This was more than me being a dutiful son, as I, too, needed highlights and a haircut, because my roots were longer than my not-roots, and I'd already achieved my "mistaken for a woman" quota after that night at Whitlow's and an earnest "want to make friendship" e-mail from what I gather to be a Pakistani computer science student.
Why go to Chinatown to get your hair done? Try $55 (plus tip) for full highlights and a haircut, which is basically half-price. Why so cheap? Lower labor costs and extra-carcinogenic hair dyes (we pass the savings to you!).
Anyway, I wasn't the only non-local trying to catch a deal -- a few non-Asian heads passed through while I was there.
Now, even though I'm well into my 30s, there are still a few times when I feel like a complete mama's boy -- and this was one of those times. This is because I was a triply-alienating environment:
1. I was in a hair salon, which is still more or less the exclusive domain of women (no matter how many male customers there are, or even if there is a more barber-ish side of the room)
2. While I'm in the chair, I don't have my glasses on, and thus can't see. When I can't see, I don't like to talk.
3. I'm surrounded by Chinese-speaking ladies. I don't speak Chinese.
Because of #1 and #2, getting my hair colored is, to me, more like a necessary medical procedure, rather than a cosmetic enhancement with social benefit. Add #3 and I'm completely out of my element.
I spent the next 3 hours in the chair. It's never taken that long before -- I guess it was a combination of: 1). Not sitting under the hair dryer to speed things up (net loss: 15 min.) and 2). Having to spend extra time painting all the gray hairs out (net loss: an hour or so. Dammit.)
The resulting haircut is pretty good; I probably went a shade too light (it looked darker in the book) and too short (my fault -- overreaction to the whole gender thing).