Bleaching My Way Through Amman


For the last six months, since the announcement of our assignment to Amman, I’ve been scouring the Internet for two extremely important things: a yoga studio (still nonexistent) and a reputable hair salon to get blonde highlights. Getting highlights is stressful even under the best of circumstances. When I attempt to explain the depth of my anxiety, people casually mention things like, ‘do it yourself from a box’ (all over color is not an option or worse still, let your hair grow out to its natural color (which, I might add is BLONDE. Just ask my mom and she’ll prove it to you with pictures of my childhood). The truth is, I’m not sure what color my ‘natural’ color would be, so that’s NOT an option.

Eight years ago, shortly after meeting Raj, I made the mistake of listening to my sister, Nicole, who worked with a woman whose hair we envied.  She had beautiful blonde highlights and her hair was always well-maintained. We wanted her hair, but more importantly, we wanted her stylist. Nicole got the number of the stylist and we both made appointments with her separately, on different days. Nicole was up first. I don’t recall seeing her hair, but she said it was good and best of all it was CHEAPER than what we had been paying. This excited me. I went to the salon, which wasn’t in the best part of town, but what was even more disturbing was the stylist in the chair working next to mine. She/he was a transvestite and not the pretty kind–the kind that just recently changed teams and doesn’t know how to dress. Did this portend disaster? I ignored the signs. The stylist was nice and efficient. The process was different from what I was used to. She used foil, but then started saturating my hair with what I believed to be bleach because it started burning my scalp and my eyes. Most normal people would have started questioning the procedure, not me. I stuck it out counting ALL of the money I was saving and thanking my lucky stars for having such a great sister for finding this place. The stylist finished up my hair, dried and styled it, and I was on my way home to see Raj (keep in mind, we were still in the super nice courting stage). I looked in the mirror a few times before Raj got home. It looked okay to me. The color seemed a little different. I quickly called Nicole and told her about the scalding scalp treatment, which she agreed was alarming (and she couldn’t have forewarned me about this?). Raj got home and he was speechless. (Maybe he only liked me for my blonde highlights?) He tried very hard to say something nice, but couldn’t. I looked at my hair AGAIN in the light. Alright, it was pinkish and HORRIBLE. I kept trying to tell myself it wasn’t that bad. But it was.

Nicole received a few more calls, each one angrier than the last. She eventually agreed that she didn’t like her hair either…but she let me go? And she says I’m the mean one?

Raj, the metrosexual, had been seeing and following his stylist for years, moving from salon to salon with her, remaining loyal to ‘Barbara.’ I had never dated a guy who had a stylist (and spent $35 on hair cuts–even as cheap as he is!), let alone a guy who had much of an opinion about my hair. I agreed to meet with Barbara to see if she could fix my Strawberry Shortcake pink highlights. She hoomed and haahed and gave me an earful on the damage that had been done. “This will take years to fix,” she lamented and each month when I’d go in to see her, she’d point out how much more my hair would have to grow out until the damage was no longer visible (this went on for 7 years!). Both Raj and I remained loyal to Barbara until we moved to DC, sharing with her my fears of finding ANYONE qualified enough to bleach my locks. She agreed, it would be VERY, VERY difficult.  [Sidenote: Did I mention that Nicole eventually started going to Barbara too? Even more interesting, she just recently returned to the same woman who made my hair pink.] Despite Barbara’s outlook,  I was fortunate enough to find someone equally, if not more qualified in Old Town to manage my hair.

In researching hair salons in Amman, the only salon that was recognizable to me was Toni & Guy. I’ve never been to one, but they’re international and I used to walk by one all the time in the Mission Viejo (California) mall. I landed on June 2nd and made a hair appointment on June 3rd for July 1st, today. I was a nervous wreck going to the appointment not knowing what to expect, if I even had an appointment (because I didn’t get a phone call confirming the day before), how much it would cost (I was planning on paying in cash and didn’t know how much to bring), what to tip and the expectations of tipping (do you tip the colorist, the shampooer, and the blow out stylist and how much do you tip?)

