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Are we there yet? YouTube is my go-to hair stylist, chef and car mechanic

By From page A5 | December 19, 2012

I’ve been trying to grow out my hair. It’s a frustrating process, and I’m not sure I have the stamina to grow it as long as I’d like — about 4 inches longer than it is now.

But David Martin, my hairstylist at Cobalt Salon, kinda sorta made me pledge to get to a certain length before deciding longer hair wasn’t for me. About a year ago I made a flat-handed gesture across my chest and said to myself, “Here.”

Getting to “here,” however, is fraught with angst and doubt. With each hair trim I get, I have to bite my tongue to keep from telling David, “Cut it all off!” I am so sick of how long it takes to dry, how little it wants to stay curled, and how lifeless it seems to look if I don’t spend a lot of time on it.

My last haircut was the hardest, but David helped me over the hump by suggesting I watch some YouTube videos on ways to wear my hair up during this transition period. Oh, right! Why didn’t I think of that?

Watching someone do what you are trying to master is a key method of learning for many people. Hearing it or reading about it just doesn’t work for certain brains. And even when you do sort of understand what someone has explained, watching it can bring it all together for you.

I’ve used YouTube for plenty of how-to instruction, and I’m always amazed by how many people will film themselves doing tasks for the seemingly sole purpose of teaching others. Hairstyling was no exception.

The night after my last haircut, I sat down in front of my computer and typed in “up hairsyles for short hair.” With more than 62,000 videos devoted to this subject, I spent a good hour watching one particular hair wizard twist, tuck and tie up her locks into lovely works of art.

YouTube also is a place of more lofty learning, too. Aside from watching all kinds of lectures, seminars and symposiums, you can see an auto mechanic replace his transmission. My brother turned me on to this idea a few years ago when he ambitiously tackled a don’t-do-it-yourself project with his pickup truck.

It turns out, people have filmed themselves doing all manner of car repair on all kinds of vehicles. Does your Volvo 850 wagon need its window switches replaced because the cup holders crazily dangle over said buttons? YouTube will show you the way.

For my own car repair, I’ve used YouTube to show me where in the world (!) that stupid fuse for the broken lighter in my car is hiding. (The owner’s manual did not want to reveal this secret.) On YouTube, you can find people willing to record themselves, pointing out where under the hood certain things are and how to get to them. Amazing, but true.

My older son uses YouTube to watch people tune up and wax skis. He has learned how to repair the gouges in the bottoms of all of our skis, and we are all waxed up and ready for the next trip up the hill. He also uses it to teach himself musical instruments.

YouTube is great for cooking tips, as well. In fact, at a recent book club meeting, my culinarily gifted friend Lisa made cha siu bao (pork buns) that dazzled us all. I asked her how she knew how to shape them so perfectly, and she confessed, “YouTube.”

Under the category of “less lofty pursuits,” however, I’m going to admit the most embarrassing thing to which I’ve turned to YouTube for explanation.

Last summer my younger son and I were shopping for a steamer basket; you know, those metal flower-looking baskets used to hold veggies above boiling water? I told my son how cool I thought these things were, suggesting that he open the basket to marvel at how big it got.

He messed with the basket a bit, noticing it had a plastic clip holding it closed. We cut off the clip, and voila! It still didn’t open.

When after pulling, prodding and poking it still refused to budge, I turned to my mentor, YouTube. And sure enough, people had recorded themselves opening up this puzzle of a steamer basket. It was just a simple matter of twisting it correctly, but there were many comments posted by video viewers who were embarrassed about their lack of ability to get the dang thing opened.

Lest you think it’s so easy, I left the steamer basket on the kitchen counter for my Ph.D. husband to take a crack at it. I felt my IQ shoot up a few points when the sorcerer could not remove the sword from the stone.

— Tanya Perez is an associate editor at The Enterprise. Her column publishes every other week on Wednesdays or Thursdays. Reach her at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @enterprisetanya

Tanya Perez

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