Several years ago a French friend living in California told me that French women don’t dye their hair. “Why should they?” she asserted.
“Really!” my tone of voice demurring. I wondered what fortunate combinations in the French gene pool kept Catherine Deneuve’s tresses, among others, from turning gray.
When we stopped in Paris on our way to Rome, I spent hours just walking, mostly in the fifth, sixth, and seventh arrondissements on the left bank and across the river in the eighth. On the streets and in the shops were the same impeccably dressed French women and men that I always see in Paris, going about their day with that characteristically “take command” air that only the French can have. No one smiles. Greetings are terse, “Bonjour Mesdames.” “Avoir Mesdames.” Nothing more.
I understand them. They are busy people who must overcome harrowing commutes, crazy labor laws, and irritating physical maladies, not to mention the trials and tribulations of the office politique. Perhaps they have spent hours fighting the traffic on the Périphérique, that impossibly congested ring road that circles Paris. Perhaps they have been derailed by a grève spontanée on their way into the City from their more affordable banlieues and more distant towns. Perhaps they have commuted by train from Lyon like a woman I once met who commuted every day between the two cities. Even the speed-of-light TGV takes more than two hours to make that trip. Perhaps a taxi has just muddied their shoes as it sped by or the latest office intrigue weighs on their minds. Certainly, they are suffering some kind of malady as every good French citizen must. It could be sinus congestion, headache, or strange pains in their extremities. It’s all part of the French national character. Take charge, suffer through, but look good.
One afternoon during one of my jaunts to nowhere, I suddenly became aware of several sightings of gray-haired women. In their forties and fifties, they were perfectly coifed wearing some variation of a bob haircut, some with bangs, some without; some longer in length, some shorter. They were the epitome of elegance as they propelled themselves like silver missiles down the street.
Why I noticed them, I am not sure. Something must have just clicked in my “rolodex” of a mind bringing me back to my friend’s comment years earlier. And, while in theory she may have had a point. What I can assuredly say is that these silver heads were born, not in nature, but in the bottle. Let’s face it. The French may be perfect in many things, but no one naturally gets such an impeccable silver color, so even, so brilliant, so perfect, not even the French.
All original content copyright 2008 Mary E. Slocum