When I started living aboard, simple daily tasks became infinity more complicated in a befuddling language with new cultural norms. I clearly remember my first Spanish phone conversation during a university study abroad program in Mexico, when I kept mixing up the ever-so-simple pronouns of “I” and “you,” thoroughly confusing the poor man on the other end of the line and resulting in a giggling fit on my end when our nonsensical conversation’s absurdity struck my funny bone. It took me almost a month to figure out that I needed to go in person to the bank in Viña del Mar, Chile to pay the stupid electric bill. Although the process took most of the day to complete, I felt like I had summited K2 when I finally guaranteed my housemates another month of light and heat. In France, I’ve gotten on the wrong train and the wrong half of the train (when they magically split in some random town), more times than I would like to count or admit. I’ve even missed getting off the train at my stop because I didn’t know how to get the doors open. Yes, it’s true, an overpriced, four-year degree at a prestigious university helped me achieve such stupefying brainpower.
And then there are haircuts. The idea of letting foreign scissors destroy my rather ordinary hair terrified me. Haircuts in 8 different countries so far is no small feat, people! I’ve coped with long, thready Argentine layers, a mullet-of-sorts in Chile, a bowl cut in Mexico and actually some really stellar cuts in Thailand, South Africa and France. The worst part of venturing into a salon abroad is trying to convey in words or gestures exactly what you want, and since most of the time I have no idea what I want anyway, the results are often startling.
Well, folks, a couple of days ago I got the haircut urge, which, for me, is equivalent to a ferocious morning bathroom calling after a giant cup of coffee (sorry I’m so graphic, but I write the truth). Actually, I think my hair was looking quite good before the cut, but sometimes the desire to chop my hair becomes so all-consuming that I just have to pay attention or risk the voices in my head singing an endless cacophony of “Cut your damn hair!” at all hours of the day. Am I crazy, or is this a woman thing? It just so happened that in the small Northern-Italian town of Aosta, I stumbled upon a sparkling salon, filled with stunning, long-haired, well-tanned, stylist goddesses, into which I courageously ventured with my bright, orange tennis shoes, my deflated hair and my broken Italian. It would make you proud to know that not only did I tell the pretty woman what I wanted, but we managed to have one of those superficial stylist/customer conversations about I-don’t-know-what in Italian! This lovely lady more or less gave me the style that I was seeking but with much more Italian flair than previously thought possible.
Hands down, the blow-dry was the highlight! She asked if I wanted my locks curly or straight, and apathetically, I said curly and sat back with wide eyes as the magic unfolded. With each compulsory smiley glance in the mirror (I was careful not to express the dread in my heart with my eyes or mouth) and each subsequent addition of more mousse, my hair gained the volume and height of circus cotton candy― imagine a perfect combination of a really good winter nest for a family of squirrels and Richard Simon’s hair on a humid day in Florida. The dryer stopped. She administered one final coat of hairspray shellac to keep all coiled hairs well in place, and I paid. Then smiled. Out into the street I ventured with my new do, careful not to hit the awnings, feeling nostalgic of my old, less-voluminous hair a mere hour before, but actually quite satisfied with the overall experience! Let’s not forget the pre-cut head massage.
I did it. Add Italy to the haircut list. Check!
I would have taken a picture of my coiffe immediately after the incident, but I’m afraid there wasn’t a selfie-stick made long enough to capture the height and expanse in one frame, so I’ll leave that to your imagination.
Moreover, and perhaps rather stupidly, I decided to semi-permanently dye my blondish hair dark brown (sorry Mom and Dad, I know you like me blond). Sometimes you just want a change, and sometimes you want to feel different. I’m on a blissful two-week vacation stretch, and I’m reevaluating how I can incorporate more healthy practices into my hectic guiding lifestyle, including a six-week, self-proclaimed betterment stretch. I figure the dark hair, which is also supposed to last six weeks, will serve as a daily reminder to take better care of myself, instead of focusing all my energy on my constantly changing stream of clients.
This morning, I was YouTubing ways to get semi-permanent color to fade more quickly, and I think I’ll spend some of the afternoon washing my hair with Head and Shoulders (according to all the young ladies with bright red hair online, this works well). If only there were lots of men asking me on dates this afternoon, I’d have a legitimate excuse to stay at home and be lazy.
I’m actually in Vienna now, and I’m in good company. This city seems to be the land of older women with poorly dyed hair, so maybe I’ll just roll with it and leave the washing for another day. There are museums to visit, and Austrian beer to drink with salty pretzels.