For three and a half years I have managed to survive in the land of unprecedentedly bad haircuts. To any of you who may have between mouthfuls of tortilla and sun-drenched parkscapes overlooked this element of Spanish culture, hear me out: hair on the Iberian peninsula is bad.
Now I don’t mean to unfairly accuse all Spanish hair of being a force ten hot mess, especially given that I’m loathe to cut my own hair anywhere but the Spanish capitol city. For two years I have been the most satisfied customer, devotee, and champion of Corto y Cambio in Madrid’s Malasaña. Its proprietor, Igor, is not just my go-to stylist, he’s a friend. A friend who happens to be uniquely capable of frisking my tresses into a whirl of expertly winnowed layers and angles that grows out beautifully and rarely (save for when humidity or serious bed head intervenes) looks like total scheiße. I repeat: good hair in Spain does exist, it’s just that the bad is so much more memorable, simply for its extremity.
I give you first the classic mullet. Commonly coveted by Spain’s “anti” youth set, the mullet is alive and in vigor across Southern Spain and in the country’s Castizo heart. The Basques wear a variation of the mullet that identifies them to the expat insider and the peninsular denizen as hailing from the radical North; for those not in-the-know, it’s simply a bad haircut. There is also this awkwardly tiered, freakishly glossy and universally unflattering layercake, most frequently spotted in and around the environs of Madrid’s Barrio de Salamanca on rail-thin, expensively shod madrileñas yipping on cell phones and toting shopping bags from Tous.
And then, dear reader, there is this, this most offensive of creations that represents the collision point of personal coiffure and sealife. It is best classified as the Octomulllet. Especially prevalent in Barcelona, it ruthlessly prowls shorelines and promenades alike, striking revulsion and shame into the hearts of tourists and the cultural epicenter’s classiest Catalanes.
Brace yourself: what you are about to behold is a thing of legend.
After nearly four years acclimatizing my eyes to these travesties of tresses, I thought I’d seen it all. Getting my hair cut in Germany, I told myself, would be far less fearsome a thing. Perennially organized, self-contained and reasonably well groomed, the Deutsche are cool customers when it comes to personal appearance. How terribly could it end? It wouldn’t be until later that I’d understand how drastically I had underestimated the gravity of that question. I wept a tiny bit yesterday for Igor, and I hope that he knows that despite my traitorous Thursday activities that he remains, in my eyes, king.
Here’s where it all started. On Wednesday I Skyped with my family. In Hartford with my parents for Thursday’s festivities, my Grandmother, ever a neat, matchy-matchy sort of broad with close-cropped hair and an eagle’s eye for unkemptness, she took one look at me and instead of saying hello, enjoying the novelty of beholding her only grandbaby’s visage transported to my parents’ living room via the magic of the interwebs, she demanded a nasal, indignant, “What is that? You got a hood on? What’s that on your head, Cait? You wearin’ a hat?”
I was not, I am sorry to report, sporting a hat. That “hood,” that solid mass of brown shadow arcing in a full-length helment around my head was my own hair.
Since my last encounter with Igor when I flew to Madrid about five weeks before, I hadn’t really needed a hair cut. Some time in the past ten days, however, the whole situation had gone abruptly to hell. Long, curving nearly to my collar bones, and heavy as a white trash toddler nourished on a diet of Wonderbread, chicken wings and beer, it weighed upon me, obscuring almost my entire right eye from the light of day and causing grievous strings of skin trauma on my forehead. Something had to give, and my grandmother’s comment about my wearing a “hood” set me into action. I spent nearly two hours on Wednesday night seeking a stylist.
As it turns out, cutting one’s hair in Berlin is no cheap endeavor, and there are a frightening number of Friseuse out there who hawk their locales as spa sites more than hair cutteries (I wasn’t looking for a spa. I wanted a trim). By 10 p.m. Wednesday night I’d narrowed my salon choices down to three, and on Monday morn, based almost purely upon the owner’s sweet sleeve tattoos, earnest face and glasses, I’d made my decision as well as a phone call. Thursday at 12:00, it was on: my hair would be shorn.
The two hours between making the appointment and arriving on the salon’s doorstep were devoted to constructing an elaborate “Mane” board on Pinterest (my other addiction after chocolate and wine). I wanted no flubs, no room for confusion when I endeavored to explain my wants to the German stylist. I loaded the “Mane” board up onto the Android before leaving the apartment, and, armed with my gallery of hairspiration, I felt confident, I felt hopeful. I was set.
For reference, this is the photo I presented to my stylist–admittedly a very sweet, patient and understanding soul who was good enough to listen to me bumble through my laundry list of hair needs auf Deutsch–and I find it rather comely.
Whether or not I actually have the face for such a drastic change is a question that remains unanswered, because what I got was decidedly not a thing resembling this cut. I realized the next morning, regarding my dark-circled visage in the mirror, that there was certainly something of which this hair cut reminded me and it wasn’t my inspiration photo. The approximate year is 1960, the model, my mother. She is six years old and clad in a jumper and what people back then referred to as a “Dickie.” She is chubby-cheeked, round, and grinning.
She also, God help her, has a prime example of a mid-century bowl cut.
With layers thicker than the Berlin wall and a pert, curvy hem-line that drops just to my jaw, I might make a very good dowdy Hausfrau. Since my cut, I feel years older and leagues less cool. But because it can’t be useful in terms of image elevation, I’ve decided that this style’s utility will be a lesson in patience–and a ticket to Madrid for whenever it grows out.
For better or for worse, my hair is shorn. My generous and understanding boyfriend tells me that it looks cute, but I can hardly take him at his word. He is, after all, forced to find me adorable, or at the very least claim so should he desire any affection. Igor would be disappointed were he ever to catch me in this state, and I? I can only hope that that moment never, ever comes.
As dark as all of that may sound, there are two reasonably good things that have come out of this German hair experience and they are as follows:
1) my mop is now light years quicker to blow dry. Lazy when it comes to actual styling and intensely impatient about dawdling in the bathroom, I can’t complain. Schön.
2) Upon being handed a card by my stylist with the salon’s name emblazoned across its horizon and a blurry picture of a quadruped photoshopped into the background, I learned that the Germans refer to what we Americans call “bangs” as a “Pony.” A pony, people, O_O. The coupon I received entitles me to one free “Pony” cut, whenever I want–ostensibly in a few weeks when this whole bowlcut mess works its way up in the tabletop hierearchy from deep salad plate to soup vessel–with the presentation of this card. The afternoon might have been depressing if not for this small lexical gem. I have a Pony, just like I’d dared as a youngling to dream.
And I’ll give them this: the Germans are planners, which I appreciate, and in a few weeks I will at the very least enjoy a thorough Pony shearing, entirely free of charge.