Every four, five years, I get this crazy urge to do what some women find perfectly normal: put nasty stuff in my hair that will supposedly make me look “prettier.” Without fail, I regret it. Here’s how it went down: I was feeling a little bleh and out of it and foolishly thought that a “new do” might perk me up a bit.
So, without giving it the proper amount of thought and ignoring my inner red flags, I marched down to the local hairdresser in Maadi, a fairly well-off Cairene neighborhood. There I asked Hassan to please put a few highlights in my hair, and to give me a swift trim. “Just a little bit,” I emphasized. Sensing my trepidation, he said, “you’re going to love it.”
The ugly side of beauty
There’s nothing beautiful about “beautifying.” Hassan’s helper put a thick plastic cap on my head and attacked my hair with a pick of sorts, pulling out clumps that stood straight out in every direction. After doing this for a while, Hassan realized she had put the cap on the wrong way, so we had a repeat of torture chamber step one.
“You didn’t ask me why I use the cap,” he grinned.
“Oh,” I said, “so why do you use the cap?”
“I want to make it messy, to make it look natural.”
“That’s great,” I replied. “Natural. That’s what I want.”
Poison in a bottle
Once the assistant finished plucking my feathers, Hassan picked up a bottle inscribed in huge letters with the word “poison.” This wasn’t a surprise, of course, although my eco-guilt then kicked in and I ran through at least half a dozen reasons I did not want poison in that bottle, on my head, or washing down the drain when the damage was done.
But I was in too deep. The resulting purple mix was smeared on my protruding hair strands and then smothered by a shower cap in preparation of torture chamber step two.
Luckily, the weather is fairly moderate today because Hassan proceeded to stick me under one of those giant granny hairdryers. I don’t recall having this experience before, and I hope to never have it again. Not only did it bake the poison on my head, but it was so hot that my neck and scalp burned.
That finally ended after ten long minutes and the torture was relieved with an awesome massage. My scalp needed it after being infused with toxic chemicals – all in the name of being more “pretty.” In retrospect, had I spent the same amount of money on a full body massage, I would feel so much better right now.
And then, the cut. A swift trim turned into a full scale hair slaughter and all the parts that were uneven before remained so. Plus, I don’t know how they do it, but old school hair dressers have a way of making me look just like a character out of the Golden Girls, and I’m only in my thirties. This is especially true when they come after me with a hair dryer.
So, I walked back to where I’m staying as quickly as I could, eyes down but hardly masking the big boof of chocolate and vanilla swirl on my head, and promptly dampened the “added volume.”
All you plenty-beautiful women out there… please be so much smarter than bottle-blonde me.
More on food and health in the Middle East: