Friday, February 05, 2010



It was May 2006, and I was trying to make some sense of my hair in front of the mirror in a tiny Paris bathroom. I wanted to get to the Picasso museum before noon without my coiffure looking like a subject of Cubism.

Thankfully I don't have to contend with my hair frizz routine on a daily basis and only wash it every three or four days. Once I blow dry and flatten it with irons (one round, one flat) it's good until the next wash - smooth and shiny. The infrequency of hair maintenance is handy while traveling, like staying in Paris for a week. Of course hair presentability may not be of much importance on a camping trip to Tahquamenon Falls in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, but I am not about to step foot onto the rue de Rivoli under a frizzy mushroom cap.

So, even though I don't have to torture myself often in the hair ritual, when I do, it is no Parisian bonbon to contend with my bird's nest in a foreign country. The voltage difference is fine for hairdryers since you can go from 110 to 220 with a turn of a switch and an outlet adapter. As for the iron, for the longest time I wasn't willing to lay out beaucoups euros for a European flat iron (last time in Ireland the price had come way down, and I bought one - vive la difference!), and so I was stuck blowing my hair out smooth - a skill I have never mastered. I have carpal tunnel syndrome for one thing, and a lot of hair for another. Standing at the mirror, arms up, holding an unwieldy dryer in one hand and a round brush in the other without tangling the frizz into a rat's nest for 30 minutes is enough to make me want to take a trip to the guillotine.

I hear you mutter that I should just let my hair do its natural thing. After all, aren't I Madame Nature Lover here on the farm? How inconsistent! How vain!

How true.

I imagine what you're imagining. A skull covered by luxurious curls and waves. A romantic maiden's locks you want to run your fingers through. Robert Graves' White Goddess bounding through the meadow, birds mimicking her flowing mane with graceful wings.

Wrong. Nada. Nilch. When I was a teenager, yes I confess my hair was to be envied. Long, wavy and lots of it. But toward the mid-centurion mark, as the face began to sag and languish, a desire for a maturely sophisticated do cropped it gradually until it is now chin length. Easy, right? Wrong again.

My hair is . . . complex. It is my supreme desire to homogenize it. To smooth out its complexities. The under, or bottom, third is hair to die for - thick and with body. The middle third is a little wavier, still fine. The top third, at the crown, is something on the order of Hermione Granger post-magic spell gone haywire.

You see, consistent with my hair, I am a complex person. And while I may value diversity of many kinds and in certain arenas, au naturale isn't acceptable to me here. I just wanna be pretty. Some people's frizz is fetching! Mine is wretching.

This spring's Paris fashion shows brought on the frizz! Some fetching, some, well, let's just say that this is the year I should walk Paris avenues au naturele and be the bomb!

Ohh I love looking at Haute Couture. I only got as far as Jean Paul Gaultier's rockin' runway show with soft Asian rhythms in the background. I still need to watch the rest. His models clearly had good Paris hair solutions: braids and hats (even if some of them are a wee bit mogul-ish). He doesn't need hair frizz to dramatize nothin'. Haute Couture is Art, that's it. Gliding, flowing, fluid, human body art. - -

Picasso's Woman, Collection of Mrs. John Baker


California Girl said...

I have never seen that Picasso. It's a treat to see a new one and so colorful!

Hair? I think it is 3/4 of one's looks no matter the age. If the hair looks good, you can minimalize the rest and look good. I spend about $75-$100 every 6 wks on mine: the 2-3 colors and the cut. I told my husband I'll give up everything else, even eating, before I give up on my hair. Why?

Because I'm worth it!

VioletSky said...

Frizzy hair is NEVER a good look.
I understand your dilemma.
Every now and then the goddesses are in a good mood and my hair will stay with the same look for days. Most of the time though, they are fickle and my hair changes from straight, to frizzy to curly to kinky to unruly then back to straight, sometimes within 48 hours.

Susan said...

You ARE da Bomb, Ruthie! Frizz or no frizz! Gosh, I was hoping I would see at least one pic of you au naturale. But I'm glad for you that you've managed to tame "the beast"!

