Andrew has not had his hair cut since we’ve arrived here. It was long overdue, because he hates for me to comb or brush his hair. He wiggles and complains for each stroke.
I had no idea how to begin searching for a barber. I noticed another boy in his class with textured hair, so I asked his mother for a suggestion. She spoke only French and so through an interpreter we agreed that we would take our boys together for a haircut, during their two week school break. That never happened. Later I hand wrote the same mother a letter in French – but she never responded. Dead end.
Riding on the tram last week I noticed a female African hair salon. I noted the address and thought I would return to it and ask for a recommendation. To my surprise as I continued to observe the passing buildings on the same street, I saw an African man sitting in a barber’s chair having a haircut. Yeah, now I have a place to take Andrew.
With Andrew in tow, I walked back to the Salon to make an appointment. There were three mean in the salon at the time, a customer and two barbers. My French is awful, but one of the barbers spoke some Spanish. I can communicate in Spanish, so we were able to converse. He was willing to cut Andrew’s hair on the spot, no appointment needed….which is surprising because everything in France requires an appointment.
There was a problem. I had been on the hunt for a barber, but Andrew was unaware of that fact. He was taken by surprise that I wanted his hair to be cut. He was unprepared and insisted that these strange men were not going to cut his hair. He told me that he could wait until he went back to the United States where his usual barber, Mr. Mahir could cut his hair.
I explained, cajoled, and practically begged Andrew to let one of the barbers cut his hair. Andrew was having no part of this plan. When the barber approached him with the shears, Andrew cried LOUDLY. He squirmed, kicked and fussed. As a southerner would say “He was cuttin’ up.” Andrew was convinced that this hair cut would hurt. It took what felt like a lifetime (20 minutes) to calm him down enough to have the haircut.
The main barber, a 20 something year old man who told me that he was born in Algeria and that his father was from Spain, patiently waited for Andrew to relax.
Andrew wanted his regular barber who he’d come to trust to be the sole person to cut his hair. Mr. Mahir knows how to cut it. He knows how to make Andrew comfortable. Plus Mr. Mahir has a lollipop waiting for Andrew when he behaves well. Andrew did not know this new barber and he certainly did not know if there would be a candy treat following the hair cutting procedure.
We were the first Americas to visit the little salon. They were thrilled to hear me and Andrew speaking in American English — even if it was an exasperated mother talking to an out of control 5 year old boy. The barbers had heard American English (as opposed to British English) spoken in movies and television. They did not understand the words but loved the tone and intonation. They tried to imitate what we were saying using sounds and grunts. It was so funny to me.
Andrew did finally agree to have his hair cut and enjoyed the process. His barbers also enjoyed the little American boy who put up a good yet tearful fight.