It was a phone app that led me to her. It collected information on hairdressers, beauty salons, nail parlours in the neighbourhood and rated their service.
Y’s name popped up and customers seemed to like her. I took the plunge, zapped over some money and booked the appointment.
“Hello sweetie,” she cheerfully greeted me on the day.
She had long dark hair, heavy eyeliner, and a kind smile. There was something about Y I liked almost immediately.
She made me feel comfortable.
Y was a Greek Cypriot. She went to university in Russia. She told me of a Korean friend she met during her time there as soon as she heard my parents were from South Korea.
“He was from the North. Such a scary place,” she commented as she carefully brushed dye into my roots.
“Men came one day and took him away. He had stayed you see, when the other students went back.”
I almost asked her what she studied in Russia. But something held me back. I’m sure she would have told me, but I didn’t want to pry.
She asked how long I’ve been in London. I said about six weeks. She smiled and said people were quite different here.
“They are friendly, but not open like us,” was all she said. She finished applying the colour to my hair and asked if I would mind if she could work on her own hair while we waited for the dye to seep into mine.
It was a weekday and I was the only customer at the salon. I had absolutely no problems with her doing that and told her so.
She sat next to me and started applying dye to her hair. Looking at the mirror she explained that it was important to love who you were.
“I used to look at myself and say Y, I hate you. I did! I had to train myself to face up to the person I was and say I was beautiful. It’s something we should all do,” she advised.
She stopped what she was doing and turned to me.
“You know beauty is what flows out from who you are. You see some tall, beautiful women, and think wow. Then they open their mouths and all that comes out of them is nastiness and filth. Suddenly they’re not so attractive.
“Then you meet someone who looks ordinary, but there is a quality about them that draws you to them. There is a kindness about them that flows out from their souls. They are the truly beautiful ones.”
It was an interesting observation from someone working in the beauty industry and made me like her even more.
We talked about Japan, where I was born, and her love for the people and culture there. She asked me if I was working. I told her I am looking for it, but it’s difficult not to feel disappointed at yet another rejection.
“No. You must think positive,” she comforted. And I swear, she seemed just like a kind Asian Auntie.
She washed my hair, cut it and blow dried it. The colour was lovely. So was the trim. She did a great job.
She worked in a small salon. Clean, tidy, but not la-di-da fancy. I came out of there feeling warm and welcomed in a way I hadn’t felt in some of the trendy salons back home.
I think I’ll visit her again.