Batch ‘n Botch

It’s one thing to trust a friend’s recommendation to a hair salon  – especially if it happens to be close by to where you suddenly and briefly find yourself staying – but it’s another to entrust your hair, for the first time, to the whims of the resident hairdresser.. especially when you are in Bali, where there is no standard of hair-care, no criteria for hygiene, no obligation for anyone conform to uniform norms as they may be applied to hair professionals.

AJ pix July 010rev

In fact, the very idea of a hair professional is irrelevant here because everyone and their sister, mother, aunt, grandmother and younger sister can with little (no?) fuss hang out a shingle and open a salon. Or spa.

So if you’re going to actually take a step into this mad, mad, mad world, entrust your precious locks to a usually under-qualified (ok, by Western standards) woman standing behind you with a brush, color and towel, then you had better be prepared to accept the consequences.

They might include any and all of the following:

This woman might whip up a batch of color that she has asked you to choose; not based on any chart or image (heaven forbid), but rather based on a barely-understood discussion where she wonders aloud just how much WHITE I want in the mix. I say no WHITE please, but I’m getting the sinking feeling that she takes that to mean, ok, well sure just dump it in.

Then, she might re-appear with a small kitchen towel to wrap around your shoulders – something like a kids’ size shawl. But this one has Chinese characters which look just like the towels I’ve used myself. I wonder to myself:  Has she used this to dry the dish she ate lunch out of? Don’t roll your eyes; it is entirely possible.

Before she begins to lay on the color, trying to be as proactive as possible (because I already sense that there’s every chance that some of that color will land on my dress and skin) I ask her if I could please have something slightly larger to cover all my clothes. Ok, she says, and goes off to secure me a cloak-ish type of garment.

She could very well then pull out a stack of overused, wrinkled foils – prompting yet more speculation about their previous whereabouts: were they used to skewer and package saté sticks last night? Smells kinda funny… And then proceeds to pile on the color with a brush, way too much color, in a way that engenders even less confidence.

AJ pix July 009rev

Then, once you might think that she’s done, she might almost start all over, she might leave and quickly return with a dampened towel, causing you to ruminate about pending danger ahead. She will proceed to open each and every foil, and do such a nasty patch-up job (did it need one?) that I liken myself to a mid-sized jalopy being overhauled at a poorly trained mechanic’s shop. Bang-up job.

By the time she’s finished, she might have paint – um, I mean hair color – ALL over her hands, the towel flung into my face a couple of times as she attempts to wipe down the spots that have appeared hither and thither on my hair. If you can’t watch anymore, I urge you to close your eyes, cupping your face in your hands. It can be a sorry sight. Mixed with compassion for this woman who so clearly is bobbing around without a life-jacket.

So, to take you both out of your misery, you’ll be wise to pipe up and call an end to the madness – even if (or especially if) she is mired in gobs of guck. You might want to walk out of that ill-named salon without paying so much as a single rupiah, but will reconsider and offer to pay only half of what she wants.

She will attempt a meek smile and say, yes, of course, tidak apa apa, because she knows that you both carry the secret of her.. botched failure. Despite your collusion (or perhaps because of it), she will take your payment graciously, and perhaps for a fleeting moment she will consider improving her skills. But then all will be forgotten, she will continue to damage the hair of unsuspecting women like you, and your solitary experience will fade into a dim memory.


  1. HOLY HAIRDRESSING DISASTER!!!! Amit, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry for you – Your photo is like something out of a mad cap comedy (I bet those foils were used for satay 😉 I’ll tell you one thing, you are incredibly brave – as you know I’m a bottle blonde, full head of highlights sort of a gal, I decided not to take any chances here in Jakarta so went straight to Toni & Guy who charge a small fortune (more than London) but, they do a grand job. I do get my hair trimmed in Bali by a lady boy and for 30,000 rps he/she does a pretty good job.

    1. yes, a disaster indeed.. though in the grand scheme of life (especially my hair’s life), it’s really just a funny story! On balance – with the Toni & Guy & Lady boy – I’d say you’ve probably still done good 😉

  2. Now that I read this post, I realize that I have never seen any “real” salon in Legian during my two-month-staying. 😀

  3. This story reminds me of a hair mis-adventure in rural South Carolina in the 70’s. Highlights were a brand new phenomenon and licensing for the salon industry was unknown in “them thar parts!” The hairdresser piled my shoulder length hair on top of my head, pulled something that looked like a rubber swimming cap with holes over the twisted, knotted hair, and proceeded to try to pull it through the holes with a crochet hook. I was terribly Midwestern and didn’t dare ask her what the hell she thought she was doing as tears of pain streamed down my cheeks. She finally got so frustrated she gave a powerful yank that sent me literally catapulting from the chair with a loud “OUCH!” It didn’t end well.

    1. ha! I’ve seen photos of those rubber swimming cap thingamajigs!! Wow, you’re brave to have actually allowed someone to put you (and your hair) through that torture treatment!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s