Apr 26th, 2018 04/26/18 | Community Stories


CCF granny Thim Theang, 73, proves age is no barrier with her own hair salon in our Divine Community A queue is forming at the hair salon in Divine Community. They are all waiting to see the resident hairdresser, Thim Theang, who at the age of 73, is still plying her trade after almost 50 years. At her age, most people might be thinking about slowing down and taking it easy. Not Thim Theang. She may be advanced in years but the CCF granny’s skills are very much in demand in the community where she has lived for the past four years. Theang, a grandmother, runs her own hair salon offering her services daily to fellow residents and anyone who might drop by - and it’s very popular. On a hot and humid Tuesday afternoon, four ladies sit patiently waiting their turn as a fifth slides into the chair ready for her makeover by the master. Wielding the scissors and comb like pro, Theang gets to work, snipping away with deft movements, her tiny hands moving fast. “She’s very good. I come twice a month for a trim,” says Len Rin, 73, one of her waiting customers. Theang began working as a hairdresser from the age of 25, when she would go from house-to-house in the village in Prey Veng province where she grew up. “I stopped during the Pol Pot regime but started again afterwards. I would cut hair to get some rice and food for the family,” she says. When Theang moved into the Divine Community in 2014, she had long hung up her scissors but was persuaded to come out of retirement when CCF staff found out about her former career. Her ‘salon’ is a room open to the elements, which doubles up as a classroom for CCF’s granny and adult learners in the evening and child students in the afternoon, complete with a large whiteboard on one wall. When the salon is active, the study desk and chairs are pushed back. At the other end of the room, Theang has a single black chair facing a mirror with a shelf filled with the tools of her trade - scissors, clippers, comb, brush, hairspray and other assorted hair products. There are no set hours. If there’s a customer, Theang will see them. On average, she sees one or two customers a day; there’s always someone wanting their hair done. She cuts hair for adults, young people and kids but her clientele predominantly seems to be fellow grannies. She doesn’t do colouring, haircuts only, and charges a modest 3,000 riel (about 75 cents) for adults, 2,000 riel (50 cents) for young adults and only 1,000 riel (25 cents) for children. CCF grannies get their done for free, subsidised by a member of staff. “I’m very pleased,” says Sochum, 69, patting her freshly cut grey hair after being given the Theang treatment. There’s no rest between customers. The next one is ushered straight into the chair. She might be a grandmother-of-five but Theang has more energy than the little ones playing in the community’s pagoda opposite her makeshift salon, zipping around the chair with strands of hair flying as she cuts away. Sprinkling talc on the nape of a customer’s neck, she uses a razor blade to smooth the hairline and achieve clean lines. She still has a steady hand and a good eye. “I enjoy it,” Theang simply says.”I like keeping busy.” She’s a good advertisement for own business with a full head of healthy-looking curly, glossy black hair - the colour of which may or may not be natural but it seemed impolite to ask - in an immaculate style. Formally dressed in a long skirt and smart long-sleeved navy and white blouse, she cuts quite the figure. Tastes have changed, though, she observes. When she first started out as a hairdresser, everyone wanted a traditional Khmer appearance. Now there’s a Western influence and the younger ones like trendy Japanese or Korean styles. Happily, her more mature CCF customers seem content with having their grey locks in a look more in keeping with tradition. As neither of Theang’s two daughters have followed her into the hair trade, she won’t be able to hand over the business to them in the future. But at the thought of stopping hairdressing and finally retiring her scissors, Theang is adamant it won’t be any day soon. “When I stopped work I was bored,” she says. “I like to be doing something and be active. It keeps me young.” Kate Ginn/CCF
Written by

Kate Ginn

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