Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Best Hair of 2013

I've turned into something of a "hair stalker." I was blown away by this woman's hair the other day as we were leaving Costco. She was the "door checker person," and maybe she didn't notice me staring in open-mouthed admiration as she checked the contents of our shopping cart against our receipt. Or maybe she did, and is used to it.

"Didn't you love here hair?" I squealed to Dave as we rolled through the dark parking lot.

"Yeah," he said.

Frantically, I started rummaging through my purse. "I do! I've got my camera right here!"

"C'mon. I want to get going."

"Hang on, please? I'll be right back."

Used to my flights of fancy (insanity?), Dave went on ahead to load the car. I hurried back to the bright, cavernous Costco feeling giddy, and found the door checker momentarily free. I caught her eye.

"Excuse me, I absolutely love your hair. That is so awesome. How did you do that?"

She smiled. "My friend did the rows, and then we washed it with the color, and then as it dried I kinda pulled out the top like this," she said, demonstrating. I nearly swooned.

"Can I take a picture?"

She said yes! Isn't it the coolest?

I wish I'd gotten your name, but Costco door checker, you get my vote for the Best Hair of 2013.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Mirrors within mirrors

I wasn't in lockstep on the new Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie like I could have been. I didn't see the movie for a whole week after it was released. Loved it.

But I also had the same eerie experience I did with the first one: as if I was watching mirrors within mirrors. We sit in the theatre, watching the lottery picks from each District slay one another, reacting with adoration and awe just like the Panem spectators. This time, in Catching Fire, the moment Katniss and Peeta rode into the stadium in a chariot, I felt one of those earth-into-space zoom-outs -- what we were seeing on our movie screen was a snapshot glimpse of our own, real-time arena, the "global debut" of these reluctant heroes.

Entertainment reports that in its first weekend alone, Catching Fire was shown overseas in 63 territories, its total worldwide revenues reaching $307.7 million.

Another mirror within a mirror happened in the added scene, not in the book, between President Snow and his granddaughter. Katniss Everdeen is such a phenom in Panem that Snow's granddaughter has taken to wearing her hair in a single braid, just like all her friends in school.

This scene got me wondering if Katniss's hair style is also influencing her adoring movie-watching fans. Certainly, the style and fashion industry is poised to roll out the trend. Here are just a few links:

InStyle (includes hair secrets from the movie set -- did you know? 500 cast members from the movie had their eyebrows bleached!)

The Budget Fashionista - "Danielle Bucco-Regazzi says the hairstyles in [Catching Fire] will influence trends for the next season"

What is Jennifer Lawrence's response? Looks like she doesn't wish to carry that Katniss Everdeen mystique off screen. Ellen DeGeneres claims she's being copied by Lawrence. Judging by these side-by-side images, eh, not so much.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Psst, is that cling wrap?

I admit I've got a bit of the western Pennsyvania bluntness. I remember blushing with shame at things my mother used to say overloud, such as: "It must be hard for her to carry all that weight, poor thing." Or, in the clothing aisle at Kmart, "Just take off your shirt and try this one on. No one's watching."

Recent case in point: Sitting in the salon chair for a cut, I was caught up short by a mirror-glimpse of the woman in the chair behind me. It looked as if her stylist was working on some kind of Halloween costume, adorning her client's hair with spiderweb filigree and some kind of slimy looking film.

"Is that cling wrap?" I said to Jeff, overloud.

Jeff glanced over his shoulder and chuckled. "She's getting balayage. A French technique. It makes the most sense for people with longer hair." (Than mine, he meant. Mine's quite short these days.)

At the next opportunity, I dug my iPad out of my purse and snapped a photo. The girl getting the balayage glared at me, but said nothing. (Good thing my daughter wasn't along to suffer painful embarrassment.)

"So how long have they been doing this balaysia technique?"

Jeff smirked and shook his head. "It's pronounced 'bah - lah - yahge.' I don't know. People do it in part so they don't have a distinct line as the hair grows out."

