Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Kosovo: Chapter 7, Scene 4 Pretty is as Pretty Does

 I have never been much of a girly girl. I’ve not been one to wear makeup or worry about my hair. I don’t paint my nails or spend money on jewelry. Don’t misunderstand. Like most women, I like to feel good about myself and when Tom was around, I basked in his appreciative nods my way. It’s just that I’m not a beauty salon addict. Never have been.

I used to think my take on beauty stemmed from my mother always saying, “Pretty is as pretty does” and the fact that I was teen during the whole natural look of the seventies movement. The bottom line? I wasn’t out to impress anyone and as long as my husband liked the way I looked, I was fine.

Now I live in Kosovo where women looked like they stepped out of a 1960’s Vogue magazine ad. (Okay, I never actually read Vogue, but I know it is a fashion journal that’s been around forever.) Back to Kosovar women. They are beautiful. They wear makeup and have their nails done. They spend time getting coiffed and groomed and dressing nice. They even wear high heels. Serious high heels.

So when one evening at dinner with some friends, one of my international friends started talking about her hairdresser and about how wonderful he is, I was intrigued. She’s not Kosovar but is a lovely woman. She was singing the praises of this man. Somehow the conversation shifted and I found myself agreeing to go with her one day to “have my hair done.”

I actually didn’t give it a second thought until she texted me to see if Saturday would work for me. 9:30. Saturday. Hair appointment.

I figure I can try anything at least once. Well, nearly anything. Getting my hair done seemed harmless, so I agreed. Maureen picked me up and drove me to the appointment. She knew what she wanted to do. She had a wash and blow dry. I decided since this was my one shot at beauty I’d trust the man in charge to do whatever he thought I needed.

I must have needed a lot. Three hours later I left with my hair cut, colored, and styled. I’ve never had so much fluff in my life. And the color? They talked about highlights.

I already had “natural gray” highlights. I thought maybe he was going to cover those up and give me a bit of a sun-kissed look. Of course in the summer, my hair turns almost red with all the sun and chlorine from the swimming pool.

Would he bring out the red? Even out the brunette undertones? Cover the gray? I’m not sure what he and his helper did, but I left feeling…different.

Having your hair done when you rarely do such a thing takes a bit of getting used to. I passed a mirror and didn’t recognize myself. My mom Skyped me so she could see it. She said she liked it. I love my mom and appreciate her, but I also know I could dye my hair orange and get it styled with spikes all over and she would say it was beautiful. Moms are like that. They see what they want to see.

I toyed with the idea of not going to church on Sunday, sure that I would be a total distraction. I kept telling myself, “It’s only hair. It’ll grow out.” Missing church for such a silly reason seemed ridiculous. I decided it is what it is and I would simply “own it.” And maybe, just maybe, no one would notice.

They noticed. But the nice thing about my church family is they truly live out the notion of being kind to each other. If they laughed, it was quietly to themselves. Some of them actually told me they liked my hair. And one woman said I looked very European. I also realized that by the end of the day I wasn’t as shocked by my own reflection as I had been.

I decided if I could make it through Sunday, I could make it through Monday. School. My colleagues noticed but the comments were positive. This wasn’t going to be so bad after all. Then the bell rang and fourteen of the most honest people I’ve ever known in my life walked into the room.

“No, Miss! What did you do?”

One boy put his hand out as if to stop the blinding glare of my highlighted multicolored hair. He practically screamed. “Agh! Miss! Oh, Miss, no!”

The girls were less shocked. But the boys? Four boys gathered around my desk. I reminded myself to “own it.”

“Yes?” I asked sweetly. I reminded myself this was the same crew that told me to never wear mascara after the Balla. They’re the ones who said they didn’t like my lipstick. I figure they simply don’t like change.

“Miss, why did you do this?”

I looked into their startled faces and tried to explain.

“Well, a friend of mine took me to the hairdresser. It sounded like fun,” I began.

That’s about the time one of the boys brought his hand down hard on my desk. “Miss! You always tell us don’t do things just because a friend tells you to!”

Uh…they had me there. I told them I thought it would be an interesting experience. I promised I wasn’t talked into anything.

Will I do it again? I don’t know. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the opportunity to explore this new European side of me. As long as I never forget those words of wisdom my mother offered me. “Pretty is as pretty does.” It is the only truth I can bank on. Well, that and the unfiltered comments of fourth graders.

Join me in Kosova (the Albanian pronunciation for Kosovo) in Southeastern Europe. Each week I share my experiences. Leave your comments and questions below. I’ll try to address each as best I can. And if you don't want to miss a post, simply add your email address in the box on the right where it says "Follow by email." 

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