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Laundry On Sundaes

Every beginning is only a sequel, after all, and the book of events is always open halfway through.

For as long I can remember, or at least since I was old enough to care about my looks, I’ve always struggled with my hair. When I was a little kid, I had perfectly good, shiny, straight, doll-like hair. Exhibit A:

That was when I was 3. Then somewhere between the ages of 8 and 12, my hair turned into this unmanageable mess, and I suffered through years of terrible, awful haircuts, most of which are too embarrassing to display on the internet. Basically, unlike typically Asian hair. which is straight, shiny, and smooth, my hair was – is – super thick, hard, coarse, and slightly wavy in that no matter what I did, some parts of it always stuck out or was bent out of place. And I have a lot of hair. Every single hairdresser I’ve been to have said that to me. The texture drove me crazy and I had no idea how to style it.

The the summer after eight grade, I went back to China with my family and my mom finally let me get a perm. I think that was the first time I’ve ever felt really happy with how my hair looked. I didn’t have to worry about whether my hair would be flipping everywhere all over the place, it was all set in place with the perm! Unfortunately, I don’t seem to have any photos of my hair from that time, so it’s just a nice memory now. But the perm eventually grew out, and for most of high school, my hair looked at best like this (before Stanford crushed my dreams):

Or this:

And at worst, like this:

Actually, I think the worst was worse than that, but who’s keeping track. And so that’s how it was for a while. One particular days my hair would look fine, if I happend to sleep in the exact way that flattened out all the kinks in it. Oh, and here’s the other thing with my hair. It never looks good after a shower, no matter if I let it air dry or blow dry it. It always looks poofy and awful. And most hair straighteners didn’t work on my stubborn hair either. So to make my hair look semi-decent, I would always have to wash it, let it dry, then sleep on it the day before. SUCH A HASSEL. Anyway, the point is, I suffered through more of this aggravating hair until the summer after my freshman year of college, when I went back to China again and got another perm. And I was in hair heaven again. The curls made me feel pretty and effortlessly glamorous.

I kept the style for as long as I could, and it look pretty good even almost a year afterwards:

But inevitably, I had to get it cut again. And it was back to same old cycle of fighting with my hair. Until last summer, when I decided to do something drastic again, this time to get it but short. I was nervous about it but it turned out amazing.

Although I loved the style, I still feel more comfortable with long hair, so I decided to not keep the style and grow it out. Little did I realize that this was to be my latest, year-long battle with my hair. Everything was going fine, and the grown out version of the cut actually didn’t look all that bad:

That was last winter, and also the last time I remember being happy with my hair. What happened was that I decided to get a trim over winter break back in Vancouver, and my hairdresser did an absolutely terrible job. Not only did she cut way more hair than I wanted (I told her that I was planning to grow it out!), but she did this thing that made my hair look like it had 2 distinct layers. Like the outer layer was very obvious shorter than the inner layer. Ugh it was awful. And graduation was coming up, and so in a move of desperation and frustration, I went to a Chinatown salon to get a cut and Japanese straightening. But it didn’t turn out the way I imagined. I asked them to even out my layers without losing too much length, which I guess wasn’t really possible since the difference in length between my 2 tiers were so great. So the layered thing was still kind of there, though slightly less noticeable. And the straightening, for whatever reason looked kind of off. I don’t know if it was because my hair was too short, the cut was still bad in the first place, my hair is just THAT stubborn, the salon didn’t do it right, or whatever else. It’s straight in some places, but other parts of my hair still looked like it had its original texture, and yet another small part of it feels like it was scorched. Here’s a photo of it a couple of weeks after the procedure (you can definitely see the 2-tier thing going on on the left):

So that was back in May. Now 3 months and an ok trim later, my hair is still not looking ideal.

That’s how it looks right now on a good day. It’s no longer as straight as before and some of my natural texture is back, which I kind of like. But now I will be having dental school interviews in the next several months (unless I get 0 interviews, God forbid) and because I miss feeling good about my hair, and I want to get a nice haircut. But I’ve been so traumatized over the past year ever since I got my hair cut short that I’m really nervous about it. And I have no idea how to find a salon that will know how to deal with my difficult mess of hair. One of the hardest things about moving to a new place to finding a new hairdresser. I tried to find the salon I went to last summer, but it seems to have disappeared off the map (or at least off Yelp).

Sigh. If I had to do it all over again, I probably would never have cut my hair last summer. I would have grown it long and then get a good digital perm for big curls/waves. But it’ll be a long while until my hair is long enough for that again. In the meantime, I’m stuck. How should I get it cut? How short do I go? Do I get side bangs again? And how to find a good salon? I don’t know.

Readers, have you ever had hair struggles? Do you have any tips on how to find a good hairdresser in a new city? Do you know of any good salons in San Francisco that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg?

Update 10/25/12: read about some solutions I found!

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