Those runway models are something else, aren't they? I love the palm (or whatever) bag that the flowery one is carrying! Now what exactly would one put in that bag? Seedlings? Houseplants? Your stash of cannabis? :D

margie said...

ruth, this is my favourite post ever of yours. i too obsess about my hair. vain yes, time consuming, you bet but i don't care. i do and always will fuss with the do.

CottageGirl said...

Hair really is the crowning glory, isn't it? I used to spend a lot of time and money on it. Like you, as I get older, the hair is changing and I long for the thick, albeit, straight tresses of my youth.
It is interesting to see what the creatures of the haute couture reinvent!
As a complex intelligent woman, you would give Picasso a run for his money!

Love the thread!

Peter said...

(I just came back from the hairdresser.)

Missing the photos of you with hair before and after!

I can admit that I like to look at fashion shows (however never invited)! Some of them are pure art, and this is certainly the case of JP Gaultier's! (Missing Lacroix this year, hope he somehow will be able to come back.)
However, one thing I never understood, is why the models have to so seriously cross their legs.

Bella Rum said...

Hair! It is truly the dilemma of or gender. Men will never know, will they? In the eighties, big, curly hair was IN. I permed mine and loved it for a while.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Well... I suppose we always want what we don't have. Being a girl with super duper straight hair, I have always rather envied a bit of frizz. Until I hear about the irons, though. I never even use a blow dryer! Which does make European travel easier, I must say.

dutchbaby said...

Thank you so much for this post. Gaultier is a genius. I will be using this fashion show as inspiration for a competition I'm entering later this spring.

The grass is always greener... My hair is bone straight and I used to perm it tight in the 80's, then I moved to a soft wave, but now I wear it straight and have to use the curling iron just to get it to gently bend at the ends. A tiny bit of natural wave would be so handy.

Sandy said...

I always wanted frizz and curls, but I got straight. Enjoyed the post.

lesleyanne said...

very inspiring post! i love your hair. And I TOTALLY agree about doing hair with a hair dryer, i have never mastered it either. Isn't the Wen helping with that?

Jeanie said...

Ha! Enormously huge, big HA! I LOVE this post, moi of the big hair look, whether I like it or not! True story -- when I had long hair (the kind where you sat under the hood for four hours with it on juice cans to dry) -- not a tremendously long period in my life -- I once played a witch in a skit. Did I get a wig? Did I foof it up? No, I just blew it dry. I swear it nearly touched both sides of the door jamb. Even now, yikes!

So, HA! And bravo, Paris -- maybe I can return now and be in vogue! (from the neck up!)

Vagabonde said...

I wish I could see your hair. Could you take a picture of the back of your head, or the side like I did? The only time my hair behaved was when I lived in San Francisco; I let it grow to my waist and made a big braid sometimes. My husband used to place flowers in it when we walked through the Haight and Ashbury streets – that dates me.

lovely you said...

I love that Picasso!

I am clueless about hair styling. I have straight hair which I do absolutely nothing to/with, but sometimes I wish I had curly hair. The grass is always greener.

I, too, wanted to see pictures of YOUR hair. Come on, Ruth! Before & After!!

Babs-beetle said...

I was also expecting a photo of your hair - untamed.

My hair is very straight and I spent most of my life giving it a bit of bounce (careful not to actually curl it) with heated tongs. Lets not forget the 70's perms!

Sidney said...

Hehehe.... you should have posted your haircut on your blog !
Nice blog post ! Make my day !

Susan said...

All I ask is that my hair doesn't fall out.

freefalling said...

How do you feel about bald?
I dream about it.
One day, I may even have the courage to do it.
I have super straight hair ( I attribute it to my 1/16 chinese heritage).
While my friends and sisters-in-law were busy ironing their hair - I never got it - I must say I'm grateful to get the smooth look without much effort.
Still, I'm really looking forward to the day bald is de rigueur and you can have a cupboard full of wigs. A different look for whatever mood takes you.
Wouldn't that be brilliant?

Deborah said...

