The Cut

The Cut

Photographs Courtesy of:
Matte Studio & NJ Lifestyle Magazine

Hair Styling by:
Signatures Hair Salon

Well, I did it. Or, I should say, I got it. I got it. I got the cut. The cut. What cut? THE cut. The haircut du jour. The one everyone’s talking about. This is the haircut, the trademarked haircut, just for us curly haired gals (did I just say “gals”?!). It’s got an odd name – the “Slice and Carve”- and was invented by a woman with the even odder name of “Ouidad.” If she has a few funny names then she’s laughing all the way to the bank with them. Ouidad, no last name, has a very successful namesake salon in NYC and a cult following worthy of the Reverend Moon.

I recently came to the altar of Ouidad after years of straightening my hair with a combination of curl-silencing goop, a hairdryer that sounded like a 747 and a flattening iron hot enough to fry bacon.   I decided, one particularly humid day, to liberate myself…and my curls. Alas, my childhood friends were miffed about their years of exile and refused to behave properly. They did not fall into soft Julia Roberts-waves or bouncy Nicole Kidman-ringlets. Instead I often looked like Weird Al Yankovic or, on a really bad day, Howard Stern. But I couldn’t go back to the regime. I needed to be me. And I really needed that extra 20 minutes of sleep. After all, Al Yankovic wasn’t the worst looking guy in the world. Howard Stern? That was another story. I needed saving.

I needed help. On the double.

Marci Waters & Joseph from Signatures Salon in Philadelphia

I could have traveled the 90 minutes from my little NJ suburb to NYC but I was afraid I might wind up at LaGuardia handing out Ouidad samples. So I searched for someone closer that had been anointed, I mean certified, by Her Curliness. I checked the official website and found my savior. His name was Joseph (that was a good sign) and he had a salon in nearby Philadelphia. I wouldn’t go through a tunnel for a savior but I’d cross a bridge for one.    

So one fine Saturday afternoon I dressed in my best “city clothes,” Gap jeans (Sarah Jessica Parker looks like she might have the cut), red leather boots and a black cashmere sweater. This was opposed to “suburb clothes,” sweat pants, sneakers and a T-shirt I got for opening a new checking account. I drove excitedly to my destiny.

As I walked into the salon three men, obviously employees were at the appointment desk watching me, sizing me up, judging me.   But it wasn’t about sex. It was about style. I gave my name and considered curtseying but decided against it. Joseph, the most formidable of the men, tepidly shook my hand. He directed me to a lime-colored divan (think Jetsons-chic), sat quietly and began questioning me. Have I ever had the cut? Have I ever even seen the cut? Was I committed to the maintenance program? Would I be willing to leave my family and friends and live in a curls-only village in Romania?  

Okay, he didn’t say anything about Romania but I was definitely being interviewed regarding my Ouidad-worthiness. I somehow passed the muster (turns out, it was the boots) and Joseph snapped his fingers once. Suddenly there was a lovely woman with an undecipherable accent (Romanian?) leading me gently to the sinks. Joseph gave her instructions on which products would provide the perfect alchemical cocktail for my hair type. Dutifully she applied the special curl-enhancing shampoo and then the equally special conditioner. I felt like royalty.

When I was properly prepared for my transformation I was led to a chair right in front of a huge glass window, the entire front of the shop. I looked into the mirror, black plastic cape draped over my city clothes and sopping wet hair draped over my now-protruding ears, and I was fabulous. He hadn’t touched me and I already looked 100% improved. Was it the shampoo, the conditioner or a placebo effect? None of the above. It was the lighting. There was a light shining up from below the mirror to a silver, photographer’s umbrella above the mirror. The light (was it pink?) bathed me in the glow of youth. I looked like I think I look when I leave the house every morning, not like when I catch myself by surprise in a department store mirror and wonder when my mother got there. I felt like a supermodel.

Joseph began picking bundles of hair from various locations on my head, his arm jingling with silver bracelets, coaxing little wet curls.   He stood back to study the results. Then he began questioning me again. When did I last have a haircut? Where was that? Was that stylist visually impaired? I felt like Ellie May Clampett.

With a heavy sigh he began trimming. About a half hour and lots of disgusted clucks later he finally started The Cut. With great seriousness and concentration he took specific strands and started snipping. He danced with my hair as he slid to and fro with what felt like a razor. I wasn’t sure what he had in his hand because hair was now covering my face. I felt like Cousin It.

I didn’t dare complain or ask a question. If it was a razor I had no doubt that I would pay a severe price for impertinence. I didn’t fear having my throat slit, of course. No, it was much worse. Bangs.   Curly bangs. The thought sent a shiver up spine. I calmed down when I looked down to see a mass of small, golden ringlets sitting in my black, plastic lap. It was what I imagined Nicole Kidman’s black, plastic lap looked like when she had her hair cut.  

Another 15 minutes passed and it was time to cut those all-important face-framing sections of hair. When he lifted the hair from over my eyes I liked what I saw. I didn’t care if he was cutting my hair with a blowtorch. It looked great. People passing by on this busy street outside the shop were watching the dramatic doings through that big window. I felt like a star.

Once he was done Joseph ruffled my hair and clapped his hands once. The Romanian woman ran over with a bottle of curling gel.   He held out his hands, palms prostate while she poured it in them like she was delivering Holy Communion. I bowed my head instinctively and Joseph lovingly slathered my locks with sticky, viscous and very expensive glop. Then he whipped out his hairdryer like Clint Eastwood pulled out his pistol in “High Noon.” He took the chair directly across from me and told me to bend down. As my head bent between his knees and I stared at his oh-so-cool Puma sneakers he dried my roots. As he dried my roots I saw, from the corner of my eye, a couple of young men who had stopped at the window and were staring too. I felt like a working girl in Amsterdam.  

Before I knew it I was instructed by The Maestro, as I had begun to think of Joseph, to sit up, flip my head back and shake my new curls. I did so without self-consciousness. I did it with abandon, as a matter of fact. I WAS a supermodel.

Everyone in the shop “oohed” and “aahed” as The Maestro put the finishing touches on The Cut. I think I heard someone whisper the word “stunning.” I was flushed and giddy. Oh Toto, I don’t think we’re from NJ anymore. Then came my exit instructions. Get to know your hair. Play with it. Talk to it. Feed it lots of conditioner. I thought I was taking a new puppy home.

The most important thing, said Joseph as he wagged his ringed index finger at me, was to come back to him for regular trims.   This was a work in progress. I felt like the Mona Lisa.  

I don’t even remember paying for this extravaganza. I was absolutely intoxicated. I’d have given them my life savings if they’d asked me. I’d have sold white flowers on the street. I’d have approached perfect strangers at the airport to talk about the Gospel according to Ouidad. All right, you get the picture. I was a convert. No, I was more than that. I was a disciple.