Saturday, December 13th, 2008
I am an oddball. No, no, it’s true. I am a strange duck. I don’t often share the perspectives of the crowd and I like things other people don’t, and vise versa. That’s OK with me, I like it that way. I don’t fit in to any standard variation either. For example, I am not a “girly-girl” but I am also definitely not a “tom-boy”. I don’t climb trees but I hate going to the salon and prefer to shop on line to skip all the social aspects of shopping for clothes. I don’t like shopping with friends who try to influence my choices and take too long looking at things and trying things on they never buy. I shop for clothes because I like clothes. I go to the salon because I need a hair cut. I like to look pretty, feminine, but I don’t like the stuff you have to do to get there.
I used to get my nails done in a fancy salon because I was convinced (by the nail girl at the fancy salon) that the cheaper ones would leave me with a gangrenous nail that would cost me a leg, or at least a toe. Then I got an infection under my nail at the fancy salon and decided that the extra hour it took to procure shiny red finger and toe nails at that salon, not to mention the additional $35, was no longer in my best interest. I took to utilizing the place across the street where many cute, young Vietnamese women wearing fashion knock offs from WalMart and wearing shoes two sizes too large did nails in a quick, efficient manner for all of $30 including a generous tip, hands and feet. Mostly they were cheap because they were fast. They buffed, clipped, polished and did a rigorous hand and foot massage in under an hour and with a minimum of socializing. In fact they seemed to like it that I preferred to read or listen to my music, or both, while they worked. Multi-tasking rules.
Here in Buenos Aires I have lost all interest in such things. First, there are few shops here that sell clothes I like and so I have not bought a single item of clothing since our arrival in July. I have been to the hair dresser four times and the nail salon once. My experiences in these places have led me to abandon formal nail care completely and to shave my head. I now file and buff a little at home, no polish and have Jimmy take an electric clipper to the places around my ears where my hair sticks out so that I can maintain some sort of “style” until it is long, straight and without variation from my natural color, which, it turns out, is a much darker brown than I remembered and has less gray than I imagined.
There are a number of reasons for this change and the salons here are only the beginning, but let’s start there. Salons for Argentine women are, apparently, a social event. They go, they sit, they talk, they have coffee, they wait (Argentines are immeasurably patient people) and they spend endless hours having their hair styled. Being able to do good color or cuts is not at a premium here. Being a “stylist” who can take long, straight, dark hair and make it look momentarily glamorous though, that is an art form that is treasured. It is also exactly the type of thing I have no patience with. If I want my long, straight hair wavy I’ll take a curling iron to it at home, I am certainly not wasting four hours (yes I said four hours) in a salon to come away with a result that will disappear when next I sleep or bathe, or if it happens to be humid outside, not an uncommon thing here, when I walk out the door of the salon. My only alternative is a very good Canadian stylist who does hair in his ever changing apartments and charges ever more for it with every visit as he tries valiantly, bless him, to do hair of the quality he likes with the tools available in a somewhat backward place. The inconsistency was too much for me. I have had all of four hairdressers in the last 25 years so going to a different location and not getting the same product, service, price, etc. for each visit was just not working for me. The one time I went to the nail salon I was there for almost five hours and when I left my cuticles were wounded, I was frustrated and stressed out and all my polish chipped off within five days.
It is no wonder that since going to the salon takes so much time, most Argentine women don’t do it. The sight of a painted nail is odd enough to inspire particular notice and anytime I see a woman with anything other than long, straight, hair of her natural color, hanging as it fell straight out of the shower, it stands out. As summer comes that is changing. The south of the equator combination of summer time and the holidays beginning at the same time seems to inspire the women here to dress up a little, add some color to their wardrobe, even wear a smile to dress up an otherwise city hardened face. And just when I was getting used to going au naturel.
So, what’s a girl to do? Well, what I am going to do is to learn to adjust my self, sometimes, to the truth of the economy and my current situation. What is cool about living in a place where fashion, as I have known it, doesn’t exist, is that I don’t have to dress up much to look really cool here. My hair is growing in a little bit at a time and it is “long” enough now that men are starting to look at me as some sort of exotic creature from afar instead of a strange threatening sort of alien. Women ignore me, mostly, though I get the feeling some Argentine women are scared of me, but that is another story.
The people I know here, expats and natives alike, are simply not all that interested in outward appearances and so it is a time in my own life when I can simply do what feels right and is easy and free. No doubt there will come a time when I step back in to the playful world of fashion and go to a salon to get my hair done and my nails painted. By the time that day comes I may have learned to have a little fun with it, if only from missing it a bit.