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the nomad and me

I’ve been admiring him from afar for quite a while now.   Today we met, up close and personal.

He’s known as “La Nomade d’Antibes.”  But I just call him Nomad.

He is even more attractive than I imagined and he really doesn’t have a bad angle.   He’s 8 meters high–that’s over 26 feet.  I’m a sucker for a tall man.

He’s composed of random white stainless steel letters and occupies a prime piece of real estate, overlooking the Baie des Anges over to Nice, Cap Ferrat and beyond.  He probably has one of the best views in Antibes. His view to the right is the old town of Antibes and Cap d’Antibes;  his view to the left is Fort Carre and the alps (if he could turn his head).    I can’t keep my eyes off him.   But I’ve always had a thing for men of letters.

He hasn’t been in Antibes much longer than I have, so we’re both newcomers.  He was erected in 2010, when Jaume Plensa, a Catalan artist, was commissioned to create a monumental sculpture that would grace the recently renewed Bastion Sainte Jaume (which has been around since the Greeks parked their boats here).  It’s just a coincidence that the bastion and the artist share the same name.

Nomad is a controversial character.   From the moment he was commissioned, he’s been a source of controversy and rage.   It’s the typical anger you’d expect in a bad economy, when people are unemployed and having problems putting food on their tables.   The naysayers considered the $500,000 price tag trop cher.   But like the Transamerica building and the Eiffel tower, which also met with great resistance originally, Nomad is now an important part of the Antibes skyline and a tourist attraction.   He’s here to stay.   I think he looks quite dashing with the ancient town as a back drop.

I’ve always considered myself a bit of a nomad, so I kind of feel like we’re soulmates.   It’s kind of romantic when you think about it:   two nomads meet in the South of France and settle down together in Antibes.


french pharmacies: a source of drugs, cosmetics, knowledge and something akin to serenity

 You know how men are supposedly drawn to hardware stores?   That’s how I feel about French pharmacies.

I could spend hours tinkering with French skincare creams, nail polishes, cosmetics, haircare products and contemplating the ingredients in a bevy of drugs, herbs and salves.   French drugstores have a lot of the stuff you might find in Barneys or Sephora such as Caudelie, Nuxe, Darphin,  a smattering of Eucerin, Oil of Olay amongst lots of things with exotic sounding names that I’ve never seen before.   I just know there’s a  miracle unguent in there somewhere.

I don’t know if French drugstores are more or less expensive than American ones.   I got 7 Zyrtec,  24 Advil and some cough syrup for 8.50 Euro.  I do know that Tiger Balm is exorbitant at about 12 Euro.   On the other hand, Roger and Gallet is like Dove over here.

In addition to all the homeopathic, aromatheraputic medicines, the over the counter drugs are much more interesting than ours(for starters, their over the counter cough syrup has codeine!)   Once, long ago in Paris, they gave me the most wonderful pain killer that had me floating through the Tuilleries which I have devoted part of my life trying to find again.

In Europe, they’re big on plant based cures.   For example, when I had a cold and asked for something to help, they gave me these capsules of essential oils and Advil.   I don’t know if it worked or whether the cold just ran its course, but I’m feeling better, thank you.

I’ve learned a lot of French words in French pharmacies.   Appaisant means calming.   Minceur means thin as in lose weight.      Grippe means flu.   Toux is cough.   Cellulite means cellulite.

Today’s word:   allaitement.

While taking leisurely browse at the Grande Pharmacie d’Antibes I find an exciting product I’ve never seen: Weleda Tisane Allaitement pour Serenite.  Weleda makes these lovely plant based moisturizers, bath oils and skincare products, which I’ve always liked.   I figure the tea must be delicious and will calm my rattled overworked nerves.

I take the box to the cash register along with the Mavala Daring Pink nail polish and hand them to the cashier.   I point to the tea and say boldly “j’ai besoin de serenite”.

She looks at me really funny.   My mind started whirling as I try to figure out what word I’d mangled and how badly I’ve offended her.   I stammer out some words trying to explain…”j’ai beaucoup du stress… beaucoup de travail… donc j’ai besoin d…”   At this point she looks concerned, shakes her head, studies the box and babbles something to the other cashier.

I’m thinking, “oh merde, what have I said?   They’re gonna kick me out of the pharmacy, no, Antibes for this…maybe even France.