I walked into the building that housed the Toni & Guy sign, knowing nothing other than they were on the third floor. The building was a little shabby (not as in shabby chic, either). I tried out the elevator and ended up in a parking garage (I guess I went down), got out of the elevator and tried the stairs. Luckily the stairs led to the salon and I was greeted by two lovely receptionists who welcomed me. (They were both stylish and one was wearing an LA Gear, crop t-shirt, a la 1980. Too bad I didn’t save any of mine. They’d look great with a pair of high-tops and leggings. Nonetheless, she pulled it off in a retro cool that I could never.)

The colorist immediately sat me down, offered me coffee, tea and water, and examined my hair. There wasn’t any chit-chat and he got right to work. I was worried at first. I thought I could feel the heat of BLEACH on my head, but I stuck it out. The foiling of my head took about 45 minutes and then I remained in the chair to lighten up (no steamer or heater here). In the meantime, I was served ‘special’ coffee (an espresso. I love this place!) After 30 minutes, my hair was finished and I was sent to the shampooer. My stylist asked if I had time to do a ‘treatment.’ “Sure,” I said, not knowing what the treatment was for of how much this would cost (Raj doesn’t need to know). The treatment included a fabulous 20 minute scalp massage.

When the treatment was over, I was handed off to yet another stylist who was tasked with drying my hair. He asked me how I wanted my hair, straight or full. My hair is SO straight that it’s usually not an option. I said full (let’s see what he’s got) and he did all kinds of pulling and man handling to my hair, but he got it full.

Throughout my experience, I was worrying about the cost and how much I had in my wallet. When I was finally done, three hours later, I walked to the counter and my total came to $65 for the highlight (which, by the way was a FULL and half the price of my Old Town gal) and $15 for the ‘treatment,’ so the total was $80 plus I gave a $10 tip to the stylist (I’m not sure if that’s a decent or a cheap tip or if I should have tipped the other two?). We have a fourth of July party to attend and while I was getting my hair blown out, I thought about how nice it would be to get my hair styled for the party. After paying and making my next appointment, I asked how much blow-outs cost: $7. Wow! So, I’ve got an appointment for Monday as well. All in all, it was a great experience and Raj approved of the work.

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10 thoughts on “Bleaching My Way Through Amman

  1. Your hair looks great!!! I completely understand the anxiety, I hate getting my hair just CUT. I’m so glad you found a place there and I can’t believe it’s so cheap! If a blowout was $7, I’d be there every week. Another positive for Amman!

  2. I’m not sure how I respond to this post. I’m pretty sure that, while you were blond as a child, Barbara mentioned that if you went with your natural hair color, it would be VERY dark. You failed to mention that Barbara was very expensive and that you weren’t feeling satisfied with your return on the investment. While I did not return to Ha for years and years, I have since returned and as with your Amman experience, pay half the price and have twice the satisfaction. Over the years, the anonymous stylist has ditched the bleach and uses foil and color. I have never had a guy hair stylist. That would scare me to death.
    Your hair looks good though. It looks like it always does which is what you want.

    1. Ask my mother for pictures and ask Gywana and she’ll tell you that I am a NATURAL BLONDE. I don’t care how much I have to pay for my stylists to say I’m blonde. By the way, Barbara used to tell me that you have GRAY hair.

          1. I speak the truth. And to clarify, I’ve never known Raj to be cheap. Didn’t he let you see the expensive hair dresser every six weeks? I only went twice yearly.

  3. Your descriptions of Strawberry Shortcake were hilarious. Not that you had to go through it, of course, because it should truly be a felony for hairdressers to ruin our hair like that! I don’t bleach, just color and highlight, but I know that anxiety you shared. It’s awful, hoping someone won’t completely ruin your mane.
    Your hair looks REALLY PRETTY! You may be all spoiled now with those prices, though. You’re come back stateside and go into shock! It’s crazy expensive here. I lucked out and found two girls (sisters-in-law) that work at a walk-in place, believe it or not. They’re so good. And they’re young, heh, heh, so I’ll be able to use them for a looooong time! LOL.
    Glad you found a piece of hair heaven in Amman, Jen! Have a happy 4th!

  4. Great! Check that one off of your list….this blonde addiction is troublesome. The girl who was doing mine in no longer in school and all we have are first year students! I think not…it would look like the time when my stylist in western NC decided to give me “dramatic” lowlights too and I looked like Pepe le Peu.

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