travels with my barang-barang

the long and short of it

Posted in Beijing, Kultur, Miscellany by ejl on 25 March 2009

When I was back in Singapore two weeks ago, one of the first things I did was to go get a haircut at Artica in Far East Plaza. Juno’s my guy and he does amazing things with my hair, so much so that I trust him enough to just let him get on with it while I sit there in the chair without my glasses on and space out (because I am blind without them and can’t see shit when they’re off).

I enjoy the experience of not really knowing what I’m going to end up with, save for the few parameters that I usually set him – something that can look professional but also be dressed up or down, not too short, no straight-across fringe. I also think he enjoys the freedom to experiment, because most of his customers seem to either only get a trim or they’re there to straighten or perm.

Anyway, the last time I’d cut my hair was back in July, when I was last back in Singapore (are you seeing a pattern here?), and so by this time my hair was around my shoulders and I’d been tying it up and pinning it back in the most severe lawyer-like fashion. And this has been how most of the girls I’d met here in Beijing have seen my hair – up and back, all the time.

So when I met up with some of them over the weekend, they were, of course, taken aback by my dramatic change in hairstyle. I didn’t mind, I’d been expecting it. Friends who know me long enough are used to my periodic long-to-short hair transformations, and no longer blink at my turning up with a new haircut, but new friends, well… they’ve got a lot of learning to do.

What I didn’t realise, though, was the cultural significance of a haircut. The meaning of such a haircut was told to me in a very serious manner, with handholding and all. I was told that in China, girls don’t usually cut their hair unless there was some great emotional distress occurring in their life, e.g. a family tragedy or a break-up. No wonder the looks I’d been getting from my Chinese colleagues, somewhere between curiosity and pity. That explained everything. Everyone had been thinking that I’d gotten my haircut because something terrible had happened in my personal life but were just too polite/reserved to ask.

(I think this reaction also has something to do with my Chinese ethnicity, again. I’m sure Blondie over there wouldn’t be getting those pitying looks if she had a haircut. But moving on.)

Now that that’s been clarified, I must remember next time I get a haircut to announce that it’s because I got bored and not because something bad has happened. Just to save everyone the time and energy expended mulling over whether or not to broach the subject of my maybe-tragic-life, and also to stop the staring and save myself from feeling like a sideshow freak.

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One Response

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  1. ju said, on 26 March 2009 at 1:05 pm

    you are damn funny.


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