The other cashier blurts out with it (in English):   “this tea is for breast feeding!”   Now I know what “allaitement” means.   They must think I’m nuts trying to buy a tea for lactating mothers.   I’m one step away from being known as that crazy old American woman in Antibes.

I turn the color of Malava Daring Pink nail polish, slap myself upside the head and say…”Okay. Merci.  Le vernis de ongles seulment.   Ces tisanes ont tres, tres, tres pas pour moi”    Then we all have a good laugh.

I make a conscious decision not to spin myself into an uproar wondering how she knew I’m NOT breastfeeding (clearly I’m old and flat chested).   And despite the lack of serenity inducing tea, I swear to God, every time I look at my newly painted toenails, I feel pretty damn good.

another day, another headtrip

Getting one’s roots dyed properly is a lot like painting a room. Once you’ve got that done, suddenly everything else in the room is wrong and dingy and must be updated.

So now I can’t help but notice that I desperately need either a haircut, or a new face.

I’m lucky to have a good healthy head of hair, but right now it’s way too long–several inches past my shoulders. It’s starting to drag my face down and making me crave plastic surgery. Or at least several shots of botox and some duct tape. I’m starting to look like the face in that painting “the scream.”

My plan was not to get a haircut while I was here and let it grow six months until I get back to NYC and Joseph, my lovely, talented hair cutter. I haven’t had really long hair in ages and am hoping it will give me some sort Delilah like of power of attraction. And after the red roots disaster, I’m not going to consider getting a haircut which involves money and stress for such shallow reasons. And I can’t cheat on Joseph.

But all this hair is an incredible burden. It’s heavy. It’s giving me a headache. It’s so long and heavy I’m going to pull my neck out any minute now. I’m getting curvature of the neck from my hair. My health is suffering because of my hair. And the Delilah thing doesn’t seem to be happening. This can’t go on.

Dare I cut it myself? After all, I did color it better than that other coiffeur. After 20 years of watching great haircutters cut it, couldn’t I have picked some of it up? I’m sure that watching Brad all these years helped me do the color. In fact, I bet I could even do my dental work, if I had to.  Of course I can’t cut my own hair. It would involve handling sharp objects. Not a good idea for a clod. Although it would be ironic if I accidentally cut off an earlobe.

I need a licensed hair dresser. I know if I try to find the “right one” I’ll make a production of it and it’ll be a nightmare. I’ll spend days and nights researching a bunch of places, anguish over the choice of cuts, go into Paris, get lost, never find my carefully chosen place, become desperate and go anywhere I can find, have a “my little goat moment” wind up with a hideous asymmetric cut and pay a fortune for it. Or worse, just end up getting a trim which won’t be worth the trauma and expense.

No, I’m not going to cut my hair. The risks are too high, financial and otherwise. My hair and sunglasses are pretty much all I’ve got going for myself and I’m due to lose the sunglasses any day now. Can’t risk the hair.

But on the train to Pontoise I catch my long, haggard refection in the window. Geez, I look like total hell.  Maybe there’s something in the pharmacy to fix that.

But it’s August and a lot of places are ferme pour vacance. The pharmacy near the gare is one of them. And the truth is, deep in my heart, I know there’s nothing in the pharmacy that can solve my problem. I hike towards the center of town, which is clustered around a church on the hill. I pass two hair salons and am only mildly tempted. But my hair is gnawing at me. I’m sure it’s making it harder to climb this hill.

Then I see it in the semi-distance, like Oz shimmering over the poppy fields, a Jacques Dessange hair salon. Now, I know that one of the praises I’ve sung of France is its lack of chains. But this is a French chain, and it has a good reputation. Okay, hoity-toity reputation (even better). And it’s not like they’re on every corner. In fact, I’m shocked they’re in Pontoise. The benefit of Jacques Dessange is that the hairdressers have to be better at cutting my hair than I could or they wouldn’t be working there.

Hmmmm, maybe…But only if a haircut is under E50. I check the price list on the door. E48. Shoot. Maybe the place is a dump and they all look either suburban or trashy hipster. Nope. The place looks nice and clean and modern and the women inside look stylish but not too too. And I still look like an old hag. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, it’s worse than it was last time I checked, thirty seconds ago. I have no choice but to go in.

Once I get inside, I remember the language barrier. But I remain calm.

