Maxime is running late. Again.It doesn’t help my overall crankiness. The Universe is smiling down on me and I still find reasons to be cranky – really, what kind of self-possessed bitch have I become?
Sitting in a salon on Rodeo Drive I feel slightly pretentious but if I compare the price of apples at the market and go for the cheaper ones, when it comes to hair and health, I don’t penny pinch. Whenever I move city or country or continent, the hardest relationships to sever are with my doctor and my hairdresser, both painstakingly found through trial and error. Maxime has been in my life for 12 years and I entrust him with my tresses, which he gets to cut once every quarter or so. I love him because he is talented and he loves me because I let him do whatever he feels like.
My crankiness couldn’t possibly last because Maxime is one of those contented people I find soothing to be around and because, how could anyone be in a bad mood when deft and gentle hands are going through your hair? It reminds me of late afternoons spent lying on the couch next to my Mom, gently caressing my hair. I love watching Max cut hair in that French, haphazard way that mysteriously comes together in the end, scissors dancing around, as opposed to the Sassoon’s way, of measuring each strand of hair against its opposite on the other side of the head. People sometimes tell me that baking is a mystery to them – I feel the same way towards hair cutting.
But before Max gets a chance to wipe my crankiness away, his assistant hands me a couple of magazines, in an effort to make me stop glaring at the plump, blonde lady sitting in the chair I am hoping to occupy sooner rather than later. Now, I have an odd relationship with magazines – I never buy them and I seldom pick them up when I come across them. I cherish my subscriptions to the New Yorker and to the now defunct Gourmet and that is as far as my relationship with the glossies goes,. For years I lived with my dearest friend Sue, who has singlehandedly refined the art of magazine reading and I was exposed to everything trendy and new, whether in fashion or travel. Now that Sue lives in Cape Town where international magazines are horribly pricey, she has developed a technique that involves a coffee shop in a mall, the adjacent bookstore and the “borrowing” of the glossies for the lunch hour. I so enjoyed this decoy when I went to visit her a few months ago, that I left South Africa with an overpriced subscription to a home decor mag that comes now and then, when the South African post will oblige, and that has suggestions on how to decorate your porch in December or make soup in July. I didn’t factor the Antipodes when I subscribed. But I am digressing.
Cate Blanchett on the cover of Vogue and my compulsive reading habit push me to flick through the pages, where I come across a story of a journalist who decided to get embedded with the troops in Afghanistan while nearly 4 months pregnant and a piece by the former wife of a Hollywood actor who feels the need to go through her wardrobe post divorce and laments the loss of clothes she will never wear again and the memories they bring up. Somehow I recognize myself in both, seemingly opposed women. Would I be foolish enough to go to a war zone while pregnant? Possibly. Am I shallow enough to have feelings for my clothes? Most likely. A newly acquired friend recently described me as a predictable contradiction and I find it pretty apt. I am reminded of why I love women – we are able to carry the most disparate contradictions with ease and pride, mingling our different personas without any shame.
By the time I leave the salon, the ugly duckling is emerging as a swan. As I drive home along the Pacific Coast Highway, the sun is dipping its feet inside the ocean, partly hidden by a towel of clouds. I have seen many sunsets around the world, but there is a magic to a Los Angeleno sunset that I haven’t found anywhere else. It’s the intensity of the colours, the deep azure of the water, ending in perfect, candid frothy waves. The million shades of orange reflected on the Santa Monica Mountains and on the pastel walls of the Venice buildings. Life is good. Life is really good.