Monday, January 14, 2008

Slow Hair

Bored with my book while sitting in the chair at the parruchieri, my roots glopped with color, the dry parts resembling the results of electrical shock, I looked around and decided that no place better exemplifies the idea of being all things to all people than the small town hairdresser.

The other thing that struck me is that, though I was going to spend the next two hours sitting in this chair, I wasn't stressed about it. I've come to terms with the concept that, along with Slow Food and Slow Cities, there is also Slow Hair. This is bringing me ever closer to the nirvana of Slow Life, something heretofore nigh onto impossible for a Type A to achieve.

On the one hand, Maximiliano, the young salon owner, is cutting edge, with his dark spiky hair, vintage jacket, and sleek, comtemporary salon. Francesca and Alessia, his assistants, have the smooth, long hair of all the young-somethings; Alessia's asymetrically cut fringe gives her a devilish look. Yet, they offer some concessions -- soft rock on the radio and a line of old-fashioned hair dryers along the side wall -- that go beyond the narrowly targeted consumer the big city salons cater to.

When I came in today for my monthly top up, Francesca, the blond one, was busying setting rollers into the hair of a lady well into her eighties. . . or nineties. They were chatting away together, as if they actually had something to talk about. Someone else came in, a woman about sixty years younger than the other customer, and Francesca had plenty to say to her, too. I've seen young mothers in here, bringing little ones for their first haircuts, as well as wizened old men and young bucks. Espressos are passed around, along with local gossip.

Maximiliano is an artiste; paying attention to every individual hair as he cuts. This requires a certain investment in time from his clients, but we have plenty to spend. This week, as always, he asked about my mother, who came for a hairdo last October. I said she was back in Virginia and that she worked on her computer far into the night, which I thought was pretty spiffy for an 83 year old.

"It's not possible she is over eighty!" he exclaimed, calling over Alessia and Francesca, who nodded in agreement, "We thought she was much younger. Complimenti!" They should know, as they seem to do the hair of all the octogenarians in town.

In San Terenziano, there are two hairdressers: Maximiliano has one salon and his mother has the other one. In a big city like Rome, he would probably be going after the young hip demographic, while she would take all the over-50s. Here, we are fortunate to have a kind of Umbrian version of Steel Magnolias. The decor and the haircuts are better by far, but the down home atmosphere is the same. Speaking as a Southern girl, I surely do like it.
copyright Sharri Whiting Umbria Bella 2008

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