Amy worked out of Pistachio Pie. Refreshingly, she never mentioned perms and she didn’t smoke between cuts or during the precious minutes a client might flip through a Cosmo under the dryer. In her element, she had a remarkable ability be present to the person in the chair. She was attentive and connected without relying on standard pleasantries:

“Are you a student?”

“So, what do you do?”

“You married?”

If there is any doubt that Amy was first and foremost a minister to her people, consider the day I was tricked by a brisk morning and found myself embarrassingly overdressed by lunchtime. With the instincts of a nurse she plucked a clean sleeveless blouse from the laundry basket in her car and told me to return it whenever I had the chance. Her kindness might have been awkward had she been anyone else.

Amy cut my hair until I couldn’t afford her anymore.

Enter Jan, Ying’s sister.

Jan was visiting from Hong Kong and travelled with a convincing assortment of tools: combs, shears, clips, razors, and a cape that she snapped open like a real professional and wrapped around my neck in a single and confident sweeping motion. To get around a language barrier, we drew pictures and Ying translated. I said “trim” and this triggered a spirited 20-minute conversation in Mandarin. I didn’t understand a word.

Jan snipped away first on one side and then on the other and back and forth, apparently overcorrecting each time. She consulted with her sister. She consulted with her twin nephews. She consulted with her husband, Gordon. He briefly commandeered the scissors and gave it a go until he gave up and abruptly left with one of the boys.

Then it started to rain. With a half a cut and a mishmash of clips affixed to my head, I darted out to roll up the windows of my car. Like an escaped prisoner returning because she remembered to make the bed, I went back to the house instead of putting the keys into the ignition.

The twin that stayed behind was content to watch TV until a commercial break. He used the interruptions to practice diving off the stairs into the sunken dining room where he would land in a pile at my feet, pop up with the quickness of a push puppet, and pronounce me an ugly witch. Then the stocking-footed child razored past me from several different directions, pleased whenever an especially imaginative approach was also startling.

“Ugly witch! Ugly witch! Ugly witch!”

Cheapness had a price and I was about to pay it.

Ying planted herself in a chair in front of me. Let the slumber party begin!  She leaned forward and said, “Doesn’t your father worry that you’re not married yet?” Until Jan either fixed my hair or shaved me completely bald, I would have to find a way to politely deflect her questions:

“Why don’t you drive a better car?” “Why don’t you wear better clothes?” “Don’t you want a family?” “Aren’t you getting old?” “You need the SUV.” “Can’t you get a better job?” “Being single is no good for the life!” “Nobody want to be alone.”

Two angry lobsters saved me from a poor choice of words.


By Martinvoll (Own work) [GFDL (

Gordon returned with the boy who was clutching a lobster in each hand. They were alive and their claws were taped up, a strange sight. The twins joined together and took turns between tormenting me and tormenting their dinner:

“You are an ugly witch! You are an ugly witch!”

“We’re going to eat you tonight! Yum! Yum!”

They danced and sang and laughed and waved angry lobsters in my face.

Mercifully, Jan announced that she was done. We all – Jan, Ying, Gordon, the boys and the angry lobsters – crammed into the bathroom where I examined myself in the mirror and the sisters marveled at their work. Ying directed me to go home and wash my hair. “If you see anything sticking out, just cut it off,” she said. “I got to go to work.”

Later my friend Barb told me that I looked like a china doll “as cute as a bug,” she said. Her husband joked, “They figured that if they have to learn your damn language, you can wear their bob. Hey, what bowl did they use?” Then he reached over with a pair of kitchen shears and snipped off a piece of hair that was sticking out.

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