The Hair Dresser : An Italian Memoir

Now I love it.  Going to the hairdresser.

When I look at my brown roots (yes, my friends, still brown, though I have well passed my fortieth decade!), I get restless.  I have not had my hair colored since July 2020, shortly before my youngest daughter’s wedding. Homebound by this horrible pandemic, I have been watching my hair grow darker by the day, desperately yearning for a trip to the salon.

Yes, I have been been a blonde for 15 years now, and I LOVE IT!

However, going to the hairdresser wasn’t always lovely.  If you have just discovered my blog, I grew up in Italy, Naples specifically, with parents who believed that nicely trimmed short hair and bangs were perfectly appropriate for a little girl.

I grew up in the small city of Portici, next door to the metropolis of Naples.  My mother had a favorite hairdresser, Raffaele, in the area of Capodichino – which was within walking distance of the Naples airport – and she was quite loyal to this  gentle, gray-haired gentleman.  Every three-four months, my father would collect my mother and the three of us in the old blue Fiat 750, even after we moved to the suburb of Portici, and would drive to Naples for our haircuts. 

Mara at 12

Tragedy.  For me.  I dreaded getting my hair cut to mid-ear, with very neat, straight bangs halfway down my forehead. But that is what my parents believed to be the most appropriate hairstyle for a 7 (8-9-10-11) -year-old-girl.  Except that I would have to go back to school, and that hairstyle had not been fashionable since my mother was a little girl.  Of course I didn’t even know that at the time, but I found out later, looking through ancient photos of my mom as a child.

The night before the ‘hairdresser day’ I would practically spend my dreams in nightmares of anxiety and dread.  You know when you must be resigned to a dreary fate, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it, because you are totally powerless?

Not a good place to be, no matter how old. (Okay, so, I often feel that way now, at my mature age, but that’s another story for another blog).

When we arrived at the salon, I was already strained by the, approximately, 20-minutes car trip, suffering from extreme car sickness, exacerbated by the noisy traffic and the smell of gasoline; so I took a deep, nauseated breath, when I was released from the back seat, and braced myself for the scissor attack.

I will admit that my brother had it worse: He would get a harsh crew cut, which my father believed to be ideal for a young boy.  My little sister, well, being the little sister, she was in la-la land, and had no opinion whatsoever about her haircut (like mine, but she had wavy, and more abundant, hair, and could pull it off better than me).

My father – not one who would be hanging around a hair salon – would wave us a cheerful good-bye, and head out to explore the neighborhood, stop for an espresso, and perhaps, walk into the airport and dream of faraway places, adventurous traveler that he was.

A couple of hours later, my mother would emerge, a stunning platinum blonde, a la Marilyn Monroe, with her trail of three bored and resentful children.

I would cry that night, demand that I don’t go to school, express reasonable feelings of temporary anger and hatred, then head to school anyway the morning after, hoping and praying that no one would mention my haircut.  But they did, of course.

My mother Wanda

Well, once I hit 12, my father finally relented, and allowed me to grow my hair to my heart’s content.  I did not cut it again till I was 19.  I sure loved my long, light brown hair.

Well, my dear readers, I couldn’t wait to get back to the salon, in Westchester, NY, these days.

I got my blond back!

Oh yes, Blondes DO have more fun.

(For my mother Wanda, the most beautiful blonde in the world)

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