It turns out the technique isn't all that new, it's just the first time I'd encountered it. A 2011 article in Vogue  goes into more detail about the "balayage effect." It appears it takes three visits, one every six weeks, to get started, so even if it grows out more attractively, it doesn't strike me as a more frugal option than a foil.

The Vogue article introduces yet another term I was unaware of: "ombré hair." More on this technique (also apparently of French derivation, since the verb ombrer refers to shading one color into another) and the difference between ombré and balayage, is found here.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Lady Godiva hair

I have a clear childhood memory of the year the movie Lady Godiva of Coventry, starring Maureen O'Hara, was first shown on TV. I recall among the adults in my family there was a good deal of pre-viewing consternation about letting my brothers and me -- such young, impressionable children -- see a movie about a woman riding naked on horseback through the streets.

Fortunately, in the end we got to watch it. The image of Lady Godiva riding horseback with only her long thick hair to cover her pale body has been as indelibly seared on my memory as the villager who had his eye poked out by a glowing fireplace poker for peeking.

Since my hair was then cropped into a pixie cut, after the film I spent hours in front of the bathroom mirror arranging a yellow terrycloth bath towel around my head to emulate Lady Godiva's tresses.

I was reminded of Lady Godiva this past August when I roomed for a few days on a writing retreat with my friend Jackie. Her incredibly long luxuriant hair was mesmerizing, especially each morning as she brushed and brushed and brushed.

"Do you brush it one hundred times a day or something?" I asked.

Her broad smile betrayed her amusement. "I brush it to take out the tangles."

"Oh ... but don't people, like, want to touch your hair all the time, braid it and do stuff with it?"

She shrugged. "Not really."

"Can I, maybe, take a picture?"

Clearly, being around someone with hair as gorgeous as Lady Godiva's was ten times more thrilling for me than it was for her.

Since then, I've done a little browsing around regarding the story of Lady Godiva. It seems it's a canonized myth that has taken many forms, in Greek myth with the story of Actaeon and Diana, and also in the Arabian nights. At Fairy Tale Origins, it says:
In Arabian Nights there are many tales of maidens riding through the city while the citizens are at mosque or at other times when viewing them results in blindness or death, usually physically dealt out by the women themselves, though occasionally by guards. They are not generally naked though, simply outside of their homes without scarves or headdress to cover their hair and faces. Sometimes they ride like Lady Godiva, to exact a promise from a husband. More generally they ride as a moment of freedom from their home and their husband or father is rich enough to force the entire town to stay indoors to grant them this privilege.
Long live Lady Godiva hair, freedom, and the mysteries of womanhood.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Hair Rage

Earlier this summer, I was joking with friend Laura Lynn about hair, including bad perms.

"Oh, you mean a finger-stuck-in-a-light-socket perm?" she said. "I had one of those. But the worst hair I ever had was something I did on purpose one time, when I was pissed off at my boyfriend."

"What did you do?"

"I cut it all off. I did it the day of the prom. When my boyfriend came to pick me up, I had no hair. Big mistake. The worst. The prom photos were worthless. I had to throw them all away."

"What on earth did he do to make you so mad?"

"Oh, he was the biggest jerk. We'd go out, and he'd stop to pick up his best friend and make me sit in the back. Then he and his buddy would drink and make crude jokes as if I wasn't there. My boyfriend loved long hair and let me know it all the time, so I decided I'd show him and cut it all off. Needless to say, we broke up not long after that. It took my hair forever to grow back."

I didn't get a photo of Laura Lynn, so I offer this photo of a Picasso instead called "Woman in a Fish Hat." Not just the hat, but the prickly hair has always caught my eye. It seems to me this kind of scenario could only come about when someone's having a very bad day.

Monday, July 29, 2013


I went out with my friend Kari and her mother Betty, who just moved to the area to be closer to her daughter. One of the first things they did was look for a hair salon.

"First I took her to that new shop across from the QFC," Kari said. "But the lady cut my mom's ear with a scissors. I couldn't believe it. The stylist didn't even apologize for it. It still bleeds sometimes."

