Salon and Spa

I love the dentist. I know you're supposed to hate the dentist, but I can't help it. A dental cleaning is like a spa day in your mouth. (Okay, so I guess I love the dental hygienist, but I feel like that comes under the category of "the dentist".) As a kid, I would slowly contemplate each flavor of polish as if choosing ice cream. Now they don't even ask, but I have moved on to more mature luxuries. Now my favorite part is answering smartass responses in my head while my mouth is wide open... "How is my summer going? Well, it was going great until the moment of now, when you just stabbed me in the lip."

In my earliest memory of going to the dentist, he gave me a ring, any ring I wanted. They were all cheap metal adorned with precious fruit, and I chose pineapple. It became my prized piece of jewelry. I was four; perhaps I misunderstood the reward and thought he was proposing to me. Children get confused easily. And why shouldn't they? Life is confusing. You begin by floating around inside someone's belly and from there it only gets weirder. Meanings, of symbols or words, are especially difficult to decipher. I know a toddler who thinks her daddy is a nice lady, and another whose favorite color is diet pink. How was I to know that a ring wasn't a proposal every time it was offered? About a year after the pineapple incident, I had another misunderstanding. I liked the curly-haired boy who sat next to me in our first-grade class. Inspired by puppy love, I wrote a poem of sorts, a work of art in crayon on construction paper: "To: Jacie / Nolan is my boyfriend / Don't tell anyone / From: Abra." Of course, Jacie immediately told everyone. Eventually I learned the actual definition of the word "boyfriend". Before that, though, Nolan stole my brand-new eraser and poked holes in it, so I broke up with him (unbeknownst to him). Art supply abuse is a deal-breaker.

The dentist didn't mistreat erasers, as far as I knew, but our engagement was effectively broken when he moved his practice across town. The new dentist gave out toys! As I got older and began a new relationship -- with the orthodontist -- it occurred to me that maybe I shouldn't have loved the dentist so much. It came to my knowledge that the two were good friends. The orthodontist's last name sounded something like "Psycho," and I could imagine them having lunch together, conspiring ever crueler forms of punishment...

Dentist: Abra has been slacking on flossing. I'm so pissed. You got any ideas?
Psycho: I can always tighten the braces up a notch.
Dentist: I'm envisioning something more... painful.
Psycho: Well, how about affixing a metal bar to opposing teeth that will slowly pull them together?
Dentist, raising his glass: Brilliant! Cheers.

But that was only a bitter daymare of someone going through that teenage I-hate-the-world-and-the-world-hates-me phase. Now that I've grown out of that, I love the dentist once again.

Indeed, I love the dentist, but I hate the hairstylist. I have to confess, I have never been to the same one more than twice. It's pretty much always the same routine to thwart me:

1. Picture. I always use a picture, so as to minimize misunderstandings. The stylist immediately tells me why my hair will never, ever look like this. Which brings me to what I was trying to avoid...
2. Explaining. I attempt to use verbiage and gestures to convey my vision. The stylist ostensibly restates my request "in her own words".
3. Acceptance. Lacking proficiency in hairspeak, I can only repeat Step 2 before inevitably nodding and agreeing reluctantly. The stylist then does the opposite of what I wanted, and I leave looking worse than I came in.

Most of my salon experiences in Korea were literally a cut above anything I'd had before, but I finally fell head over heels for a stylist, happening upon this salon the day before I flew back to the States. Everyone in Korea has amazingly cute hair like anime characters, but based on the misinformation (lies and deceit!!) of American stylists, I wasn't sure it would work on me. "Your head not wrong shape," I was assured. "Your hair not too thick." And so I got the BEST HAIRCUT of my life with DOUBLE the communication barrier for less than TEN DOLLARS, calculating how much that would increase if I flew to Korea and back every six to eight weeks.

Inversely, my one experience with Korean dentistry was disappointing. After examining my mouth, the dentist concluded, "It's not too bad... but it's not too good either. The bad news is you have..." Drumroll, please. "...some fillings." Huh? Don't I know that? I figured she got her English mixed up; she meant to say "cavities." Then she continued, "The good news is you don't have any cavities." Oh, thank God, because for the last decade I had been wondering what those metallic spots were.

Back at home, I gave up on plotting ways to bribe my one true stylist to move to America, and set out to find a replacement. I superstitiously (or racistly) thought a Korean stylist would be a sure bet, so I found one nearby and gave her a chance. What she gave me in return could only be described as Early 90s Newscaster Barbie. Now I really need a spa day. Has it been six months yet?

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