I knew I was going to have to get my hair done in Rome sooner or later. I’m here for 2.5 months and the heat and sun here have been fading my hair colour FAST. Yeegads: you mean my reddish-coloured hair isn’t natural? Let’s just say it’s “colour enhanced” but my natural hair colour is a strawberry, reddish blondish colour. Well, that was before I started to go grey in my early 20s, thanks to my mother and grandmother who also started to go grey early in life. To prove this little known fact, I will drag out a photo of me as a teenager sporting reddish hair (when I get back to my beloved New Zealand in November) and post it right here on the DailyOxford for the world to admire!

I’m very particular about my hair. I don’t have thick, voluminous hair unfortunately. I have very fine, thin, straight hair. Not much I can do with it really. So I accentuate the negatives by using colour and highlights. I didn’t think I’d be able to find an Italian hairdresser who (a) spoke English enough to understand me prattling on about caramel highlights; or (b) could do a good colour and cut; or (c) didn’t want me to end up looking like something out of Dynasty. The Italian women have luscious dark hair that is preened and fluffed up a’la the ladies from that TV show in the 1980s. Suits the gorgeous Italian women but not me.

So my colleagues at work recommended a hair salon that deals with foreigners working for the United Nations. Some of the people in the salon speak a little English. And I mean little. I booked a time and things went a little wrong to begin with – they misunderstood the Aussie accent I guess – and booked my appointment in for the right day but the wrong week. They obviously felt badly about this and decided to fit me in.

I was fretting over this because fitting in usually equates to they’ll do a rush job. The colourist came along and I tried to explain that I don’t want fire engine red hair. I don’t want too many highlights that make me look too blonde. I don’t want anything remotely beige looking. I prefer auburn tones thank you very much. Pointing at my hair, I told her the highlights must be here, here and here. She was nodding all the time, looking rather bored. I had no confidence that she understood a word I’d said and resigned myself to walking out with black hair with bright red stripes.

The receptionist was called over as she spoke the best English. She translated what the colourist was saying – New Zealand hairdressers don’t know how to colour your hair. You need something more modern. Everyone around us nods. I begin to think that I am looking old and frumpy – no match at all for these Italian women!

I have to say that the colouring process was a little sloppy if I compare to Oz and NZ. The colour was kind of slapped on and spillage on my skin at the hairline was not wiped off. Then the washing of the hair was a messy affair. I ended up with water down my back.

But the next bit was the most frightening. I knew they were planning to have a guy cut my hair. Now ladies: don’t know about you but whenever a guy has cut my hair, it’s been a DISASTER. The last time a chap cut my hair was well over 10 years ago. I started to wonder if I should run screaming out of the salon NOW. I really thought I should do this when I spotted the dude coming towards me – his arms were covered in tattoos and he was super trendy looking, in his 20s.

I’m sorry but I don’t like tattoos. I have nothing against people with tattoos but visually I just don’t like them, especially when they cover every bit of the arms. The super trendy aspect really worried me – was he going to turn my hair into some punk rock style (are punk rockers still fashionable?). Was I going to end up with a mohawk?

I whipped out my iPhone and showed him a photo of my last haircut done just before I left NZ. He sighed. I yapped “non troppo corti“. And “spuntatina“. These are the two important things a lovely Italian lady at work told me to say to the hairdresser when I asked her how to say “don’t cut my hair too short“. Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease.

Trendy Italian stylist looked at me sadly, as though I was some pathetic Anglo. He said something in Italian and whipped out a razor. I nearly died on the spot because razor cutting has never been successful on my hair. I decided not to say another word and just grin and bear it – mentally counting down the days until I could get back to my NZ hairdresser. Imagining what excuses I’d have to come up with to explain to my NZ hairdresser WTF happened!

The really odd thing was how he cut my hair. Razor plus scissors and moving my head all over the place (as opposed to swivelling the chair). He kept muttering pixie. I wasn’t sure if I was mishearing some Italian word; or if he was suggesting that I see pixies; or if he was trying to turn me into a pixie. I kept looking down, praying to the hair Gods.

Trendy dude said something and clearly expected me to look up. I had no idea what he was saying and just smiled. He looked at me forlornly, probably thinking these damn foreigners should learn Italian. Then out comes the hairdryer and I knew the whole nerve-wracking process was coming to an end. Even by this stage, I wasn’t able to quite tell what the colour looked like and whether it was modern. I couldn’t tell how short the hair was because he had me facing away from the mirror, whilst he worked his razor and scissor magic. This was probably some devious tactic to upset the foreigner. He sprayed a bit of hairspray around like he was spraying mosquitoes, tossed my head down quickly, then back up and pronounced finito.

Then he just walked off. No showing me the back of my hair using a hand-held mirror. No discussion. Nothing. I bravely turned around to face the mirror, expecting to be bald but…..

found that the Italians do a very good job when it comes to cutting and colouring. In fact, I think they have the colour more to my liking than my NZ hairdresser. I’m still perplexed about why it’s more modern. And I guess the cut he gave me is his idea of a pixie cut. Whatever. I like it.

I then continued to sit in the chair for about 5 minutes, getting bored. I caught the eye of the receptionist and said finito?. She said yes, of course – like I’m supposed to have known. Given that trendy dude just walked off, I was expecting him back with the hand-held mirror to show me his creation. Everyone then gathered around and talked about the colore, which I now know means colour. No idea what they were saying but then a bottle of shampoo, especially for sun protection, was thrust into my hands. I presumed it meant you need to buy this as your hair was pretty dry and faded when you walked in. So I bought it and promptly booked another appointment for mid-September with trendy Italian dude. I couldn’t be arsed trying to explain to them that I’m so paranoid about my hair that I use colour-protection shampoo, sun-protection shampoo, Moroccan oil – you name it, I probably use it.

Now: how to tell my NZ hairdresser (who is in her early 20s) that she isn’t modern.

This was my cut and colour just before I left New Zealand.

And this is the so-called modern colour and pixie hair cut the trendy Italian dude gave me.

Wella SP After Sun shampoo. We have this in New Zealand, so if it actually does protect the colour, I'll buy it back home.

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