It is a universal truth that the best things are always anywhere but with you. Your neighbor’s kids are better behaved, your friend’s mom-in-law is much more adjusting, your aunt’s maid is so very efficient, your yoga teacher’s skin is the best skin you have ever seen and your cousin’s black straight hair are so very perfect. But then your cousin thinks just the opposite. She likes the curly ones that you find so frustrating when they take eon hours to get untangle and always makes your face bigger than you want it to look. And look at my cousin. She looks slimmer, smarter and always neatly combed. True, the grass is always greener on the other side.
So, one fine morning I felt enlightened by my decision to get my hair straightened. Simply straightened. Nothing else. I will go to the salon and tell the hairstylist and the job would be done within few hours. Cool!
And to add strength to my decision (as I am always paranoid about of getting any chemical treatments on any of my body parts) I was preparing for a beach party a friend was throwing for her 25th anniversary. And I imagined how wonderful I would look when I will arrive there with my new hairstyle and would take them all by surprise. There is a saying that with a good hairstyle and a pair of great shoes you can get away with anything. So finally determined to give it a try I confidently walked into one of the renowned salons at the nearest mall and asked for an appointment.
“ Ma’am it will take four hours”, the lady with dark eye makeup on the reception desk informed me.
“Four hours? Umm… okay …I have to be back by 4:30 as my daughter would return by then from school … so that means … you can give me a twelve o clock appointment” I back calculated and replied but a queer question hung over me.
Four Hours? So many things could be done in four hours. A complete waste of time. And when will I have lunch? Four hours without food?OMG! I am not a heavy eater, I swear.Although from my slightly plump figure you won’t really believe. But trust me it’s my BMR that needs to be blamed for my borderline bulky body. Okay, I give up. I am lazy, don’t exercise as much I should. Happy? Okay now coming to the point, though I do not eat much I do need something to munch on every two hours. Maybe I will carry some cookies. But that will look odd. I am sure they will serve some coffee at least, I assured myself.
“ Okay. But Ma’am I think you will need a haircut after hair straightening”, the receptionist added breaking into my mental calculations about everything.
“Yeah, I think so. Okay”, I replied.
“Well, which hairstylist shall I book for you?”, she questioned me further.
Now, how am I supposed to know each and every stylist of the salon and tell her my preference?
The lady probably understood my dilemma and explained that it’s based on the efficiency and experience of the stylist.
“I definitely want the best”, my ego blurted before she could explain that the choice of a stylist was directly proportional to the rate they will charge.
I gasped, but it was too late. My reply had already changed the smile of the lady from a plastic one that she was wearing so long to a genuine charming one.
“Sure, Ma’am. You deserve the best”, she said and booked my appointment for the next noon.
Riding back home the kohl-eyed lady’s words kept ringing in my ears like melodious Christmas bells. Do I really deserve it? The best? I have always selected best for my family but gave a lot of thinking in spending money while choosing the best for myself. Maybe she is right. I do deserve the best. At least once in a while. I felt a special kind of happiness at the idea of booking the best stylist of the salon and merrily waited for the next day.
The best stylist indeed looked worthy of the title by her own style in the entire parlor. She had a superior air about herself and though she wasn’t too pretty she looked quite attractive. She welcomed me with a smile, which looked warm then but I later realized that hidden in it was a smile of a hunter when the bird he is planning to have for his dinner comes within his reach.
“Which shampoo do you use?”, she said touching my hair and rubbing them in between her manicured fingers.
I knew that my hair wasn’t in the best of condition and I didn’t really want to put the blame on the shampoo brand I was using. So, I told her that I am unable to take care of them due to my hectic schedule and hence, they must have turned dry. She nodded and asked her assistant to get her some cream and accessories.
“Hair straightening might damage your hair further, so it would be advisable to first treat it and then apply straightening cream. Is that okay?”, she asked me matter-of-factly.
She was right, but I wanted to know how much extra that would cost me. She understood without my asking and informed me that it would cost me nearly two thousand bucks extra. That sounded too much but I felt embarrassed to bargain. What would she think? I am giving more importance to money than the health of my hair? I felt trapped.
“Okay”, I replied in a meek voice of submission that escaped from my larynx.
“You have some grey hairs too. And they would be visible more once your hairs are flat”, she placed a mirror behind my hair and showed me few stupid and disloyal grey hairs that might have escaped my hand while I colored my hair last week myself.
I have never stepped in quicksand, but at that very moment, I am sure I was experiencing a similar sinking feeling. The stylist looked at me expecting a positive response and I nodded smartly as if it was the most obvious thing to do, wondering how much cash I have in my purse.
“Let me check if I have enough money today, else I will come again for the hair color after few days”, I combated my shyness and said so while searching my purse.
“It’s okay. We do accept credit card and otherwise, we can send a person to your home too to collect money after the services. You don’t worry, just enjoy the pampering Ma’am”, she replied promptly with a bright smile.
