A hair-raising ordeal

There’s a reason the process of choosing a hairstyle is called a trial. And to my chagrin, I was to be the sole judge.

Deborah Danan (photo credit: Mosh Benjamin)
Deborah Danan
(photo credit: Mosh Benjamin)
Brides are funny creatures. In my mind, I see an image of myself dancing at the wedding, jumping up and down to the beat of the music. The engagement period also has its ups and downs, albeit of a different kind. Emotions soar and then plummet, and it’s a struggle to understand which emotions need to be addressed and which need to be relegated to the “Bridezilla” bin.
In my case, it’s frustrating because I’m also berating myself for feeling emotional. I say I don’t care, that none of it really matters except for actual married life, but on occasion my behavior and emotions belie that. So am I lying to myself? Thus begins the process in which I cross-examine myself which, of course, only leads to further anxiety.
Am I supposed to care? How can I not care when we’re talking about the Most Important Day of My Life? Or alternatively, how can I not care when we’re talking about six-figure sums of money? That being the case, I’d like to save money wherever possible. I’ll hire a friend who’s good at taking pictures rather than engage a professional photographer.
The friend will probably be more dedicated anyway, since he cares more. But what if he can take brilliant shots but due to lack of experience he misses the Most Important Moments of my Most Important Day? Maybe it’s worth paying the 10 grand to get a professional? Ach, but it’s no guarantee. Who’s to say the professional won’t miss them as well? And so it goes on… All I want to do is shout back – if it’s all up to chance anyway – “Just make a decision and be done with it!” But there are so many things to consider (and so many Google results) that making a decision about anything at all becomes nigh impossible. Take hair, for example. By the time I’m done deconstructing all the variables involved therein, anyone would think that the question of world peace rested on what updo I chose to have. There is, however, one guiding principle that has been the make or break of most of my wedding-related decisions thus far. For me, it’s all about personality – and not just the groom’s. I don’t want to be surrounded by pushy saleswomen types on the big day; I want to be surrounded by people I like.
With that in mind, I place the burden of world peace upon the capable shoulders of Jeremy Merklinger, one of the most likable people in Tel Aviv and a great hairdresser to boot. I had a trial with Jeremy, and let me tell you, there’s a reason they call it a trial. My hair is on the stand, graying before my very eyes as questions are hurled its way: Should I keep it traditional? A half ponytail with wispy tendrils framing the face? Or something more modern and edgy? But what if that only looks good now and in a decade I find myself perusing my amateur album and asking, “What on earth was I thinking?” Should I dye my hair a totally different color? But what if my groom doesn’t recognize me when he lifts the veil? It’ll be Rachel and Leah all over again… Jeremy listened patiently to my umming and errring but politely refused to deliver a verdict one way or another. To my chagrin, I was to be the sole judge at my own trial.
In the end, I opted for contemporary rather than traditional, with something akin to a post-modern sculpture gracing my skull. As Jeremy teased my hair into submission with enough hairspray to make a flame-thrower jealous, he told me an anecdote about the trial of another client.
The prospective bride had asked Jeremy how much he charged for an updo. Upon quoting her a modest sum, she exclaimed, “But I’m the bride!” Being Israeli, she couldn’t for the life of her understand how he could charge so little. In Israel, once you mention that you’re the bride, the hairdresser will invariably triple the price. But as Jeremy astutely pointed out – and what his client failed to understand – was that an updo is an updo whether you’re the bride or her mother.
So now that the hair-raising (!) ordeal of selecting an updo was over with, the next part of me to stand trial was my face. Which war paint would I prime myself with before going into battle? Once again, I wanted someone who knew what they were doing but was, first and foremost, a genial person. I found that person in Sara Rutstein, also a recent olah. After selecting a look to match the skyscraper that would adorn my head, Sara got to work, expertly swishing and swirling her brush and drawing contours on my face like a landscape gardener. Preening and pruning have never really been my thing, and I’m particularly uncomfortable when other people are administering beauty treatments. I was reminded of the first time I got a pedicure at a rather late age, at the insistence of a friend in New York. (All good Jewish girls took part in the ritual of mani-pedis every Friday in honor of Shabbat, I was told.) Afterward, when my friend asked me how it was, I actually cried in response! I said that I would never punish my worst enemy with touching my feet, yet here was this poor, defenseless Korean woman who was undeservedly tasked with scraping the dead skin of middle-class Jewish women’s feet for $10. Fate had dealt her a cruel hand, it seemed to me.
After Sara was done, I looked at the new, improved version of myself in the mirror. Not only did the concealer do a great job of banishing my blemishes, but it also the fears, anxieties and self-doubts beneath the surface. The image staring back at me was of a radiant, worry-free bride-to-be. All hail the beauty industry!