I had heard that when it comes to asking personal questions- or even questions that most Americans would tactfully shy away from- Albanians lack filters. Many think nothing about commenting on someones weight, appearance, or mannerisms and dismiss their actions as curiosity about others instead of behavior that would make Miss Manners shudder. I knew this but I think I had filed this away in the back of my head or at least figured that my grasp of Albanian had me misunderstanding the few comments I had heard. Oh, I found that this is not necessarily so..............
It had been over four months since I got a haircut and I finally decided to take the plunge and do something about my hair since it had been bothering me on an increasingly more frequent basis. Following the advice of others at the Embassy I booked an appointment at a local salon where "the owner had spent eight years working in London and knows how to actually have your hair come out the color you request". (Judging by the scarily large number of women walking around Albania with orange hair, I decided this was the salon to go to).
Now I've never been a high maintenance person and my number one criteria for a haircut is one where I don't have to spend more than two minutes styling it. That may explain why I have a tendency to look like I just rolled out of bed but I have other priorities and just don't want to deal with it. My new stylist is a perky lady who speaks impeccable English (thanks to her years in London) and herself has nice hair. (I've always been leery of a hairdresser whose hair scares me!).
She quickly set to work shampooing and conditioning my hair while keeping up a constant stream of chatter about all of her American Embassy clients (apparently we all do really go there), her daughter, and the ever pervasive dust in Albania. She was quick to quiz me about the status of my hair- when was my last haircut (four months prior), why was it so dry (I have no idea), what happened to the missing piece around my face (I had never noticed it being uneven but apparently it was). She informed me that my current "style" - if you could call it that- was all wrong and bad for me. She didn't mince words and as forward as it was, I had to agree. Her bold statements were refreshing to someone whose previous hair stylists had always agreed with everything I suggested and never contradicted my requests, however wrong they may have been. She told me what style she thought would look good and I quickly agreed. After all, who am I to argue with a woman with scissors?
After a few snips she turned to me and asked excitedly "What happened to your hair?" I was confused since I thought we had already covered that. I didn't know. What she was really asking was what was going on with my color. I'll be the first to agree that I had some roots but she declared that I had three different colors going on in a none-to-flattering way. Again, I had to agree but her approach was a world away from the comments of previous stylists who had actually recommended my hair color. She tsk -tsked for the remainder of the appointment but worked magic with the scissors. I have to admit that when she was done, despite the bad hair color that I was now noticing, I did look a lot better. Before I left she assured me that we would fix the color at my appointment next week. Who was I to argue?
The appointment for the coloring started with my being told again that my hair was "mousy" and all wrong for me. I tentatively selected possible colors out of the big book of swatches she laid before me only to have all of my choices shot down. "They are all wrong for you" she declared. (Actually the only time she agreed with me was when I pointed to the dreaded orange swatch and said I didn't want that one). She declared that I needed a combination of two of the colors and set about mixing the solution before I could disagree.
As I sat back in the chair waiting for my chemicals to process I noticed her looking at me with a critical eye. I had thought I was off the hook for further scrutiny but apparently I was wrong again. "What's going on with your eyebrows?" she demanded. I felt like a small child caught doing something wrong. All of her comments, while brash, had been right on but I started to wonder what else she would find lacking about me in my remaining minutes in the salon.
A couple of hours later I left the salon with the best haircut and color I had ever received. My eyebrows looked pretty darn good too! And it all cost less then what I left for a tip back in D.C. She also took it upon herself to schedule another appointment for me for the afternoon of the Marine Ball. "We will shampoo and blow out your hair so it looks good" she declared suspecting that I would do nothing in terms of hair preparation for the event. "After all, this is a big American event." Its scary how quickly she figured me out.