Nancy Roman


I’ve been searching the internet for a language course.

I’ve tried Rosetta Stone, Berlitz, Pimsleur, even LiveMocha (whatever that is) – but they didn’t have what I was seeking.

Then I thought I might need a more technical course, since I’m looking for a business language, so I tried LincolnTech, and DeVry. I even found one called UTI, which is usually a urinary tract infection, but Google offered it, so I checked.


I am desperate to gain fluency in a crucial language:


I have never been able to speak Hairdresser.

My first haircut experience was traumatic, and it wasn’t even with a professional hairdresser. It was my Dad. I was four years old (I didn’t have any hair until then) and although I was a very verbal four-year-old, I didn’t seem to have a way to tell my father that he was cutting off my earlobe until it was too late. Did you know that earlobes bleed profusely?

My mother decided right about then that I needed a professional. My older sisters had long thick beautiful hair, and they went to a fancy hairdresser named Frank. With my wisps, my mother took me to the barber. There was no speaking to him. He said, “Sit Still” and took out the electric clippers. If I didn’t wiggle I got a lollipop. If I did, I got bangs that were sloped like the Matterhorn.

By the time I was ten, I was insisting on a hairdresser for girls.  Frank cost twice as much as Elviro, but my mother finally gave in.

And to my surprise, Frank spoke a different language. It sounded like English, but when I answered him back, he didn’t seem to understand. I told him I wanted long gorgeous hair like Claudia, but I got the same haircut that Elviro the barber had given me.

It’s a look I call “orphan hair”

But I kept trying.

But the language barrier kept me looking like that until I was thirty or so.

I did learn a few tiny Hairdresser phrases, but it must have been my accent, because they didn’t translate well.

– “Just a trim” translates to:                               “3 inches”

– “Neaten the nape” translates to:                    “3 inches”

–  “I’d like to grow it out” translates to:               “3 inches”

– “Half an inch” translates to:                              “2 7/8 inches”


So I started to bring pictures. But mysteriously, no hairdresser can look at a picture and see what I see.

If I bring a picture with layers:


A hairdresser sees:

Not Jodie.

If I bring in a photo for nice highlights:


A hairdresser may see

Not Jennifer.

And if I have a photo of a fantastic bob:


The hairdresser sees:

Not Quite Keira.


My current hairdresser is quite good. She listens to me, and nods her head and pretends to understand what I am saying.

My hair looks quite nice, considering she is working with the same hair as you see in the picture above.

But I think that’s because I just let her do what she wants, and I don’t try to communicate.

This week I was sitting with a good trashy magazine waiting for my color to ‘set’.  But I was really watching the hairdresser across the way cut a little girl’s hair.

This little girl was about the age I was in my ‘keira’ photo. Her father had brought her in. But he called his wife and put her on the phone with the hairdresser so she could describe what she wanted. I heard the hairdresser repeat, “Shorter in the back, like a stacked bob. Sure. That will be really cute.”

Then the hairdresser proceeded to cut this tyke’s hair a full two inches shorter… in the FRONT!  The back hung down exactly the same way it did when the little girl walked in.

I was chuckling to myself about what the mom’s reaction would be when she saw her little girl and realized that language barriers are worse by phone.

Then my color was done and it was time for my cut. I’ve been trying to let my grow a bit (you could call it my one last stab at youth), so while we talked about movies, music, and men, I mentioned to my hairdresser that I wanted the tiniest bit of a trim and a neatening at the bottom. And that I wanted a nice straight line from front to back. Not longer. Not shorter. Even.

“Sure,” she said.

But I forgot that I don’t speak Hairdresser

Yup, That’s even.


  1. Damn! We go to the same hairdresser! Take in a picture of Meg Ryan and see what happens!


  2. This language confounds me too…and I have finally given up with the knowledge that I will leave the hairdresser looking however she feels I should look on that given day. The only thing I have managed to do is determine whether or not she’s in a good mood, for I think that foretells much of the end result.


    • Ain’t that the truth! I pray that my hairdresser has a fabulous day.


  3. Gospel-freakin’-truth. I feel your pain. I brought in a picture of Norah Jones. It didn’t translate either.


  4. Michelle Gillies

    Everyone in my family had the same haircut. Out would come the big mixing bowl, plopped on our head, and then whoever was doing the trimming would just cut around the edges of the bowl. We all looked like Friar Tuck. It was humiliating. Once I was old enough I grew it long and kept it that way until one day I took in a picture of Annie Lennox with her hair bright orange and 1/4 long and said that was the haircut I wanted. It is still one of my favourite haircuts. Those were my motorcycle days and it was perfect for helmut hair. I don’t know why I grew it out again. But, I did, and kept it that way until I had a run in with chemo. I thought I would have no problem being bald (because of the whole Annie Lennox thing). I was wrong. I was more vain than I thought and vowed that no matter what I would take proper care of my hair once it came back. A healthy collection of funky hats got me through the bald. Truly I did not find a hair dresser that I speak the same language with until 4 years ago. Unfortunately, he is very far from where I live. He actually lives in the US (I’m in Canada) but he is worth the day trip I have to make. He has always surpassed my expectations.
    Wow! That was a freakin’ blog not a comment… sorry about that, you know how it is when you get on a roll…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m in awe of your getting through chemo. You deserve to be as fussy about your hair as you want.


  5. Yup! I know the feeling–i think the key might be to tell the hairfresser the exact opposite of what you want?


  6. I have rarely had the problem, it isn’t that they do what I want it is simply that I tell them the following:

    “If you make me look like crap I will print your name and phone number, the name of the salon on business cards and hand them out randomly everywhere I go. I will tell people who did my hair, you will never get new customers.”