I tell them (in French, mind you) to pardon my French, but I want a cut. So I’d like to know what she’d do with my hair. Which comes out a lot longer in French. She tells me (in French) that my face is long and I need to bring it up shorter and put some layers around my face. Bingo. She passes the test.

I say d’accord and next thing you know she’s holding a razor to my head and there’s a pile of my hair on the floor.

I have two flashes of extreme anxiety during the cut and they aren’t hair related. I notice that one of my eyes seems swollen or something and fear a stroke or bell’s palsy or some disease that belies old age. The other flash of anxiety is when I know there’s something I should be sick with anxiety about, but for some reason, I’ve totally forgotten it.

I’m sure this would be funnier if it was traumatic and the haircut turned out awful. But it isn’t and it doesn’t. I get a nice head massage, a good cut and I understand more of what she’s saying than the hairdresser in Auvers. And the procedure isn’t complicated with worrying how much to tip the shampooer the assistant, the coat check person and the girl who does the blow dry…it’s all the same person. And unlike the shop in Auvers, the cost of the cut is actually the price quoted.

Of course, the true test of a good cut is how it comes out in the wash, so to speak. In a couple days, I could change my tune.

But right now I feel pretty good about my spontaneous haircut. I really do look better. And the truth be told, I kind of get a rush with the experimentation. Yes, even the fear. I feel like Evel Kneivel must have after jumping over the grand canyon without breaking anything (or whatever he jumped over without breaking anything). Trying new things is fun.

With that in mind, I keep my eye out for patisseries on my way back down the hill. And plastic surgeons.

my own personal masterpiece (in L’Oreal Excellence, cuive d’or 7.3)

It’s that time of month again — my other monthly curse. The problem of what to do about my roots rears its ugly head again. A really ugly head with two stripes of roots in shades of red, as well as brown and grey. My hair is starting to resemble an archeological dig in that the layers reveal a rich history.

We’ve already established that I’m not returning to the cute little hair salon nearby. The truth is, I’m hesitant to hand over such an important job to a stranger ever again. If someone is going to screw up my hair, I want it to be me. If that makes me a control freak, so be it.

The closest I’ve come to dying my hair by myself was when I was 16 and I got one of those highlighting kits at the drugstore. My mother spent an hour with a crochet hook, painfully pulling out strands of my hair from the holes in the shower cap thing before I freaked out, changed my mind and abandoned the project despite the pain I’d already endured.

But this time, there can be no turning back, I’ve got hideous roots to cover.

So the next logical step is to find the right hair color, which requires a trip to a big grocery/everything chain like monoprix, eclerc or casino. The drugstores here are tiny and don’t carry a great variety. Often they don’t even carry hair color. There are no Duane Reades, Walgreens or CVSs here.

I figure while I’m there, I can also pick up things like dental floss which is surprisingly hard to find.

I do a little research before I go. To see if any particular brand of hair color is hailed by makeupalley users. Turns out, the only one that gets a good rating is discontinued. This is not promising. I’m on my own here. And my course is fraught with dangers. Sure, there’s bad color, but there’s also the possibility of damaging or frying my hair. I find the thought of Armageddon far less frightening.

I face a daunting wall of hair color products. All sorts of shades that are just slightly different from the other. And while the differences between the colors may seem small, one wrong hue can ruin your life.

There are brands I’ve never heard of like Schwartzkopf which I decide against because the German accent scares me.

When you get right down to it, I’d rather trust my hair to a French company because they invented the word “salon”, forgodsakes. They must know what they’re doing.

Which leaves me with L’Oreal, Garnier and Posay A woman with bedraggled looking hair takes a box of Posay and it’s narrowed down to two. I finally decide on L’Oreal Crème Excellence because I don’t like the looks of the girls on the Garnier cartons—a little too hookerish for my tastes. Now we’re getting somewhere.

Choosing the shade is the true test of nerves. Every time I think I have the right color in my hands, I begin to tremble and start having second thoughts. Is hair color like perfume in that the same scent can comes out differently on different people? What if this lovely golden caramel color on the girl on the box turns out candy corn orange on me? Maybe I should go darker…it would be kind of a French thing to do. And maybe that would cover mistakes…or make them worse. No, lets not try anything drastic for a debut effort. I try matching my hair with the colors on the box, but it’s difficult getting my hair at a distance that I can actually see it. It also doesn’t help that the names of the colors are in French…I know d’ore is gold, but what the heck is cuivre? Isn’t that an eating utensil? I feel like I need to lie down. Ugh, I feel clammy and icky and sweaty. I hope I’m not having a stroke. Or is it a hotflash? Or just anxiety? And who can blame me? This is a life altering irrevocable decision. Well… for three weeks anyways.