I remembered this incident when I came across a compilation of sayings in Poor Richard's Almanack, which included the following:

"Beware of the young doctor and the old barber."

But my favorite saying about hair was this one:

"Three things are men most likely to be cheated in, a Horse, a Wig, and a Wife."

As I leafed through the Almanack, finding such gems as:

"You may delay, but time will not." and

"Wink at small faults -- remember thou hast great ones." and

"If you'd lose a troublesome Visitor, lend him money." 

it occurred to me that pretty much everything we experience in life can be boiled down to pithy sayings such as these.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

About long hair

Thanks to Katie Hines for contributing this month's hairpisode.

For me, long hair is easy. I wash it, I sometimes brush it, I let it do pretty much what it wants during the day and own whatever it decides. French braiding keeps it off my face but isn't hard on it. I have little twisties from Target that look like springy-bobby pins. They're great - they don't pull my hair out, but keep it tucked up tightly.

Too many people want the hair they don't have. I don't understand why people perm their hair or flat-iron it daily. It's expensive, time-consuming, it's really hard on hair, and you have to re-do it all the time. Blech...no thanks.

Hair is incredibly important for some women and it's definitely a noticeable attribute. Think about times you've described a woman to another person. One of the first things you mention is the way she wears her hair. Some women change their hair all the time and some, like my aunt, have had the same hair-style since the age of 10. (Hers is bad, it's always been bad.)

As for men, my man-friend loves my long hair. One thing I've heard him say many times is, "Men who are attracted to 100-pound women with no hips and short hair don't really like women--they like 12-year-old boys, because that's what they look like." From my experience, men love the long hair. They like to touch it, they like the way if feels when it lightly grazes their skin, and they're always in awe at the cool things you can do with it.

Why it sucks: Long haired people don't shed more than those with short hair, but you notice it more. Since it ends up in my towel when I shower, I have to use two towels so I don't get long hairs stuck to random parts of my body. Sometimes, if my hair is down, an end will get stuck in the top of the back of my pants and tickle my lower back/upper butt. When I pull the offending hair out, it looks like I yanked a 3-foot hair out of my ass. Not cool.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Summer Hair Spins

Me: "Your hair looked nice the other day, when you tied it up."

Vivian: "Everyone made such a big deal out of that."

Me: "If you did it more often,we'd get used to it. The only thing is going to the store, finding the right hair clips."

Vivian: "Have you seen that new DNA hair thingie?"

Me: "DNA thingie?"

Vivian: "Well, it's not called that, exactly, I think it's called a Spin Pin. You stick one in the top and one in the bottom and it holds your hair in a bun."

Me: "Ooo, show me!"

Monday, April 29, 2013

Stylist-less in Seattle

Thanks to Michele Genthon for contributing this month's hairpisode.

The worst part of moving is finding a new hair stylist, but I have developed a failsafe method. Whenever I relocate (something I have done often in adulthood), I search my new community for a woman with a fantastic haircut that matches my style. As soon as I find her, whether in a restaurant, supermarket, department store, or even on the street, I approach her and say, in my most non-threatening voice, “Excuse me, but you have a wonderful haircut. I just moved here and was wondering if you could tell me who cuts your hair?”

The other woman beams and gives me the name and number of her stylist.

This has always worked—until I moved to Seattle. Styles are different in the Northwest, a place conducive to rain, fog and wind, so my search did not yield anyone with a cut like mine. After a fruitless year of searching, I attended a charity auction. One of the items was a “free” haircut with an “acclaimed” hairstylist who would design my hair to suit my face. I bid first and often enough to win.

When I called to make the appointment, the first question the stylist asked was, “How did you hear about me?” I explained about the auction item. He wanted to know where I had purchased it as, “I have several of those floating around,” then proceeded to flaunt his credentials. “I’ve cut some very important people’s hair. I worked in New York and Hollywood. I did Tyra Banks’ hair.”

Why are you in Seattle? I wondered, but the possibility of finding a skilled stylist overcame my trepidation.

