The ends of my hair were straw. It had been four months since my last appointment. I had been using the “but we just got here” excuse for long enough: it was time to get a haircut in Paris.
I had been keeping an eye out around my neighborhood in the 18th for a good hair salon. While 38 euro at a fancy boutique seemed a bit too indulgent, I didn’t feel comfortable heading over to boulevard Barbès for a shady sit-on-a-bucket-and-lean-over-the sink 10 euro experience. A place interestingly called Tchip on rue Ordener, advertising “petits prix,” really did look quite cheap. You could get a shampoo, cut and blow-dry (shampooing + coupe + brushing) for 20 euro. Plus, there were a bunch of people inside of all ages and backgrounds getting their hair done, which I took to be a good sign.
When I walked in, a woman with bleach blond bangs and a sub-layer of black hair took my name and showed me to the waiting area, which consisted of three chairs and was shoved into the back corner of the salon behind a woman having her hair colored. I squeezed past, grabbed a copy of Marie Claire and took one of the two empty seats.
A couple came in next, and as there was only one chair left, only one of them could sit. I pretended not to notice as the young man sat down, followed shortly by his girlfriend sitting in his lap. Did I mention that it was a tight space? French people are extremely gifted at blocking out the rest of the world, even when the rest of the world happens to be sitting right next to them.
Finally I was called by the skunk-haired girl. “Qu’est-ce qu’on fait?” she asked. Juste couper les pointes et dégradé un peu partout comme la coupe que j’ai déjà. Just a trim with layers all over like the way my hair us cut already. Bon. She convinced me to add a “soin” of Kérastase for just 3 euro (half off this month from 6). I thought it was a hair treatment and thus was really happy about the price, but I believe now it was just a high quality après-shampooing (conditioner). She let the soin soak in and disappeared for a smoke break, leaving me with my hair wet and still leaning back in the sink.
I reached up to grab the towel around my neck to wipe off my wet ears, but the towel fell to the floor and I was helpless. When the hairdresser came back, smelling of smoke, I told her la serviette est tombée. She smiled, picked it up off the floor, and put it back around my shoulders. Very hygienic.
My hair rinsed but still dripping, we went over to the chair. I removed my glasses, and she promptly started hacking away like a madwoman. As I had taken off my glasses, I couldn’t see a damn thing. I decided to close my eyes, relax, and put my trust in Tchip. I heard the scissors rip through my hair to create the layered effect. I winced. The cutting was done at record speed. I kept my eyes closed throughout the blow-dry process and allowed myself to enjoy the feeling of having my hair done. Alas, that part didn’t last long either. She turned the hairdryer off, spritzed some serum on my hair and Poof! C’est fait.
She handed me a mirror; I looked. It was just like every time I get my haircut in France: lots of layers, shorter than I thought I wanted, but not quite the Jennifer Aniston. I looked like a French girl, and considered it part of the integration process.
Despite my reluctance to go in because of the decidedly un-chic name, and even with the “wham bam thank you ma’am” speed and lack of personal attention, I must say that after all, the hairdresser did a good job. In another 3 months, I will probably fork over another 20 euro for another go ‘round at Tchip.
© 2011 Pasa’s Paris