25 January 2020

My French hair


Some years back as editor-at-large of BonjourParis.com I wrote an article called, "Getting It Straight: A Hair Piece." It received quite a bit of attention at the time and, thanks to those days, many of those readers followed me to USA Today and eventually here, to this blog.

From an early age, my hair never really did what I perceived it should be doing. It seemed like everyone but me could effortlessly achieve perfectly coiffed, straight hair. But no, mine had to be curly, fly away, rebellious, no matter how much time I spent trying to tame it. If I blew it out to a smooth sheen, in no time at all East Coast humidity would frizz it up again. Not curlers made from coke cans or ironing it or teasing it or applying chemical straighteners made my hair "behave" the way I wanted it to, like the carefree do's of those Georgetown private schoolgirls, and peer pressure made it worse. It was hopeless. Then one day, I suppose I was about 15, waiting in line to buy ice cream, someone behind me tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I was French. I'd seen him before and thought he knew my name, Pasquet, but he didn't. And then he said, "You have French hair!"

It was the first but not last time I'd hear that. As it turned out, French hair was a "thing." A concept. It was unruly, defiant, tousled. A cousin, Mireille, who spoke only French, came to stay with us one summer and I remember watching her daily routine of swiftly piling her thick dark locks atop her head, securing the knot with no more than two pins. As strands tumbled around her barely made-up face, it felt good just looking at her. My siblings, our offspring, relatives on my father's side including an aunt who was a print model for Revlon well into her 40's (we'd come across her photos leafing through glossy magazines at the supermarket checkout), all of us, had this hair. Mine wasn't "strategically disheveled" as in yesterday's Parisienne chart; it did it all by itself. When I moved to Paris for good, so many, I began to notice, had hair just like mine, and like The Ugly Duckling, I thought, maybe I'd been swimming in the wrong lake. BPJ

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"Flat, straight, hair looks like death... The biggest difference [between French hair] is that they are much more into movement than other countries in the world, and they like volume... It doesn't have to be perfect." - David Mallett (See Paris' Most Famous Hairstylist on French Hair - Kathleen Hou 2016 The Cut)

Below: in Cadaqués Spain, 80s




Merci to my beautiful Parisiennes, everywhere.





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