When you go for treatment, they say that laser hair removal is permanent, but they give you a quiet disclaimer. Back in 2004, after ten painful sessions I was proud to say that my face had permanent hair loss, but just to spoil my happiness I had that disclaimer nagging away at me - “in the hair loss industry ‘permanent’ means ‘up to three years’”.
It had been over four years since my last round of lasers, so around Christmas time when I noticed some re-growth I wasn’t too surprised. It wasn’t bad at all, and it just took a couple swipes of a pink razor and I was good to go.
As the months progressed, more re-growth showed up. I noticed it took a few more swipes and a layer of foundation before I felt comfortable. Finally in recent weeks, even with full-on shaving and a generous portion of foundation I felt as though I looked like ‘Road Trip’ Sylar from season 3 of Heroes.
Last week I was driving home from work and heard a commercial for Nirvana Laser Hair and Skin. At about the exact same moment I noticed I was driving past the clinic, their phone number in huge letters on the sign. I picked up my phone and called to make an appointment. The woman on the other end of the call wouldn’t let me make an appointment without my credit card number though. It seems they are worried that people will not show up for their appointments and therefore won’t make them without a credit card number.
When I got home I called back, credit card in hand. I asked for their earliest appointment. I’ve been working nights, so an 8:00 appointment would be ideal, but it was unlikely they’d be open. I was hoping to get in right at 9:00. The woman said she had one available for 11:30. I asked her to check if there was anything earlier and she replied, “The doctor doesn’t come in until 11:30.” I took the 11:30.
Later that evening I decided I wanted to colour my hair something dark. When I was all done with the dye I noticed that my bangs were really long. I decided it was time to get someone professional to look at them.
It was already 7:00pm, so instead of waiting until morning so my wonderful friend Joanne* could cut my bangs, I drove down to Ultracuts. I asked the girl there to cut them to the level of my eyebrows. I also told her that they usually leave them longer at the sides, and a little bit shorter as you come in because I sweep my bangs to both sides. I showed her in the mirror what I was talking about. It shouldn't have been hard to visualize what I wanted because my bangs were already cut that way, I just wanted them a wee bit shorter.
She nodded as if she knew exactly what I meant, then squirted down my hair and stood in front of me for a while. After a couple of minutes she stood back to reveal my bangs. “Is this a good length?” she said.
My bangs were cut straight across in a perfect line across my forehead. I said the length was perfect. She then stood in front of me again and started snipping away. Looking back on that moment I wonder why she even bothered to ask about the length if she wasn’t going to pay attention to the answer. At the time though I just assumed she was cutting them the way I had asked.
When she moved out from between me and the mirror my bangs were brushed to either side, but they looked awfully short, and just plain weird. My heart sunk a little bit, but I just told myself that once I got home I could do my hair the way I do it and it would look fine. I was wrong.
When I got home I washed my hair and then blow dried it and I got to see the extent of the damage. Not only were my bangs now about 2 cm ABOVE my eyebrows, but she cut them a uniform length across my forehead. Even worse was that she had cut my bangs way to far back. My bangs started at my temples!!! Given my new dark hair, and the semi-circle of short, ruler-edged bangs, I was now sporting a Spock-mullet!
To add even more insult to this awful haircut experience, when I was paying the bill the debit machine asked me for a tip amount. I actually typed in a tip**! Now the girl is going to think she did a good job, and also that I *wanted* to look like a space alien.
The next morning I went to Nirvana. I arrived about ten minutes early. I hoped the place would be dead, but it had quite a few people in there. I was very self-conscious of my Spock-mullet and Sylar-stubble so after I checked in, I picked a spot next to the window where I could sit alone and fill out the stack of forms the receptionist gave me.
While most of the forms were explaining possible side-effects, the entirety of page five was for explaining that they will take $50 off your credit card should you be a no-show for your appointment. I thought it was weird that they spend fewer words on side-effects than on their no-show policy. Even though I really don’t agree with it, I signed the form anyway. I handed my forms back in and looked at the time. 11:30 on the nose, perfect timing.
Half an hour later my name still hadn’t been called. Nobody had been called actually. I was getting really impatient, and really hot. The sun was beating down on me through that window, but now I had no place to move to unless I wanted to sit right next to someone else. I just sat there baking in the sun and stewing in my own impatience. A few minutes more in that heat and I wouldn’t need lasers to cook my follicles.
There was another woman waiting nearby. She looked very grandmotherly and pleasant. I imagined that her name was Betsy and in her spare time she bakes cupcakes and wears a bonnet. Betsy went up to the counter and said “How much longer?? I’ve been here 40 minutes!” She didn’t sound nearly as grandmotherly as she looked, but I still got the sense that despite her annoyed tone she was still just a fraction of a second away from handing out cookies from a hidden stash in that suitcase of a purse she was carrying. The receptionist said, “Literally just one more minute. The doctor just arrived.”