“Do you mind coming to my house?” he asked. “It’s easier for me.”

He gave me directions to a sub-basement apartment, where he had converted his kitchen into a “beauty parlor.” As I glanced furtively at the improvised setup, he hastened to show me a picture of himself with Tyra Banks, after he had cut her hair. Then he studied my face and proposed something straight. Straight? With my curls? Excited by the possibility, I agreed.

My new stylist went to work. As he cut, he asked me where I had gotten his name, and I reminded him of the auction item. He whittled, pruned, washed and blew me out, talking nonstop through the whole process, finishing up with a flattening iron.

“Feel it!” he said. “It feels like silk.”

I touched it gingerly. It felt like it was coated with Wesson Oil—but it was straight—and I was thrilled!

When I called for a second appointment, the stylist asked again, “Where did you hear about me?” I reminded him about the auction item and my previous visit. “Oh,” he said.

I returned to the make-shift setup in his apartment, but this time it seemed a bit darker than before, and a woman who was not introduced to me sat on a couch silently watching the two of us. He talked incessantly and I wondered how he could concentrate when his mouth was moving so fast.

Though a bit uneasy about the locale, I was enjoying my new hairdo, so I called for a third appointment. “Where did you hear about me?” the stylist asked. I reminded him that he had cut my hair twice before.

“Oh,” he said. “Well, it would be better for me if you came to the salon where I’m working now. I only work there a few hours a week but I could fit you in.”

Relieved, I agreed. The salon had a big name in town, but the salon interior was disappointing. At one time it might have been as plush as a velvet settee, but now it had the air of a couch whose stuffing was leaking out.

“Where did you hear about me?” the stylist asked as I settled in.

I recounted the story as he began to cut. His movements were slow and he did not say a word. I wondered if his previous gregariousness was not appreciated in this fairly quiet salon. After a few moments, he set down his scissors.

“I’ll be right back,” he said. “I have to go to the restroom.”

My stylist was gone long enough for me to begin to fidget. Finally, he came back, sniffling and rubbing his nose.

“Allergies,” he said, and went back to work.

Now, though, he was as gregarious as ever, whizzing from one topic to another, as he sniffed and rubbed his nose with the back of his hand.. Oh my God! I had seen this in the movies and on television. He was on something! I froze. As the scissors clipped around my head, I sat as motionless as possible, praying he would not cut a chunk out of my hair—or my ear! I didn’t breathe easily until I'd reached my car and locked myself inside.

“You’ve still got straight hair,” my husband noted when I arrived home.

“Yeah,” I said, “but I’m not going back.”

“Why not?”

“Because! The guy was doing coke while he was cutting my hair!”

I went back to the stores and streets of Seattle, searching for a woman with a fantastic haircut, something that would work with curly hair.

Thanks to Liz Clegg who checked my terminology and who gives me a “fantastic” haircut every time.

Michele Genthon writes historical fiction and maintains a blog called Connecting Women.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Hair and old age

I knew my grandmother was old-fashioned. Emma Hoppensack Patterson knew how to tat lace and make large hats with velvet ribbons and feathers. However, since she lived until the venerable age of 96 (she died in 1987), I think of her as a child of the 20th century. (This photo of her was taken around 1920.) It surprises me, therefore, when I come across habits of hers that dated back even further.

For instance, her leather hair curlers. My grandmother used to curl her hair with odd, leather-coated wires like the ones pictured on the left. Even as a child, I realized they were old-fashioned, but I didn't realize they dated back to hair curling methods of the 1800s.

My grandmother set her own hair every week until she couldn't manage it anymore.

"It's getting harder and harder," she confided to me as she neared her 90th year. "I have to hold my hands over my head for so long, my fingers start to cramp. And my strength is going. I can hardly twist the wires."

The other day, my mother-in-law Gen told me how "an older woman's thing is to go have her hair done every week." At first glance, one might consider this ritual a luxury, a way to pamper oneself in old age by letting someone else fuss over your hair.

