asylum is not his thing. He moves back and does away with his asylum status and texts me that he is back.

I was confused. I felt sorry for him even more now, but I really, really liked Moussa. Moussa was quick, straight to the point, efficient, effective, you name it, he was the man. But me and Fawwaz, we had history, we went way back and he had my empathy. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place…

On the one hand, I couldn’t leave Moussa for all that he was offering me, a quick succinct hairdo. On the other, there was Fawwaz where I felt my being his loyal client would help reassure him he made the right decision to come back.

My hair could see no other way but pursue both barbers, a regular and a mistress. I would alternate. I would do Moussa more often than Fawwaz because of time constraints, but whenever I had the time, I would put up with the Plato reincarnate and drop by Fawwaz.

It was tough.

Until a couple of days ago. I went to Fawwaz’s and he had this young man in the chair.  Except that this young man had hair, not that I have issues with people who have hair, and he seemed to actually care about what it looked like. He was sitting there pointing at his neck. Fawwaz pulled his clippers up and down, and then we’d have to hear minutes of complaints of how it is now too short and his hair no longer looks long. Then he had it gelled and he felt that it made his head look flat and so he had it washed. Then he had it blow-dried. Then he asked Fawwaz to trim the hair just above his ears. Then he would tell him to stop, and he’d fuss about how his hair now makes him look different… etc, etc. By this time, 20 minutes had gone by and if you ask me, the dude’s hair looked exactly the same as it did the minute I walked in. I picked up my stuff, told Fawwaz I had a ‘meeting’ to attend to and that I would be back. “I will be back, when I can find the time.” And scurried down to Moussa’s. It was a Gustav pie.

I was through with Fawwaz… but I knew I would be back for more.

The Straight Hair Mafia

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

It’s a funny thing, my hair – and everyone’s, really. I was born with just wisps of it and stayed that way ‘til I was terribly two, when apparently a hormone? kicked in, and eventually pulled my wisps into straight strands past my shoulders by the age of ten. My youngest sibling, my sister, had just entered kindergarten, so my mom who had been a stay-at-home since she made her move to the U.S. of A, enrolled in beauty school. She just woke up one morning, as the story goes, and said: “I wanna do hair.” And for 20 years she has done many-a-human head. She had quite the touch, mom, from the beginning. One of the first things she did, incredibly while still in beauty school, is perm my hair permanently. I sat in her guinea pig chair until several long blue rods, laced with my long straight strands, pulled heavily on my scalp. I was happy. In less than an hour, I would have curls.

And 20 years later, I still have them. The truth is probably that my hair was destined to ride the waves of my adolescent hormones, curling and bending anyway. But, I will never know. This story is actually beside the point. I just like to say that I have a permanent perm. Like, my head took that shit literally.  But one thing is true, just like almost everything in my life – I’ve experienced both: straight and curly. Here comes the issue…

I’m sitting in a new fancy leather chair, in Achrafieh now, with a complimentary espresso in a French salon. Today my hair is short and curly, and so it needs regular visits to the coiffure. My hair today actually is almost the same cut that my mom gave me at 12, another experiment, the year that rolled out nighttime dream after dream of long hairs streaming from every which place. Back then it was a mushroom cloud. Like something had erupted in my mind, and poof. This time around, since I’ve got a hold of my curls, I wasn’t worried about choosing my hair to be short. For a while now, I’ve known how to tame these suckers with just the right amount of touching (not too much) and my jar of goop, currently Palmers.  Thing is, though it’s not true for all curly heads, my hair is really easy. If you want it in minutes, my hair is usually done in less than 1. I rub the goop between my hands and lightly spread it through and leave it to air-dry. This is why it’s disturbing to me when I sit in the salon in Achrafieh and after cleaning up my funky new haircut, my coiffure takes four fingers and runs them through my hair like a comb with the hairdryer, aimed, on full blast. That’s pretty much the first item on the “don’t” list for curly hair. Because you know what happens? Mushroom cloud! So on my recent visit, in the midst of this atrocious hair-handling, I interrupted and asked for a diffuser (an attachment for the hairdryer, especially designed for curly hair, in that it’s broad and doesn’t blow your hair away).

Me: Ma3leish, do you have a diffuser?

Him: No.

Me: Huh? No, I mean (here I gesture) it’s for curly hair.

Him: Yes, I know, but we don’t have one.

Me: Are you serious? You don’t have a diffuser?

Him: No, we don’t. (He looked at me dead serious.)

Me: I can’t believe that this fancy salon doesn’t have a diffuser! Really???

Him: No, but I just don’t want to give it to you.

Me: (speechless)

Him: (goes to a nearby cabinet and pulls out a diffuser.)

Me: You lied to me? Why?

Him: Because I don’t like your hair curly.

Me: What? You don’t what?

Him: It looks eighties when you leave it curly.

The irony.

The epiphany: Lebanese coiffures have killed the curls.

Listen, it may sound like a hasty generalization, but I’ve been wondering about this for a while. For the longest, I couldn’t understand why “brushing” is favored by most people with half a curl. On several occasions, there have been friends, colleagues, or acquaintances who have revealed that they have naturally curly hair, and it freaks me out. (But, but, you’ve had straight hair for the past 3 years…) It is a curious thing that keeping your curls, which is most people’s natural hair around here, is faux pas. I chalk it up to similar phenomena that is not only a trend because it has caught fire and people want to be hip, but because of these random “authorities.” It’s no different when you get your eyebrows done (“tsk, tsk, who messed these up for you?”) or your nails (“square shape ahla”) or you buy a pair of jeans (“you have too much right around here” – see hips) and the list goes on, made by random self-proclaimed “authorities” dictating what we should look like…

Akh, the authorities…