Thursday, March 27, 2008

Lopping of the Locks

This past weekend, my husband and I were on vacation visiting my family in Northern California. These journeys generally consist of wandering from winery to cafe to candy store and back again, enjoying country living and eating mom's home-cooking like geese being fattened for slaughter. However, on this particular vacation, an unprecedented day trip to San Francisco found me bounding into a salon on posh Union Street, hellbent on a rejuvenating change, having sent my husband to a bar with promises of a new-and-improved wife joining him later.

I greeted the pretty, petite stylist with "Hi! Please chop off all of my hair." To her credit, she did not appear at all annoyed, perplexed or disturbed by my creepily anxious grin and jittery anticipation, nor did she try to argue in favor of my keeping the long blonde locks rippling down my back. No - I sat down, we exchanged brief, hypercaffeinated pleasantries, and the next thing I knew I emerged newly shorn into the San Franciscan sunshine.

Women are funny about their hair. A coworker recently admitted that she burst into tears when, after a recent cut, her stylist revealed an unrequested extra two inches missing from her mane. None of us can tell a difference, yet she vexes constantly, bemoaning the state of her tresses and pounding megavitamins to encourage speedy regrowth. Recently, a good friend found herself arguing fiercely as her hairdresser balked at her request, insisting firmly that "bangs are for fat girls." My glamorous aunt continually implores me to get the name of my sister-in-law's stylist in hopes that she too can achieve her precise shade of honey.

Rare is the woman who has not coveted the haircut of the celebrity du jour while lamenting her own "bad hair day." Until recently, I was one of these women. My ego always liked to think that I was above such self-obsession, limiting my narcissism to a more useful focus, like freckle-prevention. Hair grows back, after all. Why trouble myself with such things when there are pores to examine?

Post-haircut, Saturday morning found my mother, husband and I visiting a local biodynamic winery to attend a "green tour." We would be walking the property, exploring the grounds and learning about organic growing procedures, culminating in a picturesque hilltop tasting. Eager to disprove my mother's theory that shorter hair would diminish my grooming time, I had spent 45 solid minutes primping and preening, fluffing and fixing, attempting to style my chopped tresses. Slightly disgruntled at this mirror-front reminder of my inability to do anything related to hair, I nevertheless arrived at the winery in high spirits, gaily tossing my fluffy head for the appreciation of my fellow tour-goers.

After briefly tisk-tisking my four-inch boots, our sneaker-clad tour guide led us into the organic, sustainable gardens. I pranced outside, sassy hair swinging, and joined the group in the shade of a large oak tree. It was a beautiful spring day, clear and cool, birds cooing softly in the wind. Our guide was young and knowledgeable, and as she yammered on about rare grape varietals I found myself focusing on her unfortunate selection of pants and wondering what a sideswept bang would do for the symmetry of her face.

In the midst of my makeover reverie, I suddenly felt something drop on my head. Pesky oak leaves, I thought, interloping upon my new hair. A few seconds later, another weight on my head, this time accompanied by a sickeningly familiar splatter. The birds cooed tauntingly overhead as I glanced down at the ricochet of filth onto my prize navy blazer. Several agonizing minutes later, our guide moved on, leading the pack up the hill toward the vines. I stopped my husband and my mother to inform them of my situation. Clearly they would witness the dire state of my well-coiffed hair and remedy the predicament. By the burst of laughter that followed, I could see this was not the case.

While on our French honeymoon several months ago, I had found myself in a similar situation when an errant pigeon used my head as a toilet on a steep hillside in Montmartre. Now, my mother doubled over and pointing, my husband smiled and said "Oh honey, it does feel a bit like Paris out here, doesn't it?"


Later that day and several glasses of wine in, my mood was improved. I had combed the bird feces out of my hair as best I could, and after an hour in the drugstore hair aisle poring over a variety of bottles, jars and boxes, I had found a product that I was certain would replicate the sleek style from the salon. I slathered this miracle paste into my new bangs, refusing to leave the bathroom and engage in any form of social activity until the proper piecey texture was achieved. Satisfied at last, I joined my family at the dinner table.

Several hours later, dessert eaten, merlot downed, sleepy-eyed, I glanced in the mirror while brushing my teeth. Wow - that is some mighty fine hair, if I do say so...but wait. What the hell is THAT?

From scalp to cheeks, my forehead and eye area was covered in a spotchy red rash. My face, with its prized pores and porceline pallor, was now a monochrome Jackson Pollack. In the midst of my ensuing mania, I realized that perhaps my husband had had a point when he advised against purchasing the $2.50 miracle hair cream. This merely irritated me further.

"Don't worry," said a doctor friend as I called in near hysterics. "Take a Claritin and use some hydrocortisone."

I sat, bemoaning my birdshit hair and general hideousness and feeling decidedly unsassy.

My allergic reaction cleared up over the next several days, and I returned to Los Angeles humbled. After indulging my vanity, I was brutally punished by the universe. My ego was shamed by flying poopmachines and beaten into submission by cheap hair paste. Henceforth, I vow that my hair shall be free to flop and frizz as it chooses. Bird- and rash-free is the way to be.

Yes, hair - I give up. You win. I'm not the boss of you.

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