(photo credit: Jonathan Bloom)
Recently, a friend of a friend was applying for a job at a Big Important Tel Aviv Hair Salon. This Zohan-wannabe was in need of an in-the-flesh hair model. And since it had been almost a year since my last haircut, I figured I could use a trim. So my friend gave me her friend's number and I gave him a call.
"Describe your hair to me," he said.
"Umm. It's thick and it's big."
"No. Jew-fro big."
He sighed. "The color?" he asked.
This inspired another disappointment-filled sigh from Guy. He told me that had been hoping for "American hair" like he'd "seen in the movies." Whatever that means. Despite his reservations and my concerns about what it was, exactly, that he might be envisioning for my long reddish-brownish-gold-streaked mane, we agreed to meet so he could size me up.
That night, we met at a cafÃ© on Dizengoff. He pulled me into a well-lit area and he fingered my hair, but in a professional kind of way.
"Hmmm. I'm thinking blondini," Guy said. "And straight. Like Heather Graham in 'Boogie Nights.'"
"But wasn't she a porn star named Rollergirl in that movie?"
"Something like that," Guy said as he tousled my hair and examined the texture.
"I don't think that kind of blonde would really suit me," I said. Though my skin isn't as dark and olive as my mom's, my look is decidedly Mediterranean and I would look peculiar with bleached hair. "And I don't want a new head of hair. If you want to play a little bit with the color," I said, "how about working with these gold tones here?"
I tugged on a golden lock amidst the multi-colored jumble of waves and curls that fell almost to my waist.
"It'll have to do," he said.
We agreed on some "highlights" and a "trim"- and I emphasized the importance that both be subtle.
A few days later I brought my big hair to the Big Important Hair Salon. Before he began his audition, Guy sat me down in a chair and conferred with a friend. Friend tucked my chin to my chest and then took one chunk at a time, using his hands as a faux pair of scissors.
"Kadima, kadima, kadima," he said to Guy, as a made a brisk, almost frantic, cutting motion with his fingers.
Guy nodded, his brow furrowed.
"Wait," I said, peeking out from a curtain of hair, "I don't want layers. We agreed on a trim."
"Don't worry, motek," Friend said, right before he disappeared.
The owner of the salon came in and greeted Guy and I, the model, was escorted to a chair. The owner parked himself a short distance away, leaning against a counter, his arms crossed, his eyes trained on us.
Guy went to work and soon my head resembled a tinsel-covered Christmas tree as he wrapped highlight after highlight in foil. It looked not at all like the "subtle" change we'd discussed.
But he was just getting started. After the highlights came the haircut. I gasped as chunks flew forward off my head, in step with the snip of the scissors.
And then there were the bangs. Enough said.
I hoped that Guy would at least let me leave it curly. No such luck. The roar of the blow-dryer was upon me. When he finished, he turned the chair around to face the mirror. My face crumbled when I looked at myself: nearly blonde and newly straight-haired.
For so many of my American middle and high school years I'd wanted exactly this. But now that I'm a woman of almost 30 - who is comfortable, at last, in her hair - I was mortified.
But because the owner was watching and Guy needed a job, I fought my tears. In fact, I smiled and I nodded and I said I liked it.
I left the salon and went straight to my best friend's apartment. Zohar opened the door and we stood there - me in the hallway, she on the threshold.
"You look soâ€¦" she paused. "You look so... American. You look like you should be on 'Friends.'" She hugged me, kissed my cheek. "Let's fix this," she said. She led me to the bathroom. "Wait," Zohar commanded. She left and returned with a chair and pointed at it.
And I sat, for the second time that day, at a sink with my head bent back. Zohar washed my hair, her motions quick and strong, her fingernails pleasantly scratching my scalp. When Zohar was done, she sat me up and ran some leave-in conditioner through my wet hair, twirling locks as she went.
When she finished, I stood and looked in the mirror.
"Don't worry. The blonde will grow out," she said.