Hair and loathing in Copenhagen
Xinxin Ren Gudbjörnsson
My hairdresser, a heartless harlot, is skipping town. She’s moving back to Shanghai to open a swanky hair salon. Swanky by both size and bling that is.
Sadly she’s not the only talented Asian moving back to Asia these years, but her leaving is the most devastating for our community.
If you don’t have typical northern European hair and live in Copenhagen, you might know what I’m talking about. If you are Asian, you most likely know what I’m talking about.
Most hairdressers in Copenhagen treat Asian hair as a huge inconvenience. Even if they are willing to give their best, their best is rarely good enough. If you don’t cut different types of Asian hair many times a day, you will most likely never get the hang of it.
It’s not their fault of course, but it’s not the hair’s fault either. I’ve heard all shapes and sizes of complaints from Copenhagen hairdressers over the years. They complained about to have to cut, style, color and perm my hair. When they finally did, the result was mediocre at best.
Few years ago, after another 1000-kroner haircut I looked at myself in the mirror. It was a worse than mediocre haircut. Frumpy, without movement or shape. My hair is so thick and has so much texture that with a good haircut alone, without any product or tool, it should be able to stand on its own, shapely, alive, and fabulous.
But no, this was once again a failed experiment. So I did the only thing I could. I had no choice in the matter. None at all. I shaved my head. It was an instant improvement.
A year later I did find an outstanding hairdresser, but she also deserted the city. By some surreal luck I came across my current hairdresser, who is now also abandoning those in desperate need.
In my hour of need, my Asian friends have been a pillar of strength. They came with many solutions: “Why don’t you fly to Paris or London 4 times a year like we do?” “Why don’t you keep a long style and fly to Shanghai twice a year?”
One of them said that I should shave my head again because it made me look like a poet. But my Chinese agent reminded me that since I now write short stories in English, I have to look to the bestselling female fiction writers in the Anglo world and take their lead.
I must say, it seems like only sci-fi and fantasy writers can get away with a shaved head. I see how stylish and cool the hair of literary fiction writers look, with bouncy movements or straight slickness. My Chinese agent also reminded me that since I can’t bribe people with steaks in this part of the world, I can only rely on my personal charm. And charm, he said, is all in the hair. He should know. That man spends a few times a week in salons having hair treatments, scalp massages and styling.
In the end I think I choose London. I have a great need for Marks and Spencer socks. I could combine the two needs. That’s top to toe.
Xinxin Ren Gudbjörnsson
Xinxin Ren Gudbjörnsson is a newspaper columnist at Politiken and author of fiction and non-fiction in Danish, Chinese and English. She has a master’s degree in media & communication (Copenhagen Business School) and a master’s degree in theology (University of Copenhagen).