Peter’s Permanent: The Update

All right, here’s the update you’ve all been waiting for: what happened to Peter’s hair. Devoted blog readers will recall that in Beijing, he made the disastrous decision to allow the hairdresser to give him a perm. That was September 3rd. It’s now November, and . . . let’s just say it’s getting there.

Peter made his first correction in Lhasa, Tibet, on September 25th. His  hair had grown a bit by that point, making the perm stand up even straighter from his scalp, giving him permanent bed-head and/or the appearance of someone who’d stuck a finger in a socket. We both were a bit nervous, given the vertical rise of the stylist’s own hair, but after I explained that he wanted it “short little little,” he gave Peter an unoffensive trim.

A rare moment of open eyes.

I watched Peter this time, and confirmed his habit, which I’ve only discovered on this trip, of taking off his eyeglasses and closing his eyes when he gets his hair cut. He says he likes to relinquish control in the barber’s chair and relax, which is a nice idea in theory, I guess, but given the previous consequences, I couldn’t believe he was doing it again. Perm me once, shame on you. Perm me twice . . .

Then November 6th, while we were in Hoi An, Vietnam, Peter decided he needed another trim, since the perm was in no way “gone.” So, naturally, he went to a guy with an open-air shack on the street.  As Peter took off his glasses and sat down, eyes closed (really?!), the guy whipped out what I have personally experienced in an Asian salon before — and which has made me swear never to go back: thinning shears.

I’ll never fully understand why people like thinning shears, but if they’re going to be used anywhere, Asia makes sense – people’s hair tends to be thicker than, say, someone with English and Irish blood. But this stylist wasn’t concerned with whether the texture of Peter’s hair was in need of thinning. He just jumped right in.

As I watched him, I began wondering if the man actually had some sort of tic that made it impossible for him to stop snipping. He snipped his way through Peter’s hair, and then kept snipping the air as he moved on to the next piece, then snipped the hair again. The sound alone would have glued my eyes open. But Peter relaxed, eyes closed, as the man thinned his hair like someone clearing undergrowth from a forest.

“Are you sure this is what want?” I kept asking. “Maybe you should open your eyes.”

“It’s fine,” Peter replied. “I don’t have my glasses on. I can’t see anything anyway.”

I was baffled – had he learned nothing? – but didn’t intervene. Instead I watched as the guy pulled out an electric shaver and started buzzing the sides. I couldn’t see exactly what he was doing, but feared that Peter was getting a marine-like cut that would leave hair on the top of his head and none on the sides, sort of like a cupcake. My fear intensified when I noticed that the man had shaved a line into the hair at the back of Peter’s neck, far higher than any self-respecting man wants to be hairless, and then buzzed everything below.

Long story short: Peter now has a weird hairline at the back of his hair where the guy’s shave ends and his normal hair is coming back in (it’s probably an inch and a half higher than it should be). As for the top and sides, the hair is so thinned out that I fear he’s getting sunburned on his scalp.

Next time, I’m going to insist on two things: wear contacts, and keep your eyes on the prize.

Still snipping.

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