Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hairdresser Appreciation Day

The first person I told about my love affair was Jeffrie, my hairdresser.

Jeffrie was 250 miles away from where I was conducting this secret, inspired affair, so I stopped everything, found a note card in a corner market, and wrote him.

Jeffrie. Thank you for the gorgeous haircut. I’m in NYC — just went to a Fifth Avenue gallery opening — and everybody had great hair. I want you to know that mine’s better. But, oops, it’s getting a bit roughed up at the moment. Wait! Yes! It still looks great! More later.

If context is needed, here it is: My mother, upon giving birth to me, took one look and screamed. “Good god. I’ve delivered an ape.” It was the only time she ever fainted.

I come from a family where hair has a mind of its own. It’s more untamed mascot than crowning glory. Hair billows from our heads at the rate of an inch a month. It explodes up and out and not so much down. The hair goes in all directions like … well … like nothing else, though tornadoes and grizzly bears come to mind. We could smother a lover with a toss of our head. The Padilla elders, therefore, had no choice. They seized one of the daughters, smuggled her out of her college dorm, and forced her into hairdressing school. She was installed in a special room they added onto the garage and put in charge of Padilla hair. My mother drove me there on Saturdays and said: Do something. My resentful aunt threw scissors into the maelstrom and we Padillas got one version or another of the family shearcut.

Jeffrie, though, never flinched when I walked into his salon after an especially bad drubbing on Boston’s renowned and pricy hairdresser row — Newbury Street, of all places. “I can make you look prettier,” he said. I loved his attitude and I loved the thousand layers that seemed to say to my Padilla hair: I see your inner beauty. But you must comply.

My mother, upon giving birth to me,
took one look and screamed.
“Good god. I’ve delivered an ape.”
It was the only time she ever fainted.

I tended to Jeffrie like I would an African violet or a slow-stirred risotto — dutifully and with great regard. I made a habit of searching high and low for the best birthday card on the face of the Earth. I did this once a year for one person only: The man who knew how to cut my hair. He got 20 percent tips, even if he was the salon owner. He got my best stories. He got all the praise I could muster. He got 100 percent of my loyalty.

Well. The love affair moved from secret to out-in-the-open to cohabitation. During this three-year period of the total destruction of my old life and the slow and scary restructuring of a new life, I realized: Rae, you can no longer afford to make trips of 250 miles just to get your roots touched up or your bangs trimmed. You are going to have to find another Jeffrie.

Women. Believe me, I know the score. I’m a submissive in the Padilla school of hair control, otherwise known as complete and total annihilation of hair. Hair style, in my lexicon, didn’t exist before Jeffrie.

I thought there could be no other Jeffrie. Women have their Jonathans and their Suzanne’s and their Paulo’s. I had my Jeffrie. These are constants, like breath or chocolate or William Shatner. Pardon me. Hasn’t there always been William Shatner?

And there must always be Jeffrie. Unless you quit your job and move in with your lover 5 hours by trains south of Jeffrie’s salon beside a not-so-great sub shop.

After more than a year of transitional haircuts of all sorts, I’ve come to a state of peace with my newest hairdresser, a true artist named Lam. He is a sculptor of hair. He cuts three dimensionally, surrounding his client with mirrors and checking all angles as he works.

When I first began to talk with Jim about quitting my job and living on less, he asked me what expenses I thought I’d have. I didn’t say mortgage payment or car insurance, I said Jeffrie.

We all need the help of a few others to live our best, most accomplished life. I need an editor. A handful of amazing friends. My lover. My daughter.

And I need my hairdresser, the person who takes a look at me and says, “I see you as you want to be seen. I get it. I’m investing my effort, my reputation, all my considerable talents in you. Toss that head of yours. Go ahead. Forget yourself. I’ve got your back.”

Friday, October 22, 2010

Book Rave: "Better Than I Ever Expected"

I am pretty sure that none of Joan Price’s books should ever go out of print (she writes about fitness and sexuality), but the one I value most right now is “Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex after Sixty.” I am her audience and I love the way she talks to me. She’s heartfelt, smart, caring and she knows herself and her subject extremely well. I wish everyone could own a copy of this book and I’ll explain why.

First -- “Better Than I Ever Expected” was published in 2006. I should add that Seal Press also published my book “Free Fall: A Late-in-Life Love Affair” and I admire this publisher very much. My enthusiasm shows but, the way I look at it, we owe it to the world to share good and worthy things.

What man who wants good sex wouldn’t read this
from cover to cover and then send Joan
a thank you note, chocolates and flowers?

Joan’s topics in “Better Than I Expected” include dating, “sexually seasoned women,” our bodies, fitness and exercise, sex as we age, sex toys and solo sex, ways to spice up your relationship, resources, lovemaking strategies (“stoking the fire”). And more.

Joan’s book is supposed to be about sex after 60, but a good deal of what Joan talks about has value no matter your age. If you think about sex and wish you knew more, if you value your sexuality and want some kind of orientation as to where you stand among your peers, or if you would love a little nudge to help you act on your sexuality a little more assertively, then log onto Amazon.com right now and order this book. Joan’s insights and her research will supply you with important support, grounding and knowledge. She writes from her own experience and from the point of view of the many people — regular folks and experts in the field — she’s interviewed for this book.

“Better Than I Ever Expected” is also a fun and engrossing read. Once you have it in hand, you’re not going to be able to put it down.

The day that Robert walked into my line-dance class, my hormones thought they were twenty years old again. His smile, fit body, and grace of movement caught my eye immediately.

Then, when he started to dance, his years of tap, modern dance, and ballet training were revealed in every movement, and I was lost at sea. His nimble feet, muscled thighs, and sensually mobile hips commanded my attention. I wanted to touch the inviting curl of chest hair that peeked through the open top buttons of his shirt. I met his dazzling blue eyes and pretended to breathe. For the rest of the evening, I kept losing my place in the dance I was teaching because I couldn’t take my eyes off him.

Robert kept coming to class and danced into my heart.

And though Seal Press’s amazing books are for women and by women, I highly recommend that men interested in good hot sex pick this up. It’s a treasure trove. There’s a wealth of information here, but also, there’s a smart and well-informed woman who knows herself well explaining sexuality, physicality and sensuality from a woman’s point of view. What man who wants good sex wouldn’t read this from cover to cover and then send Joan a thank you note, chocolates and flowers?

I love books. I am quite happy when I have a book in my lap and a cup of tea or a glass of wine at my side. This is my comfort zone but it’s also a lively place of great discovery, adventure and entertainment. Naturally I think that books that have been out a few years — be it “Moby-Dick” or “Better Than I Expected” — retain and often increase in value. Joan has a new book coming out in the spring of 2011 and I’m excited for her and for her readers. But I hope no one loses sight of what we already have in hand.