    They are careful to listen to what I want, pay attention to photos I bring in and not use their own poor judgement.

    Threats work.


    • I could never threaten a hairdresser. I’m WAY too afraid.


      • I think you look fabulous by the way!

        Oh, well you just have to not be afraid. One of my favorite stylists of all time cut my hair for the first time in a Gay Bar at a charity even! He said “what do you want?” I said ‘Oh, I don’t really care make be fabulous!”

        He did and for the next two years that was all I ever said to him.


  7. I too have found that hairdressers pretty much do whatever they want regardless of what I ask for. But reverse psychology does not work with hairdressers. If you ask them for the opposite of what you really want, in hopes that they will (as usual) do the opposite, that is the one time they will give you EXACTLY what you asked for.


  8. Nancy, we could have been sisters. I will have to find the pictures of me with that very same haircut.

    I learned long ago that if I suggest anything to a hairdresser it looks like crap. It is their job to figure out what looks good on me and to do so.

    But if you think it is difficult speaking English Hairdresser, try trying in French. I once had to use a substitute at my normal Swiss salon who somehow turned my incredibly curly locks completely, lifelessly straight. At a later visit to the same salon (although a different stylist) my curls came back, and the first hairdresser was shocked that I was so curly. Oy.


    • I agree, it’s much easier to decide to like whatever the hairdresser decides. Sometimes I pretend to like it for years.


      • Hey me too. I keep telling my hairdresser to give me something a little different. He chats away and I go out looking just the same as I did last time. Oh well. He’s quite a hoot so I enjoy the time with him!


  9. AMEN! And I’ve found that, if my hairdresser is busy talking, he just keeps trimming and trimming and trimming. And I’ve learned that the best thing to do is – just after he starts trimming – to tell him “not too short”. Then he’ll stop!


  10. My hairdresser is Hungarian and I LOVE her. I’ve had her for 12 years BUT, you and I are on the SAME page. I thought I was alone. Welcome. So now how do we make this work?


  11. I have your hair. You can have it back. I have learned one thing. Never let someone cut your hair whose hair you do not like. For instance, a hairdresser who apparently feels he/she looks wonderful with neon orange hair is never going to “get” what I want my hair to look like.I finally asked a friend, whose hair looked good, who cut it. She was kind enough to share, and he has been my hairdresser ever since.


    • I actually had a hairdresser (male) tell me: “Men want women to look beautiful, but female hairdressers subconsciously want other women to look terrible.” I didn’t believe him – and still don’t – but sometimes….


  12. My hairdresser is very sweet but also speaks her own language. I keep yearning for the hairdresser across the aisle to work on me. Her clients look happy and she might speak English. But I don’t want to hurt my hairdresser’s feelings. I am stuck looking perpetually flat-topped and slightly maimed. Great post. You have touched a nerve. 🙂


    • My mother has that problem… she wants to switch but her current hairdresser keeps answering the phone!


  13. Jo

    Oh, I feel for you 😦

    My hairdresser is fabulous – I seem to have the only one who understands! She’s in South East England, so not a lot of use to you …..


  14. Orpan! That is exactly what I had all through childhood. I never saw the inside of a barber shop or a salon until I was in my late teens. Somehow I think hairdressers intuit that and assume I don’t care what my hair looks like.


  15. Marcie

    We must all have the same hairdressers…or maybe it’s just that they really do have a language that only they understand. Too funny…and sadly true!


  16. Okay then. This makes me feel better that the language barrier is universal. Oh, my — you were such a cute little girl!


    • Oh, I’ve got lots of pictures where I’m more pathetic than cute….


  17. Just a quick visit to this post and I found myself reading every comment as well, and all were interesting and entertaining. Thanks ladies. Be envious though – I have diffifcult hair but a great hairdresser. As well as that, my daughter finished half a hairdressing apprenticeship so she occasionally cuts and colours and blow-dries my hair. Lucky me!


  18. Very cute post. I’m lucky, I grew up with hairdressers so I can speak their language. That means I know how to keep my mouth shut and let them do whatever they think is best 🙂


  19. This is so hilarious and so true. I have the opposite problem with my hairdresser, I ask her to cut 3 inches, she’ll take off 1 in because, “She just hates to cut hair.”
    “But that’s your job.” I say in amazement.
    The problem is she likes hair. Long, long hair. We should all be wearing horse tails down our backs.
    Finally, I whacked a chunk off the bottom of my hair and told her to “Fix it.” which forced her to even it out.


    • Your hairdresser must be the ONLY hairdresser in the world not scissor-happy.


  20. I SO identify with this! I always take it as a personal insult, too…like “what exactly did I say or do that made you think cute bob meant old lady hair???” ‘Course, I’d never say it, either.


    • You never want to anger your hairdresser. You just crawl away and live with their mistakes. I’ve been know to whisper, “Forgive me, I’m sorry, foregive me, but could you just check to make sure the left side is the same length as the right side?… I think there might be a couple of inches difference there…. forgive me…”


  21. I want you to know that this hairdresser problem is cross-cultural. I’ve know many hairdressers from various cultures and they all do the same: seem to agree with their client’s request while thinking of other things, keep the client distracted while said damage is being done, and then proceed to argue with you that what they gave you was what you asked for. It’s why I started doing my own hair–including cutting it. I have walked away from too many beauty salons looking like a plucked chicken.

    Delightful post!


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