This was a very entertaining post, Ruth! I figure that 98% of us wish there was something different about our hair and the straights and curlies will forever wish they were the other.
My very fine hair used to be permed to give it some volume. Sometimes this even looked OK, depending on what was trendy for style at the time. However, I ended up with a blonde Afro a few times and my last ever experience 15 years ago - the one that made me go cold turkey - was near-nuclear devastation. The first perm solution didn't take all that well, so the next day I went back and had it done over again. Frizz? Yeah, I get you. Lucky for me, it was history after the 8 or so months it took to grow out/be cut off.
But I do envy you the fact that you can sleep on your hair and not have to do it all over again in the morning.
This was a really fun post and comments to read!

Shari Sunday said...

Really funny post. I, too, vote for a before and after picture. All the pictures I have seen of you were very pretty, though at the wedding you did mention having to use a lot of hair potions because of the rain. I loved the fashion show video, the music, the jungle feel. I especially liked the little clutch bag that looked like a folded banana leaf.

Annie said...

Love the images and styles! I used to have an enviable (and difficult, tangled) hair too but after two pregnancies and breastfeeding it's not so thick anymore. But it's still long and I'm never gonna cut it short anymore. Hopefully I will get back into my old shape when this sleep deprivation is over...

shicat said...

Hi Ruth, Summer is the best time for my hair. That is when it gets really unruly and wild,my preference. Winter is a challenge my hair turns to friz too. It's just to dry not enough humidity. Actually I'm holding out for the big hair of the 80's to return:)

gemma said...

When I was in Ireland I had "Presbyterian Hair" just like
Frank McCourt did in Angela's Ashes.
love haute Coutre it is ART!
also hooked on designer show
Project Runway
Meanwhile I'm wearing my comfy jeans
and fluffy sweater.
Have a great weekend.

Barry said...

Judging by the number of complaints I hear coming from her, my wife has the same difficulties with her hair that you do.

Mine has recently been no problem at all. lol

Ruth said...

To tell you the god's honest truth, California Girl, I cannot be certain this is really a Picasso. Note that I did not really SAY it's a Picasso, I only implied it. And my footnote calls it "Picasso's Woman" just as the web site where I found it did. I could not find image anywhere else with any provenance or assurance that it is one of our dear Pablo's women.

That said, you and your beauty are worth what you give someone who badly needs a job and likes refreshing your locks for the next go-round. Here's to supporting the industry of beauty!

Ruth said...

Violetski, I can fight and win the morning battle, and then in the summer months take a walk across campus and the humidity undoes my handywork. I've tried to come up with alternatives for summer, but I'm never as happy. I think a babushka might be a good choice.

Ruth said...

Susie, you're such a good friend. But if you saw me in my goofball Hermione do you'd giggle. Maybe that would be a good thing, eh?

Or Don could use the palm weave bag for his eggs, or you could. Do you think it would be strong enough?

Ruth said...

Margie, what a surprise, this is your favorite, eh? Thank you, thank you. I confess I am happy to know you obsess about your hair as well, I feel much better about myself.

I am sure you will be gloriously radiant all weekend as you support your Saints and celebrate your birthday Monday! Yippee skippee, Happy Birthday to you!

Ruth said...

CottageGirl, I used to resist Haute Couture thinking it was just silliness. I still kind of laugh at it, but sometimes I just ogle and ogle and drool and seriously enjoy the beauty. Well, every year I confess I can't wait to see the shows. I used to design and sew outfits for my Barbie dolls after all. And then Lesley's.

Ruth said...

Peter, I know you and others are curious, but I just can't let you see the before. Then I'd have to do to you what they do to people who have seen too much or been privy to too much information.

I agree about the too serious leg crossing, hahahaha. Ridiculous! I hear that once in a while a model has a serious accident on those runways. Given the shoes, how they walk at all, let alone with such serious crossovers, is a wonder.

Ruth said...

Bella, shhh, I'm just talking to you, so no men can hear. Those men love love love long hair, right? And they just don't know how much work it is sometimes. Most of them step out of the shower and swipe a towel across theirs.

Unbelievably, after Peter was born, my body chemistry changed so much that my hair actually went almost straight, and I got a perm. That was in the early eighties.

Ruth said...