The doctor just arrived?? Her day doesn’t start until 11:30 and she still doesn’t roll in until after 12:00?? I was worried that since it was already noon she might break for lunch and keep me waiting another hour. I couldn’t believe that a business that charges its customers $50 if they don’t show up could possibly be run by someone who doesn’t show up herself.
We all sat there about ten more minutes, and I am sure we were all thinking the same thing when finally the doctor emerged from the back and called Betsy into a room. A few minutes after that, the receptionist interrupted my sun bathing and took me into a different treatment room.
I only waited in the room for about 30 seconds when the doctor came in. She was an older lady with curly poodle hair and an amazingly smooth face. There wasn’t a blemish or crease and I couldn’t tell if she was 50 or 70, but I also couldn’t tell if she hadn’t just been stung by bees. She seemed pleasant enough, and when her plumped-up lips parted she said, “Good morning!”. It was actually afternoon by this time, but I didn’t correct her. She continued speaking. “My name is Dr. Genesis.”
Dr. Genesis??! This just could not be her original name. I have no problem when people change their name – I’ve done it myself - but she named herself after her profession? She clearly wanted to associate her name with feelings of “coming into being” caused by the rejuvenation of appearance that she provides by injecting you with Botox. It was like when centuries ago people found last names in what they did for a living, like Smith, Carpenter or Farmer, except in an extremely corny way. It is just a hard name to take seriously. When I think of the name ‘Dr. Genesis’ I imagine that is what Phil Collins’ character would be named in World of Warcraft.***
Anyway, Dr Genesis asked, “So are you ready for this?”
I wasn’t all that annoyed at this point to be honest. When I got called into the treatment room my feelings of anxiety and frustration over the long wait slipped away and were replaced by feelings anxiety and fear over the pain this treatment was going to cause me. Still, I didn’t like that she was so late for our appointment considering that my punctuality is enforced by a monetary penalty.
I said, “Yes, actually I was ready forty-five minutes ago.” I smiled to lessen the effect of the words, but it probably just made me look more antagonistic. Sometimes my smiles do that.
She immediately said, “Feel free to leave then if you’re in such a hurry.” Dr Genesis was annoyed so quickly that I wondered if maybe Betsy had mentioned something too.
I said, “I don’t want to leave, I just thought it was worth mentioning that my appointment was for 45 minutes ago.”
“Go then. If you don’t want treatment you can just go. We’re not making you stay.”
I said, “Well you kind of are making me stay because you’d charge me $50 if I left. Actually if *I* showed up 45 minutes late you’d probably have already charged my credit card by the time I showed up.”
“Well you can just leave them. It’s fine, you can leave if you think this is taking too long.”
“I’ve waited this long, I clearly want the treatment, I just think there is a double-standard going on here that needed to be acknowledged.”
I really just thought she would have acknowledged her lateness and said sorry, I didn’t expect her to react in this way. She had just told me to leave several times in the past minute and I was growing tired of it. I said, “I’m not leaving let’s just get on with it!” And we did. Dr. Genesis and I got down to business and she spent a full 4 or 5 minutes with me explaining the procedure before handing me off to a laser technician.
When the technician began the pain was quite incredible. The last time I had this done it was very painful, but I didn’t think it was anyhere near as bad. Last time it felt like red hot needles were poked into my face. This time it also felt like that, but in addition I felt every follicle explode and sizzle and the inner layers of my skin felt baked. It hurt so much worse than normal I asked the technician to stop after about 30 seconds.
I got up and looked in the mirror and saw that the affected areas were strewn with burnt black hairs that were literally exploded out of my pores. My skin didn’t look like it was worse for wear except for a blotchy purply redness. The technician also assured me this was all very normal, but conceded to turn down the power at my request. I got back on the table and let her continue.
The session was still very painful. I had to ask her to stop several times for a break from the pain. It was worth it to me though because it felt like it was going to be so much more effective than last time. Last time I went for ten treatments. With any luck this time I’ll only need to go five or so.
When I got home I looked at myself in the mirror. My bangs were ridiculously short. My face was red and purple and blotchy all over. My chin was speckled with the occasional corpses of dead burnt hairs that were somehow reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s beard. I looked terrible. I was very glad that I was working nights so that nobody would see me looking like this.
By this point I had been awake close to 24 hours, so I was very ready for bed. Before drifting off I paused for a moment for a short prayer. I am not a religious woman at all, I think it is all ridiculous and utter nonsense. Still, every once in a while I find myself throwing a silent plea out there according to the outlandish premise that there is someone listening to my thoughts who might be able to magically affect events in my life. Despite the futility of it all, my silent plea was that the hair on my chin would stop growing, and that the hair on the top of my head would grow faster.
* Joanne is the owner of Hush salon, downtown Saskatoon. Go get her to cut your hair right now!
** I think it is funny that I can’t even snub a machine when it asks for a tip.
*** I obviously changed my name to Sarah, but I really did consider spelling it Saraa – which is how I spelled my character’s name in World of Warcraft.