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While I Was Having My Hair Done ...

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Every time I have my hair pulled back in a ponytail style, it doesn't mean that I enjoy showing off my receding hairline. It actually sends out a message: it is time to go to my stylist to have my hair washed, moisturised and blow-dried properly. But it doesn't mean that people should stay away from me because I have smelly dirty hair or something. It could be that my hair is not dirty at all. It could be that it is just either too dry, from too much chlorine after a long weekend's swimming and sunbathing (as if my skin was not burnt enough), or just slightly too oily from the excessive 'styling' from a wild party the night before. Have I told you that some guy poured a bottle of beer on my head before? Twice! It was okay, I didn't get mad since I have read somewhere that beer is actually good for your scalp. Da! Either way, I just cannot let my hair loose since it will look dead flat without my healthy shine (I've invested a helluvah lot on my highlights!).

As an ultra-perfectionist, I always calculate very carefully the time I have available to spend at my hair and beauty centre. I usually try to squeeze it in before lunch or a meeting for instance in such a way that people will not be aware that I have spent half a day at a beauty centre. Once somebody called on my hand phone while I was having my hair blow-dried. I had to explain to him that I was standing on an airport runway. It just feels so good when people say to you: 'Wow, you really look great for somebody who has been working so hard the whole day'!

It takes about 45 minutes for hair wash and blow dry, an additional hour for a cream-bath if my hair already looks like a used floor mop. And of course one more hour for a complete manicure and pedicure that have to be done at least twice a month. Actually for somebody who spends half a day every day in front of computer I think I deserve to have my hands groomed more often than that.

There is one hair and beauty centre I always go to in Kemang. Believe me, this place is the best so far. I have done my homework. By the way, have you ever been to the one called 'Risky Salon'? I mean who would voluntarily want to walk into a hair salon with a name like 'Risky'? Anyway, this hair and beauty centre I always go to has a very friendly staff, cozy seating arrangements and the most important thing for me is that they have separate smoking and non-smoking areas. During hair treatment I like to sit in the non-smoking section, have a quickie, I mean smoke a cigarette, in the smoking room then go back to the non-smoking room after that - leave the people behind suffocating on my smoke trail. I know that it's an awful thing to do. But I do that during plane trips too.

Rony is the name of my hair stylist. But that's not all. There is Mini for my hands and feet styling, Ucok for my make-up styling and Joni for my scalp styling. Wait a minute, scalp styling?!

I always feel very welcomed every time I walk in. Everybody greets me by name. It feels like walking into "Cheers" bar. I'm always seated on my favourite chair, served with my favourite drink and magazine, and the stylists hurry to assist me. All of that happens minutes after my arrival. Besides being naturally nice, I guess they also recognise my heavy tips.

While listening to 'Go West' by the Village People from their stereo system (it's probably been declared as their anthem), I usually sit back, having my scalp massaged, my fingertip de-cuticlelised and my eyebrow plucked; how could a woman expect more than this? Gees, don't you think it sounds more like being tortured than being pampered?

There are generally between five to ten other women clientele, or men, sitting in the room. Yes, they have male clients. The male clients always come at the least busy time, like Monday morning for example. One day I bumped into my super macho ex-CIA friend John, who is notoriously famous and very proud of his natural non-grey wavy brunette hair. I actually caught him having his hair coloured and his nail manicured! 'I had no idea that we have been going to the same hair dresser', he said, with a 'pity me and please do not tell anyone about this' look on his face. Just imagine how many hush-hush stories I hear just by sitting in my hair and beauty centre for half a day. Plus my stylists always manage to share with me the 'steamiest story of the day' they get from their talkative clients.

Some of the clientele have familiar faces: including from movie stars, top government officers, models, spoiled rich teenagers to bored looking expatriate wives. As I have observed, they have various reasons for going there. I mean besides having their body parts altered. Some of them go there because they think it's a place to go to be seen. Some of them go there because they want to show off to their friends that they can afford to have their hair done at the place frequented by the top models in the country. But some of them also go there just because it's convenient and near their homes. I have different reason, for me my beauty centre is like my second home where I can relax and unwind.

The highlight of the visit is to listen to what other guests are saying. Many clients seem to have a prepared list of subjects to discuss before they walk into the beauty centre. They sit down, get comfortable and as soon as their stylist arrives they begin their litany. Topics range from politics, their dirty weekends or just what a great people they are. These people usually say it as loud as possible; so eager to impose their opinion to everybody else sitting in the room. They are just so much better than everybody else.

One afternoon, a couple hours just before the blown out of proportion turn of the century party, I of course went to my beauty centre to have my hair, face and body decorated according to the theme. I think my stylist poured half kilo of glittering dust all over me. I swear, I must have looked like a lost tinker bell. While my stylist was struggling trying to put sticky fake eyelashes on my eyelids instead of my nose, I recognised the loudmouthed lady sitting beside me. Who could ignore her? She was literally shouting, to make sure that everybody in the room heard what she had to say.

"I went to Singapore last week especially to buy this latest 'New Millennium' make-up kit, you know? I spent a couple hundred dollars for this stick-on eyebrow alone, plus hundreds more for the blush and body glitter, and yada, yada, yada ..." she shouted with her hands flying in all directions trying to show the stylist how to stick her bright glittery blue stick-on fake eyebrow on properly. She squeezed one big dollop of glue at the back of each of the stick-on's, stuck them on her eyebrows then pressed it really hard. Mind you, she already had bright glittering red-eye shadow on. By the way, has anybody seen a movie called the Exorcist?

While my stylist and I were trying so hard not to burst into laughter, Simon the head stylist walked in and screamed frantically.

"Oh my God, darling, what have you done? This stick-on is not supposed to be for your eyebrow. They are stick-on eye shadows! Quick, we have to take them off your eyebrows before the glue sets!" I can't tell you what happened next.

You know, sometimes I wonder why women have to spend so much money and time trying to make themselves physically more beautiful. I know, the inner beauty speech sounds a bit corny. But don't you think that no matter how much money you spend in a beauty centre, if it's not supported by a good manner and beautiful heart, it's meaningless? I mean a perfect manicure and a perfect blow dry won't last for more than three days!

First published in The Jakarta Post, on April 16, 2000.

Housing and schooling information for expats in Indonesia expatriate website for Indonesia Indonesian language translation of article

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