By this time, I’m sure the cashiers think I’m either insane or a shoplifter. Feeling no more enlightened than I was two hours ago, I tell myself it’s just hair and grab number 143, blond d’ore, I don’t consider myself blond, but the color of the girl’s hair on the cover looks about right.

On my way to the cash register, I remember to get the dental floss. But when I see the options, I’m plunged into indecision again. The large roll, the medium roll the waxed or unwaxed, J&J or the cheaper generic kind…thank Dieu they don’t have flavored or I’d still be there. Generic waxed medium is the verdict..

I have to avert my eyes from the lip gloss aisle or I risk falling off the wagon. I’m a glossaholic…I can’t resist buying a new lip gloss whenever I see one. I’m always sure that the one I’m buying will be the answer to all my prayers with the perfect balance of color, emollient, shine and taste. Even when I think I’ve found it, I’m immediately on the lookout for the next one. I’m a total lipgloss whore. When they started coming out with lip plumping glosses, I knew I was going to have to leave the country. I’ve been clean since I’ve been here in France which is quite an accomplishment when you consider how many new, untried lip glosses there are for me to be tempted by here. It’s excrutiating. I remain strong.

I pay and send out a short prayer: I’m sorry I was pissed at you yesterday, but please let this be a decent color and please don’t let me screw it up. Do whatever you want to the Middle East, but please spare my hair.

Back at the house, I’ve got instructions, the various little bottles, the rubber gloves and the box spread out before me. Here’s something that hadn’t occurred to me…the directions are in French. I panic briefly until I realize that it’s French for idiots. And with the helpful little pictures, I can pretty much piece it together. It looks pretty cut and dry. Nevertheless, my hands are shaking, and consider this might be a good reason to put it off another day. I mean should one really dye hair with shaking hands? I tell myself to shut up. It’s not like I’m performing a circumcision here. And frankly, judging by my roots, I don’t have a moment to waste.

I hold my breath, put on the gloves and dive in, mixing and applying it to mes raciness. I try to remember how Brad’s assistant, Lexie used to run the nozzle over the parts in my hair and rub it in.   I try to imitate her. Then I wait.

I stand in front of the mirror the entire twenty minutes watching closely (my nose must be about two inches from the mirror) trying to figure out what the dye is doing. I’m unreasonably calm. The color of the dye is going from white to a kind of brown color. I don’t really know what’s going on underneath the dye, but I do know that looking at it doesn’t give me the sick feeling I was trying to stave off at the hair salon last month.

The big test is when I rinse it all out. When I do, it looks fine.

The really big test is when it dries. Which it does and it looks fine. No, come to think of it, it’s not fine, it’s FABULOUS (to quote Brad). I dyed my roots and they match the rest of my hair, my hair looks healthy, and shiny, the color is very nice and I did it all by myself. In France!

I feel powerful, deeply talented, courageous and strangely liberated. It’s hard to explain, it’s like all these years, I thought I’d be totally incapable of dying my hair and it turns out, I’m capable. I’m actually pretty good at it. Much better than those chicks who charged me 52. Euro.

It was Vincent Van Gogh who said “What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” I should really take that to heart. Maybe there are other things I can do that I thought were impossible. I consider the implications. Imagine all I can accomplish! The new things I can try. The joy of potential future successes. Hey, maybe tomorrow I’ll get a highlighting kit.


For more hair care experiences in France:

fear of dying (grappling with getting my hair dyed in France)

back to my roots (getting my hair dyed in France, a horror story)

paris fashion notes

carrie-bradshaw-satc-movie1-previewimages-2Ever since I quit my advertising job, I’ve spent very little time on Madison Avenue (meaning Barneys and Bergdorf, or as I liked to call them with a certain amount of sour grapes, fashion victim central). I havn’t looked at a Vogue, Harpers Bazaar or Elle since pink was the new black

Needless to say, I’d been feeling hopelessly out of place on the New York city streets for quite awhile. Sure, there was my out of style Levis and non-brand name tee shirts, but more importantly, my face still moves. I often got the feeling that women I knew recoiled in shock, horror and pity when I smiled or furrowed my brow. I was also convinced that I was the only remaining B cup left in Manhattan, which I think may have qualified me for my own personal display in the Museum of Natural history.

