My Dutch friend Merel is in Istanbul for three months researching her master’s thesis in cultural anthropology. Most women here in Istanbul have long hair. Merel and I don’t, and I asked her if she would be going back to Europe before she needed a haircut. She said she would need to get it cut here, and we agreed we’d try to find a place specializing in shorter hair. Merel’s friend recommended Erkan at Maxi Salon in Etiler who “cut celebrities hair”, and gave her directions for taking the Metrobüs from Kadiköy.
There are great public transit options, some of which require more knowledge, or Turkish, to use than the ferries, trams and metros (subways) and local otobüses with obvious routes we’ve navigated so far. Jim and I haven’t penetrated the dolmuş and minibus domains yet, neither of which use the Istanbulkart for payment.
We assumed the place was near Bebek, a tony town on the Bosphorus, to which we could go by ferry and shore road bus. Merel, though, had different traveling instructions and we are game to master new transport forms so we caught the light blue minibus with “metrobüs” on the window at the Kadiköy meydanı which took us a short distance to the Kadiköy Metrobüs transport hub. We easily found the bus to Zincirlikuyu, swiped our payment cards at the turnstile and entered. We each again swiped our cards inside the bus, out of habit – much to the dismay, or disgust, of the driver – as we’d now paid twice for the ride. At 10:20am it was standing room only on the bus. I hung on a strap and we linked elbows to give Merel stability. The ride was claustrophobic and stuffy. As we entered the backed up Boḡaziçi Bridge I girded myself for a long ride until I remembered that the Metrobuses have dedicated lanes. Exiting at Zincirlikuyu we caught a taxi to the salon.
We asked for Erkan. There were black-jeaned young people milling about the small 4-station salon, and all gathered when the two yabancı women, one freshly young, the other of a “certain age” arrived. Someone phoned Erkan, another provided us çay.
Chivalry is not dead in Turkey. In winter, wherever we go, wraps are ceremoniously accepted on arrival and genially held open upon departure. On the crowded bus a man a few rows away graciously offered me his seat – this happens for both Jim and I on nearly every transport lacking an empty seat. Being retirees in this society isn’t so bad. We, however, are independent American Boomers, made socially invisible and persuaded to be ashamed of our years by our culture. Each time, we must remind ourselves they are not slighting us for “looking old”.
Erkan swept into the salon like a rock star, rippling the air. In Turkey, service has not been stripped of humans like it has in the US. Each stylist has an his own assistant – who does as many tasks as possible – the hair spraying, the drying, holding the dryer while the stylist styles…kind of amazing, actually. New cups of çay appeared three or four times during our visit.
Merel was looking to keep her hairstyle, just shorter. I brought a print of my plan, agreed upon with my stylist in California. I was ready to move from Jodie Foster’s haircut to Meg Ryan’s, or somewhere between. Erkan wanted to cut Merel’s hair first. She was nervous. I wasn’t because I could speak with my pictures, and as I watched her cut unfold I felt all would be well.
It was my turn. Since my glasses are off, I never see the progress of a haircut, but what he was doing felt OK It wasn’t This is actually one of the worst cuts I’ve ever had in my life! On the walk from the salon to lunch, I ran a wet hand through my hair to try to make it look better. Before going out to dinner, I washed out the hairspray, trying to style it so that I could walk in public without a hood. I feel compelled to tell the few people I know here that I didn’t intend this. I want it to grow out before I meet anyone else, so they don’t get the wrong impression of me. Mostly, though, I forget it happened, until I pass a plate-glass window or mirror.
My dinner companion, an American married to a Türk, told me horrible first haircuts are a rite of passage. Jim who’s away, viewed it on Skype and agreed it isn’t my best look. The next day Merel texted that Erkan undercut her hair making it way too thin and unmanageable. I have thick hair, but most of it is now 1 inch long, with random longer sections that stick up like Lucy’s ruff. I laughed tears at Merel’s comments.
This haircut also derailed my plan. Now I have to grow my way back to Jodie Foster.