Pamela, I envy you that ease. But really, I don't mind my little ritual too much at home. I feel fortunate to have some wave and body.

Ruth said...

Dutchbaby, I know that ultra straight hair is also a source of difficulty, I do.

Now you've hooked me on the competition. I'm guessing something F L O R A L.

Ruth said...

Sandy, remember Carole King? My hair was like hers. It was fine in the 70s. Then I had babies and it got all mixed up, bless their hearts.

Ruth said...

Wesrey, you are soooo fortunate to have gorgeous wavy hair that you don't have to do a thing to. Wen makes my hair healthier, but it still gets frizzy if I don't straighten it. But Aveda's Brilliant styling creme has made a HUGE difference in humidity. Yay!

I wish I had the wedding stylist every time I wash my hair. :|

Ruth said...

Jeanie, we should go back to Paris this summer! And go without dryers or irons. Oui?

And you as the witch, funny. You have some gorgeous curls, Lady, and have since you were a little girl, I've seen those pictures.

shoreacres said...

Non, non.. you are le bombe, non?

I've tried to make myself care about fashion, runways, haute couture and all that, but I seem to be missing a gene. Ah, well.

The last time I was in a professional salon was 20 years ago. I came out looking like Sinead O'Connor and cried for three days. I learned to cut my own hair, and haven't been back.
My luck is that nothing more is needed than a hair dryer and a round brush to fluff what a friend calls my "cruising hair" - just enough body and slight wave to make things good. Humidity's my friend ;-)

When I was a child, my mother obsessed over my hair. I have pictures of me with those long pipe curls. Good gosh.

I do love the Picasso woman, faux or not!

And by the way, I finally got my newest posted last night. It has photos, so I needed captions and such. By the time I got done all I could think about was how long you had to spend on your previous post. That was no "let's get this done tonight" project ;-) And we appreciate it.

Ruth said...

Vagabonde, you have very pretty waves, I love your hair. It seems to be that way all over, unlike mine that is like that in the front where my bangs are and around the top layer.

Oh Haight-Ashbury. We watched "Milk" last night and reminisced about those days of the 60s, but the 70s were full of turmoil for the gay rights movement. So, Vagabonde, you were a flower child. I didn't know you've been in the U.S. that long!

Ruth said...

Lovely (may I call you Tracy?), you look very beautiful in your profile pic, and your hair looks like those shiny manes they show in shampoo commercials.

I don't let anyone see me in my natural hair - well just Don, after a shower before I style it, poor man. He still claims to love me.

Ruth said...

Babs dear, sounds like you are free of the fuss now, good on you!

I actually had an 80s perm, after Peter was born and my body chemistry shifted all around and gave me straight-ish hair for a season.

Ruth said...

Sidney, looks like a lot of you are curious how my hair looks. Just imagine Hermione Granger after a bad magic spell if you've seen Harry Potter, and you'll have it about right. I think you've seen my after do on Facebook. :)

Ruth said...

Susan, ha!

Oh said...

Wavy, full, curly (and yes, even frizz) is oft the envy of us with straight-locks. Make that "stick straight." While you are working away at smoothing it all out, I am standing in front of my mirror with round brushes, styling aids and the blow dryer trying to put some "volume" and yes, some hint of curl into my hair. And it is a daily battle. One I take up every morning, ready to win!

This entry is the perfect entry for me to find today as I procrastinate in regard to finishing two due deadlines because am fixated on hair and what to wear when we head to the airport later to fetch some family!

I adore looking at fashion. AS a reward, later, I will check out the runway show you mentioned.

The cure for my hair when we'd go Paris? I got it cut and styled there. Et voila - success.
Not so easy here in the midwest. It's a different energy, a different look here. (oh yeah, and the age factor!!!!)

loved this.

J.G. said...

I think the real question is, why do we always want the hair we don't have? Solve that one, and the meaning of life should come easy.

As for me, I have good texture and color, but I am constantly dissatisfied with the length. Short looks good on me, but I hanker for longer, which soon becomes messy and too much trouble, so I go short again, and then immediately start growing it out. Sigh.

Ruth said...