Aside from the 600 dollar price tag for a lousy shot of botulism toxin (wouldn’t it be cheaper to cultivate my own? I had some funky looking cans of soup that were probably chock full of the coveted poison), the whole idea of injecting something that used to have a skull and crossbones on the label into my face seemsto be pushing fate. And major surgery to insert huge plastic globes in my breasts seems more ridiculous than…well, cutting off my ear.

So when I go to Paris, I watch the women with interest trying to get an idea of what’s in style and whether my next move will have to be to a country where Burkas are mandatory.

carla-bruni-sarkozy_0The good news is, I won’t have to move to Iran for several years, at least.images

The first thing I notice (or don’t notice) is the omnipresent low cut satiny lingerie type blouses with huge plastic breasts on display with cleavage up to the chin aren’t present. Not a one. Nor is the night of the living dead parade of bandaged women on the streets that’s so popular on Madison avenue and Soho. Maybe the French just have the good taste not to emerge until their plastic surgery scars have healed. And I won’t have to invest in absurdly low cut jeans or acquire the obligatory rolls of fat that accompany them (where is lipsuction when you need it?

I scrutinize the French womens’ faces and smile at them. They smile back and their eyes actually crinkle. Some of the women even have grey hair, god forbid. Further, their faces are not caked with Lancome, Chanel and all the other ridiculously expensive make up products American women seem to believe are the height of fashion in France. And the B cup seems to be the norm here—for the first time in ages, I almost feel adequate. These women actually look human.

Before I left New York, I consulted a couple of fashion experts to see what the summer trends would be, just to make sure I didn’t stand out like a sore thumb. I was told to wear wedgies with two inch platforms and another four inch of heels, brightly colored skirts, tiny little sweaters and to carry a large brightly colored leather bag, preferably by Louis Vuitton or Prada if I didn’t want to feel hopelessly out of place. Thank goodness I couldn’t afford to take their advice or I would have felt hopelessly out of place.

The women here seem to be much more casual, usually wearing jeans, cargo pants or a simple dark slightly above the knee length skirt, blazers and very basic small leather purses. Their shoes are generally stylish, yet comfortable looking. And there’s not a tiny sweater in sight.   I’m pretty sure Carrie Bradshaw would have been laughed out of town.

As further research, I enter a couple of drug stores and the cosmetic departments of department stores. Unlike the mile long displays of exhorbitantly priced French named cosmetics found in the US, the array is small and simple, mostly devoted to skin care, rather than cover ups. And unlike the 200-500 dollar miracle creams peddled in the US, the creams here are in the 50 Euro range and seem to have the same miracle incredients.   Creme de la Mer is nowhere to be found.

The clothing lines are simple, consisting of names that for the most part, I haven’t heard of. And the only place I can find Channel, Louis Vuitton, Versace, and the other designer names popular in the US is on the Rue St. Honore-Fauborg, where the only languages spoken seem to be American, German and Japanese.

Isn’t Paris the fashion capital of the world? What’s going on here? Is it possible that the women here are guided by some innate sense of style, rather than the fashion magazines?

I begin to think that the designers and fashion magazines have been pulling the wool/gabardine blend over Americans’ eyes all these years. Is the still  booming billion dollar plus US beauty and fashion industry based on a lie?   Why not?   It seems most of our billion dollar industries are.   So now my only remaining fashion question is how can I cash in on that lie so I can afford to buy the $2,000 dollar Louis Vuitton purse I saw in a store window.


The real housewives of elysee palace A look at President Sarkozy’s many wives and their many lovers.  Lots of information and pix of Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.    And you thought the Kennedys were busy.


A sad addendum regarding French women and cosmetic enhancements.    I just came upon this recent photo of Carla Bruni.  Hopefully it will scare other French women from doing it.

back to my roots

front of coiffureI’ve gone into several hair salons advertised as Wella Salons, showed them the little bottle of Wella hair color Brad gave me and they’ve all told me (in French of course) that they don’t have it and don’t know how to use it. Finally I decide to chance it with the cute little L’Oreal salon that’s less than 20 meters away from the house.

