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ArJewTino

“Latins are tenderly enthusiastic. In Brazil, they throw flowers at you. In Argentina, they throw themselves." -- Marlene Dietrich

No longer getting my hair “designed”

“Hola, como estas?” said the Latina receptionist as I walked into Estela’s Hair Salon recently.

“Bien, y vos?” I replied. “Un – crap, what’s the word in Spanish for haircut? I thought. Crap, crap, crap – un... haircut, por favor.”

Dammit. It was corte de pelo. Now I sound like a gringo and...

“Everybody busy right now, please seat,” she said, reverting to English.

For many years, I got my hair cut at VSL Hair Design in Dupont, spending upwards of $30-35 for a wash, “design”, and tip. Aside from its geographically desirable location, I went to VSL because it was the salon equivalent of a nightclub: flashy, attractive, and popular. Hell, even the salon’s image is established within its own name: Hair Design. Really, they’re using protractors on people’s hair now?

But after going to Estela’s in Takoma Park a couple of weeks ago, I realized that the glitziness of having tattooed, pierced hipster women and gay, ostentatious men with spiked hair trim your mane is overrated.

The alternative, I learned, is eschewing style for substance. So I chose to go to Estela’s, a large, brightly lit place with predominantly Latino clienteles whose entertainment value is alone worth the price of admission.

I was assigned to Carmen, a short, Asian-Latina woman who draped a leopard-print protective coat around my neck. Embarrassed by my momentary lapse in Spanish, I resolved to speak to Carmen in English since it was easier and it would prevent any superfluous conversation.

This might have been a mistake.

I explained what I wanted: leave the front as long as possible, trim the sides and back short, and blend it together. Carmen took out the clippers and guards, pointed to the back of my head, and said, “Eh, number one?”

“No, no!” I said, images of my bald head scaring me back into my native tongue, “numero dos!”

Carmen went to town on my dome, taking such care with my locks that I thought she felt personally responsible for every single hair. She clipped the back perfectly, used her scissors to give me a seamless blend, and even used a razor to shear loose strands on my neck and sideburns.

At VSL, I was satisfied if my stylist – sorry, hair designer – didn’t look around the salon at other people. I don’t have a hairstyling license, but I’m pretty sure acting distracted isn’t part of any cosmetology school’s curriculum.

And though VSL may be known for attracting a slew of good-looking patrons, Estela’s had a much more compelling atmosphere. There was the 4-year-old boy crying as he got a haircut while sitting on his dad’s lap; the 8-year-old girl who dropped bubble gum on the floor, retrieved it, and put it in her mouth; and the singing/dancing sweeper who brushed up the loose hair on the floor.

Yup, for $11 (plus a $5 tip I gave Carmen), substance trumps style any day.
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