But then I remember my grandmother, how she struggled to keep going as long as she could, how the weekly salon visits might just be a necessary adjustment to the realities of growing old.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Bangs Cover-Up

Thanks to Arlyene Dews for contributing this month's Hairpisode.
I can shave unwanted hair anywhere else on my body and it grows back. But apparently eyebrow hairs are a different sort.
One early morning, as I was hastily applying makeup, I noticed little stray eyebrow hairs that needed plucking. Rather than take the time to tweeze, I grabbed a razor and made a swipe at the little buggers. Perhaps I didn’t properly calculate the width of the razor, or the path it would take. Anyhow, I ended up eliminating half my eyebrow. It was a swath, actually, like a bald spot left behind by an errant weed whacker.
Worse, the erased eyebrow hairs never grew back. The little strays below the missing half keep coming back, plus a few of the originals, but nothing like the full, thick patch that once defined the arch of my brow. 
I mentioned this phenomenon to my female relatives once when we were talking about eyebrows. (When the rule is don’t discuss politics or religion, there isn’t much else to talk about.) I offered my freak eyebrow incident, and they all looked at me like I had confessed to bathing with a tub full of frogs. Except for my adorable, fashionably hip, 30-year-old niece, who blurted out, “That same thing happened to me!” Did I mention she is adorable?
Which makes me wonder: has this eyebrow faux pas happened to others? Is it something we don’t discuss for fear people will think we've been whacked in the head? Just the other day I read a headline proclaiming Michelle Obama’s new hairstyle with bangs meant she was “going through a mid-life crisis.” I am suspicious of this rationale. In fact, I'm willing to bet Michelle accidentally shaved off one or both eyebrows somehow, and is using the bangs to cover up the mishap. Probably, she believes this is temporary, until her eyebrows grow back. Well, I have news for her…
--Arlyene Dews

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


It's worth getting out of a Sunday afternoon. January 13, on a clear but bitter cold (for Seattle) day, I took public transportation to get downtown. On my way home, heading to the escalator in the Westlake Station bus tunnel, I passed a couple of guys wearing what at first glance looked like shorts. 

"Brave fashion choice," I thought, "when it's this cold out."

The shorts resembled boxers, but I didn't think much about it until I arrived at the light rail platform, where eight or so  people, both guys and girls, sported bare legs, too. Then it hit me: "Whoa, that's underwear. They're not wearing any pants." Some guys wore boxers, others the silky speedo-style underpants. A couple of girls wore matching purple-and-black tiger striped undies. And so on.

Fumbling for my cellphone camera (who wouldn't?), I continued  to Bay D, where more transit riders were stuffing their pants into backpacks.

What might a person wonder at a time like this? Why?!? In the first place, it made no sense, let alone the fact that it was freezing cold out.

By the time the light rail pulled in, close to two dozen people had gathered, pantless, on the light rail platform, all boarding the train as innocently as if they'd been to Sunday church services. 

(For the "why," visit the Seattle P-I photo story, Seattle's No Pants Light Rail Ride, 2013.), which also also offers a crisper picture of the hirsute man pictured here.)

Maybe I'm especially sensitive to hair (do you think?), but one look at the fur on one of the men's legs (pictured at left) made me consider how similar the word "hirsute" is to "hair suit." His body must have been five degrees warmer than any other pantless soul out there that afternoon.

Of course, "hair suit" is not the official origin of hirsute. Merriam-Webster attributes the origin of the word to "Latin hirsutus; akin to Latin horrēre to bristle -- more at HORROR. First Known Use: 1621."

Bristle. Of course, like hair standing on end in fright, or anger. But it strikes me that's not entirely fair. In fact, the cultural prejudice against body hair is getting out of hand. It used to be mainly women who devoted time and energy to body hair removal, but now the guys are getting in on the act, too. And not just in America. Apparently men in India, for whom body hair used to separate the men from the boys, are getting into the act, (Economic Times) which means sales are up for Philips Norelco.

Really? Is this necessary? For a more (ahem) medical perspective, Emily Gibson's column about pubic and body hair in the UK Guardian can be found here.