I finally muster the nerve and march in resolutely to make an appointment, I carry my little bottle of wella color charm # xxx, repeating the words “mes racines” (my roots) over and over again so I won’t forget the crucial word.

The girl greets me with a “Bonjour madame” (I’ve stopped being offended by being called Madame as opposed to Mademoiselle). I take a deep breath and dive in.

“Bonjour. Je veux, no, peux avoir mes raciness colouer” I part my hair on top and show them, prepared for gasps of horror. None are forthcoming. They nod. I continue, holding up the bottle of Color Charm.

“C’est quoi ma colouerist dans New York me serve”

She looks confused as I hand them her bottle. She looks even more confused upon scrutinizing it. She takes it to the stylist who is doing someone’s hair and they confer.

They tell me they don’t have it and don’t know how it works.

We stare at each other for a minute, smiling and nodding, unsure of how to continue the conversation. Finally, I say veut-tu fait mes racine avec quelquechoses…..else?

They converse again and grab a L’oreal color book and flip through the pages. The stylist shows me a brownish red color that looks about right and relieved, I nod emphatically, oui! Relived, the girl asks me if je voudrais faire un rendez vous. Again I nod emphatically. Oui!

hair appointment

We agree on a time and date two days from now and she writes it down for me on a little piece of paper, probably to make sure we’re talking about the same time and date.

For the next two days I fantasize about how fabulous my hair will look and how maybe they’ll do something slightly different that will make me look even more fabulous than whatever it is Brad does. Perhaps I’ve discovered the most wonderful colorist whose been working anonymously for years and I’ll be getting the deal of a lifetime for only E19.50 (the listed price for colouer permanante).

I can’t wait to loose this tell-tale grey/brown stripe which seems to be growing inches by the day.

Finally the moment arrives and I head on over with great anticipation.

They greet me and show me the color in the book once again, just to make sure. I nod. She mixes the color and starts painting it on my roots. It’s a sort of purplish color. It doesn’t look like the color Brad uses, but the color in the book looks right so I chill and thumb through a French version of Star magazine, which is just as crappy in French as it is in English (and Britany Spears, and Jessica Simpson are just as annoying).

Occassionally I check the mirror to see how my roots are doing, and to my relief, the color seems to be progressing to a brownish color. After 30 minutes the timer goes off and the girl returns to me and asks me something rapidly in French. I look confused and she explains slowly that “c’est pour brillance de votre chevaux”. Naturally, I agree to that. She rinses the stuff out of my hair and puts something else in it and has me sit with my head in the sink for another 5 minutes. It’s a process similar to what Brad does, so I’m perfectly calm about it.

After the timer goes off again, she asks me if I want a coupe, to which I answer non, merci. She follows with veut-tu essourage (a word I recognize from the washing machine in the house). I nod emphatically.

Finally, after all the essourage, washing I sit up and get a glimpse of my hair in the mirror. It looks really red. But I don’t panic, it always looks different dry and I didn’t wear my glasses.

But as she blows my hair dry, it becomes evident that not only is my hair very red, it’s only very red at the roots. Still, I don’t panic—it’s not completely dry yet. Hope springs eternal. Well, more like five minutes.


Once my hair is completely dry and the stylish proudly announces “voila”, I see that there’s no two ways about it, I have a bright red stripe where my grey/brown stripe used to be. Calmly I say “c’est deux colouers”. She nods enthusiastically. I continue “Je n’aime pas deux colouers”. She looks surprised and responds by telling me that they’ll fix it “le prochain fois”. I nod agreeably as they prepare the bill, which turns out to be E50, when you include the shampoo, essourage, color and blow dry. She asks “d’accord” and I nod agreeably. Suddenly the $210.00 Brad charges seems like a bargain.

As I rummage through my purse for the extra unexpected Euros my mind races…Does “essourage” mean bright red stripe? How can I fix this? How can I walk around with this red stripe on my head? This is more horrifying than the grey/brown stripe because the red stripe is such an obvious attempt to cover up something, which must obviously be grey. In fact, people who see me will probably think it’s all grey or why would I have made such a desperate and pathetic effort to cover it? I wonder if I can wear a bandana on my head for the next couple of months or will I be mistaken for a chemotherapy patient (and which is worse)? Maybe I can put some brown mascara on the roots to tone down the red. Maybe I’ll just stay inside and not be seen in public until it fades or I figure out a solution to this horrible situation. My god, I’ll never get a date looking like this!