Letty, Letty, Letty. I confess to you that I would go natural before I go bald. I know I could still hide behind a wig, but wouldn't that feel heavy and hot? Imagine those Australian summers. Well I guess you could just whip the wig off and cool down.

Did you ever see this picture Don took of me in Dublin?

Ruth said...

Deborah, your new shorter pixie haircut is very cute and perfect for France. I love the color too.

Truth is no one does anything completely naturally, right? I mean, we do wear clothes. Some men shave. Most people cut their hair at some point. We get to do what we want to do to some degree, but we have certain societal constraints that dictate the parameters. The way I see it, there's no right and wrong here. That's what feminism won for us: we get to decide how we want to be as women.

Ruth said...

Shari, I see that I have a power to make you and others curious about what my hair actually looks like. Please just imagine frizz, inconsistent frizz where some is frizzy, some is straightish, some is wavy. Maybe I should just grow it back out the way it was - all one length, long, let it go mousy grey, and live with it. But I don't wanna.

I think a fashion show would be great fun to create. Pick a theme and let it explode to extremes, but just the right amount, to make people love it. I remember one designer who had a faun woodsy theme and all the models wore fake eyelashes that were about an inch and a half long, they all looked like Bambi - and I have to say, it was kind of cool. I remembered it!

Ruth said...

Annie, pregnancy changes a woman's body and chemistry in profound ways. My mother came home from her OB-GYN (obstetrician-gynecologist) appointment once and had learned that it takes a woman's body 7 years to recover from pregnancy. She had 8 babies, so it would have taken 56 years to recover, and at the time she was about that age, having spent 14 years of them having babies. Clearly, she was never going to fully "recover"! But yes, the hair changes a lot. Mine is thinner now too.

I hope you can find just the right regimen for feeling great and balanced. If you are a well watered garden, your children will be well nurtured.

Ruth said...

Cathy m'dear, my hairdresser complains that I don't deep condition my hair enough. Oh that reminds me, I should do it today. Since I color my hair, it does get dry and brittle too. My goodness, all this processing to be beautiful.

Ruth said...

Gemma, from the context I'm guessing Pres hair is poofy? :)

Comfy jeans fluffy sweater, tres chic for a sweet artist.

Ruth said...

Oh Barry, I was interested that you had posted about your hair and shaving at the same time I was posting this. Nothing like chemo to make a person be happy for any hair they have. Like I said at your post, I'm guessing when yours comes back, it could be very different than before, and won't it be fun to grow it out! And maybe grow a thick beard again?

Ruth said...

Linda, the way I see it, thank goodness we don't all have the same genes, passions, desires! I think one of the best evolutions of the past few decades is how much more sensible "fashion" has gotten in stores. We can wear whatever shape pants, skirts, whatever length, WHATEVER we want and it's fine. I remember the days when the only length skirt available was mini, or at least above the knee. Now, we can choose according to our body shape.

When I tried to squeeze haute couture into a sensible clothing context, it was utterly ridiculous. When I let that go at last and just appreciated it as Art, then my gratitude for it grew.

Thank you so much for appreciating the time it took me to do the Rosa post. After a week's work nonstop in my off hours, my shoulder and wrist felt that they would fall off - or at least I wanted them to. And every time Don read a draft and suggested a change, I had to redo the image of text. I finally just wrote the text and made the final images after his final go-ahead. :)

I love your current post on Ansel Adams. It really got me going again about the art of the snapshot, street photography, normal everyday life.

Ruth said...

Yes yes Oh, I was thinking this same thing, it would be lovely just to go to a Parisian salon and just let them do it! I don't know why I never did that. Well, probably because I was intimidated - I was alone, don't know French well enough, and truthfully I'm intimidated by that je ne sais quoi that French women have and I don't. Kind of like not wanting some woman to come clean my house, like I should clean it first.

Ruth said...

J.G., I know that one. Do you ever look at old photos of yourself and think either - what was I thinking, or - I want that again?

So yes, the supreme question remains: why do we want what is not ours? I remember reading a wonderful poem of Shaista's found here:

It Is The
Great Achievement
Of My Life
That No One Else
Can Tell
When I Am In Heaven
When I Am In Hell.