“Wow! That’s great!”, I beamed back helplessly, thinking about the price tagged with the so-called pampering.
Once convinced that I am completely in her clutch she sent me for a hair wash with her assistant towards the shampoo chair. I tread towards it full of doubts as to whether I will be compatible with it this time or not. And I knew that once again we have failed to strike an amicable relationship with each other the moment the assistant hairdresser asked me to pull myself up a little. I shifted a bit more and tried raising my body as she tucked my neck carefully inside the basin. For her my position was perfect but for me, it was utterly discomforting.
However, my discomfort eased a little as she massaged my hair softly with the shampoo and I almost felt sleepy. But then a cold rush of water on my scalp alarmed my senses. I must confess here that I have a very sensitive scalp. Too much sun and cold water are its worst enemies and can install headaches any time.
“Warm water please”
“Oh okay. Is this all right?”
“No, it’s still cold.”
“ A bit warmer.”
“It’s too much.”
“Is it okay now?”
“Yes. It’s perfect now.”
I smiled and once again dived into my sleepy zone. After a while, the massage stopped and the hairstylist lady after applying a special treatment lotion for my almost dying hair asked me to remain in that yogic beheaded looking posture for ten minutes. Ten long minutes staring at the ceiling I cursed the moment I had chosen to disrespect my perfectly natural wavy hair. My eyes enviously hovered from the big poster of a model with healthiest ever hair on earth to all those mistakes the false ceiling technician had made. I tried closing my eyelids and taking a nap, but that again refocused my mind to all the uneasiness my neck was enduring. So, I flipped my eyes open and started adding seconds and minutes. Finally, the timer rang and I was released with a towel wrapped around my head and shoulder and taken to my beauty chair.
The hair treatments started and they actually did a good job and offered me a coffee from Flurry’s too, but not without continuously telling me as to what all products I must buy to uplift the dreadful condition of my tresses. I heard them all with patience rarely seen in me by my daughter and husband. I acknowledged the need and appreciated their genuine concern for my hair and waited for the charade to end. But there was no rescue.
Now, there is a thing about shampoos now a day. Let’s be honest, we all simply want our hair to be clean and healthy. Simple. But for that, we need to browse through a whole range of shampoos and other hair care products. And the options are actually more than the types of hair humans actually have. There are no sulfate, hair fall defense, daily shine, keratin smooth, dandruff protect, calming, intense repair, moisture renewal, spa rejuvenation, herbal, scalp care and what not.
The hairstylist gave me a sermon on the devastating condition of my hair while I wondered how did I manage to carry them on my head till the salon without most of them falling off on the way. But I heard all she said including her bits of advice about the amazing secret solutions that only the company she dealt in had. She offered few of them to me with a smile that could have won her any toothpaste advertisement. I had to finally give her an assurance that I will buy the lifesaving shampoo to proceed further with my rest of hair service.
A layer of the chemical had been coated on my hair strands and a timer was set again.I had bought a book to read if I get an opportunity but my eyes were glued on a magazine that peeped from the steel magazine rack.
“Younger in ten age-defying beauty tips”, the title of an article read on the magazine.
I pride myself for being a practical and intellectual kind of lady and hence, took out Twinkle Khanna’s “The legend of Laxmi Prasad” from my purse and opened it to find out similarities between the book and the movie “Pad man”. But before I could start reading I made a small mistake. I looked at my image on the tall beveled mirror in front of me. And that was it. I decided Akshay and his wife can wait but my aging skin cannot. I pulled the Femina edition, read, looked at my image, sulked, read, saw hope, pulled up my skin around cheekbones, saw, wished, read, made promises with myself and inserted the magazine back to the rack with a heavy sigh.
Finally, after the concluding blow dry, I was ushered to the cash counter where I found four products waiting for my approval. They were all priced much higher than my monthly budget of all my shampoos and cosmetics put together. My bill was already high due to three additional services I had foolishly agreed upon. I did have a credit card and so there shouldn’t have been any problem in paying as much as I wanted.
All eyes were upon me as if I am about to decide a life and death issue. The air felt suffocating and dropping my arms and running away from there seemed the best thing to do. But my self-respect kept me glued to the expensive carpet.
Taking a deep breath, I pushed all the products away except the anti-dandruff shampoo and said with a grin as wide and convincing as possible, “Let me come back from my beach vacation and then I will get my hair checked once again. You know how harmful the salty water is for the hair. Maybe I will need more products and a good hair spa too. Will buy all of them then.”
That was bold. Wasn’t it? I felt powerful and the trick of future profit seemed to work. With a delighted look, they booked another appointment two weeks later, that I intended never to keep. I looked at my new stylish hairdo, and like a beauty pageant contestant, I walked out of the salon with a confident smile. I knew I had been ripped off just now, but I was happy to have been able to save myself from the last leg of the loot. Yippee!