She asks me to fill out a card with my name and address so they can put down the color they used for the prochain fois. I fill it out, thinking to myself ‘there isn’t going to be a prochain fois, toots.”

I smile and pay adding a nice tip and leave saying cheerfully “Merci. C’est bonne. Je vous vois le prochain fois” and rush home to wash my hair.

fear of dying

coiffureI’ve been avoiding it for awhile. Pretending that if I ignored the problem, it would go away. But the truth is, it’s getting worse. And the only way people don’t notice is if their vision is worse than mine. If don’t deal with it now, I might as well give up and just let go forever. I’ll never be able to look myself in the mirror again. Worse, the whole world will see how much of my hair has gone grey (prematurely, of course). The world can probably handle it. I can’t.

It’s been 23 years since I’ve seen my actual haircolor and frankly, it’s not high on my list of things to do before I die. But it’s getting to the point where my hair color could best be described as “striped” and the ugly truth will have to be confronted.

I’ve been coloring my hair ever since Brad added a little red to my dirt brown hair and I never went back. Brad has been doing my color for the past 23 years (that’s 92 seasons in fashion years) in various but becoming shades of blond to strawberry blond to red to auburn. I figure I’ve paid for at least two of his nine or so plastic surgeries —his pecs, really belong to me.   Don’t think I’m complaining…when I think about the money I spent on shrinks versus the money I spent on Brad, I have no regrets about Brad.

During rough times, Brad would always do my color for free. He owns a part of my head, but don’t tell him in case he wants to sue me for it someday. He’s one of the reasons I stayed in New York as long as I did. Brad and my rent stabilized soon to be ex-apartment.

GM-426076-2TBefore I left, Brad tucked a little bottle of Wella brown rose number xxx (proprietary secret) in my hand and whispered, tell them to use this. I’ll fix it when you get back. I’ve been carrying that little bottle around since then, assuming when the time was right, I could figure out how to do it myself. Well, I just pulled it out and read the instructions. Are they crazy? This stuff seems like you need a professional to do it with all these high faluting hair dresser words like toner, filler and latex gloves.

I’ve noticed a couple of hair salons in Auvers. I don’t know if they’re any good or not. Or if it matters if you’re just giving them the bottle and saying please dye my roots this color for 30 minutes? S’il vous plait? One of the salons looks like it’s trying to be trendy. The other one is tucked away off the main street, which is the one that appeals to me.

front of coiffure

The price for colouer permanante is 19E50. Brad was $210.00. This is a plus.

On the minus side is the fact that my French still sucks. How do I say can you dye my hair the color in this bottle? Peut-tu morte mes chevaux le colouer dans …ici? Le boit…yeah, le boit. No, I don’t want them to kill my hair. Dye it color it. Coloeur mes chevaux? Come on…if I apply myself, I should be able to do this. Bonjour, mes chevaux et mal ici (point to roots). Aidez mois, s’l vous plait? Ma coiffeur dans new york me donne cette boit (hold up bottle of haircolor) et me dit, ici quoi j’ employe. Je suis ici dan auvers pour cinq mois. Aidez mois s’il vous plait?

If they understand and answer my brain will blank and I’ll stand dumbly clutching my bottle of haircolor like Bush clutched the my little goat book on 9/11. And I will go along with whatever they say and hope for the best. I guess that’s as close to willingly putting my life in the hands of a higher power as I’m ever going to get.

I really do trust that once I actually go into the hair salon and wave the bottle and speak really bad French, they’ll be nice and do it. I also trust it’ll be kind of fun, in a challenging, mildly threatening sort of a way. I also trust that my hair will look fine…much better than it does right now. And that ultimately, I’ll feel and look much better once I cross this huge hurdle.

Today I walk by the little salon. I look in the window like a child looking into a candy store. When the hairdresser threatens to make eye contact, I smile briefly before fleeing like a frightened hare.

I think I’ll put my life in the hands of a higher power some other day. Right now, I could go for some lunch.

Back to my roots (more on the continuing hair saga)

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