Ginnie said...

The thing that still shocks me, Ruth, every time I read something about your hair like this, is it never OCCURS to me that it's nothing but natural whenever I see you. You do a great job of disguising your issue!"

rauf said...

i had to pick up my cousin coming from the US and put her on a train to Mysore. At our crowded railway station she opened her humongous suit case and i turned nervous, she took out a coffee maker, said rauf i brought this for you. i got angry with her instead of being thankful. i said this is 110. What is 110 she asked. i said never mind, i already have a coffee maker and i never use it, please give it to your other cousins. She said no one loves coffee like you do. i blinked.

A lady went to an automobile spares shop and asked for a 710 cap. The salesman asked what is a 710 cap ? she said its right on the engine. Which car ? Buick she said. How big is it ? She said its about 3 and a half inches. Can you give us a sketch ? Sure i can. She drew a circle and wrote 710 on it. The salesman showed her the inverted sketch. 710 inverted is OIL.

Arshi's brother brought her a hair straightening iorn from US it was 110. We went out looking for an adapter for it. That was the first time i came to know that hair can be straightened. Nancy never comes out of her room before straightening her hair. One day i took her pictures with wavy fluffy hair and tried to convince her that wavy hair looks better. no they don't listen.

Ruth said...

Well Boots that's just about the perfect thing for a sister to say! :D

rauf said...

Mic testing Haalo Haalo one two three four Haalo Haalo

its working Ruth. i can hear it.

i have to type WHINCHI on word verification.

i putees da comment again. is alreddy there.


i had to pick up my cousin coming from the US and put her on a train to Mysore. At our crowded railway station she opened her humongous suit case and i turned nervous, (bikkas crooks would be after her seein ting in her sooscate and she was traveling alone ) added dis

she took out a coffee maker, said rauf i brought this for you. i got angry with her instead of being thankful. i said this is 110. What is 110 she asked. i said never mind, i already have a coffee maker and i never use it, please give it to your other cousins. She said no one loves coffee like you do. i blinked.

A lady went to an automobile spares shop and asked for a 710 cap. The salesman asked what is a 710 cap ? she said its right on the engine. Which car ? Buick she said. How big is it ? She said its about 3 and a half inches. Can you give us a sketch ? Sure i can. She drew a circle and wrote 710 on it. The salesman showed her the inverted sketch. 710 inverted is OIL.

Arshi's brother brought her a hair straightening iorn from US it was 110. We went out looking for an adapter for it. That was the first time i came to know that hair can be straightened. Nancy never comes out of her room before straightening her hair. One day i took her pictures with wavy fluffy hair and tried to convince her that wavy hair looks better. no they don't listen.

Ruth said...

Oh dear, rauf, it is there. Where was it before? Now you left it twice because I told you the first time was not there. I so sorry. But I will not remove the second one because a) I like very much the mic testing and b) you said the comment is there and I don't want to make you a liar. Thank you for reposting what I thought was missing, but wasn't.

:D (This is a sheepish toothy smile.)

So, should I respond to the first or second one?


I burned up a hair iron in Paris with Nancy, rauf. And a hotel bedspread too. I had the iron lying on the bed heating up. It was supposed to be a convertible one - not like a convertible top car - it could be switched from 110 to 220. But that little gizmo got very very hot. And it scorched the bedspread - nice V shaped scorch. (I don't think I even offered to pay for it, how terrible.) And the iron was done for, kaput. The heating element just couldn't take all that power.

Did you ever get a shock from 220 current? Well I guess you never got a shock from 110. Duh. 110 feels very different than 220 going through the body. 110 is like a surprise, a pinch, a startling ouchee. But a 220 shock feels like you might be dying of electrocution. It happened to me in Istanbul, I'll never forget it.

Now I want to see Nancy's hair before and after to see if I agree with you. The thing is, maybe nobody could convince us. It's just how it is, we don't like it. We see some ideal self, and that isn't it. Silly, no?

Ruth said...

Oh, and rauf, I LOVE the 710-OIL story.