Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Hair-RAZING experience

OK, I'm sorry for the pun, but it's the hair salons who started it. Haven't you noticed that practically every hair salon, at least in the States, is named with a pun? Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow....A Cut Above...Be Hair Now (OK, i made that one up!)... This is something I've pondered at length with several of my friends. I'm sure there's a master's thesis topic in there somewhere.

But in France I haven't noticed much punning going on. Maybe because Beauty isn't take lightly here. Take it from me -- I've been reprimanded on several occasions for all manner of beauty "faux-pas." And it's not always pretty...

Like that woman in the leg-waxing place who pinched my thighs in disgust and told me I needed to do "Le Cure Silhouette" (a kind of overheated shrink-wrapping). Or that bra saleswoman who insisted I wear a size smaller because I had saggy boobs (yes! she really said that!). Or that other woman in the waxing place who said that if I didn't start using "gommage" she was going to report me to the police (OK, i'm kidding about that one. But the other ones are real).

Somehow I always thought that my hair was above reproach. What could possibly be wrong with healthy, clean, long hair? Apparently lots, as I found out the other day when I went for my first real haircut (other than a trim) in about 15 years.

Mais pourquoi vous avez laisse les cheveux si longs??? (Why have you let your hair stay so long???) This said with the same horror as if I had abandoned an infant in the middle of a major thoroughfare. I didn't have an answer, and just waited for the experience to be over. Unfortunately that was only the beginning.... during the next hour and a half, with scissors snipping at terrifying speed around my head, I was told that my hair was too heavy (trop lourd), too easily tangled, hard to work with, and, basically, a beauty disaster. I would have complained, but I was too busy holding perfectly still so as to avoid having one of my ears cut off.

Is there a lesson in all this? Yeah, don't come to Paris for an ego trip. But in the end, I'm pretty happy with the result. Isn't that all that matters?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

How Do You Solve a Problem Like IKEA?

Once upon a time, I managed to live without IKEA. In fact, for years after college, I didn't buy furniture at all. My nighttable was nothing but a cardboard box with a silk scarf thrown over it, the coffee table a sturdier variation of the same (two milk crates with a board across them). "Bed" was a lumpy futon my mother had found at the town dump and then passed on to me (it was a step up from the air mattress I slept on for a semester while living in the laundry room of a friend's house). Couches and eating tables were fairly easy to find on the street. That left bookshelves (bricks and two by fours!), and all the little things like lamps and dishes, which just seemed to materialize without any effort. Needless to say, nothing matched, and there were definitely some items that wouldn't pass the Feng Shui test. (For example, a "nautical lamp" from 7th grade Woodworking: an ugly, unvarnished hunk of wood which served as a constant reminder of how badly I did in that class.)

Yet somehow I managed to be happy WITHOUT all the space-saving, time-saving, streamlined, economical, practical, functional, well-designed products that IKEA offers. Somehow I managed to have a full existence IN SPITE of this lack, the same way I managed to lived through those years without a credit card, cell phone, email, internet, digital camera, or DVDs.

Yet here I am again -- opening the IKEA catalogue, credit card in hand, ready to buy things I now can't imagine living without. I feel vaguely dirty and ashamed, as if it's pornography that I'm about to look at, instead of toy-ish wooden furniture. Am I succumbing to some latent urge that I can't control? Have I become just another cog in the wheel of mass consumerism? And what happens when there is no more wood particle board in the world-- will IKEA start using humans, like in that movie Soylent Green?

I honestly don't know how to live without IKEA these days. Especially in Paris, where there are very few places that sell affordable ANYTHING. Especially when we're trying to furnish an entire apartment from scratch. But I still would like to be able to say, one day, "I am done with IKEA" -- the same way I said, not so long ago, "I am done with cardboard boxes covered with scarves."

I don't know what the answer is. Maybe it's time for me to finally learn some woodworking skills. Or perhaps I should really try to stay in one place for a while so I don't NEED to keep buying disposable furniture. Or move near certain family members, so they can give me their cast-offs.

Meanwhile, to get the dirty feeling to go away, I will look at the poltronesofa website. Now there's a furniture place I could learn to love...

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Waiting for Travaux

Travaux (pronounced "tra-VOH") is the french word for "works", or, in our case, gut renovation of a beautiful but crumbling Haussmannian apartment in a neighborhood that is "en pleine evolution" (meaning, property values are expected to increase but men still feel free to urinate in our doorway).

Travaux is also synonymous with delays, language barriers, waiting in endless lines only to come home with the wrong tool (or the wrong advice), tearful fights in bathroom supply stores, insomnia, overdrawn bank accounts, and general intestinal distress. Oh, and let's not mention the disruptive presence of student demonstrations and national public holidays (of which there are three alone in the month of May).

I know it will all be over soon and we'll have a great apartment (if we're not in debtors' prison by then). But patience and long-term gratification have never been my strong suits. Ask anyone who's ever played a board game with me.

My friend C. says to be "zen" about it all and just "go with the flow." I don't mean to be testy, but go with what flow? Negative cash flow? Or the flow of sewage leaking into the downstairs neighbor's apartment because the workmen disconnected the toilet pipe and neglected to connect it back again?

But I digress. My main goal today was to show you photos, since all three of you reading this have requested them. So here you are -- VOILA. (And yes, i know that in my last post i promised only photos and no commentary. But blogging means never having to say you're sorry....right Ariana?)

Unbelievable! But True!

Well well well. Here I am. Surprised? It's true that my more computer-friendly friends have been blogging forever (or at least it feels like forever, in blog-time). Whereas I have been talking about doing this for over a year yet only now found the courage to start.

Courage? It took me all of four minutes (maybe less) to set this up. Amazing how real my artificial blocks can seem.

Q: What's more yawn-inspiring than a new blog?
A: A new blog that talks about blogging.

Next time i'll just post photos, promise.