Salons, Cosmo and Shearers From Hell
Julz World with Julie Symons
It’s a wonder my mirror hasn’t broken in several places. Between the lank duo-coloured hair, the threadbare clothes and
the scuffed shoes, I’m in dire need of an image over-haul – but Geneva is so not the place to do it.
Unless you’re an Arab Sheikh with the budget of a small country, or a model with the body confidence of a, well, model,
Geneva is an intimidating city to re-invent yourself in. Even the grannies have beauty queen figures and perfectly
coiffured hair (usually matching their poodles’, largely because they visit the beauty salon together). If you could
take a stick insect, add a flawless face and clothes from the most recent fashion pages, then remove the comic aspect of
a stick insect dressed like a human, you will have a stereotypical Geneva woman. Beautiful. Rich. Maybe a little hard
looking from the years of tobacco addiction, but then maybe not – the cosmetic counters can do wonders if you have a
fortune to blow.
Okay, so the inspiration is certainly there if you want a new image. You don’t even need to turn to Cosmo – you just
walk down the main street in town with your eyes open and your jaw dropped to the ground in jealous awe. But is beauty,
the outside kind, really so hard to attain?
We’ll start with the hair salon, an institution invented by some cruel, no doubt beautiful, soul with a sick desire to
torture the more aesthetically challenged among us. I find visiting the hairdresser a traumatic enough experience as it
is in New Zealand – surrounded by mirrors and not knowing where to look – but throw in the added terror of a hair
dresser who doesn’t speak the same language and you’ll probably understand why I only go twice a year. I break out in a
sweat at the mere thought of sitting in a chair at the mercy of a maniac armed with scissors. Not to mention the thought
of my wallet, which is considerably lighter after a haircut. Swiss salons charge about NZ$100 for a wash, cut and blow
dry, so I went through a phase of hanging out at hairdresser schools, to pay a fraction of the cost for ten times the
trauma. You enter looking half-normal, and leave looking like a sheep that has met the shearer from hell.
Now I just grow my hair until I pay a rare visit to New Zealand, and let the women there deal with the split ends and
tangles. The colour is a real dilemma though. The top half of my head is brunette, the bottom blonde. My friends reckon
I should get it dyed one tone or highlighted, but it all comes back to that old saying, once bitten twice shy. I did
try, once, to get a hairdresser to dye my hair. (My own attempts were quite pathetic as I ended up resembling a tiger.)
I visited a friend’s local stylist in Spain, and after politely asking for “some threadworm in my hair, please”, my
rather bad Spanish interpretation of hair dye, I ended up with a temporary colour that disappeared before my holiday was
even over. Better than threadworm though, I suppose.
Then there’s my face. I’m a rather impatient person. I can’t understand people who have bathroom shelves overflowing
with pots of beauty creams. Toners, cleansers, moisturisers, remove-ten-years-in-one-nighters. Just how much gunk can
one person put on their face in one day? And surely you can’t cleanse pores when they’re packed full of several
different creams and make-up? Why spend an hour getting ready for bed only to be hit by a bus the next day, when you can
do a quick brush around the teeth and whack a hot flannel over your cheeks and be done with it till the next night? This
week I’m going to relent a little though. My skin is Horrid, and I will buy a moisturiser (it will soothe my critical
friends if nothing else), but I’m worried about the choices that will confront me in the store. Making a decision is not
my strong point.
I also need a pair of trousers, but that will definitely have to wait till my next fleeting visit to Kiwiland. You need
to be built like one of those sea creatures without bones to fit into Swiss trousers. Either that or Swiss. The trousers
wedge themselves into your crotch so you walk like something’s stuck up your derriere, or they fit perfectly round the
hips but stick out at the waist, so anyone can peer down and view your knickers. I found a great pair of snugly fitted
pants the other week, but I had a bit too much chocolate-induced flab around the thighs to do up the zipper. After a bit
of yanking, I finally got it up halfway, where it promptly broke and left me stuck in a changing room with the store’s
trousers welded firmly to my body. For ten minutes I huffed, puffed, pushed, pulled, sucked in my tummy, went red in the
face, prodded down flesh with one hand, yanked and tugged at the trousers with the other, hopped around from foot to
foot, and generally danced around like a panic-stricken circus act, until eventually I managed to peel the damaged
trousers from my reddened body and flee the shop. (I’m now adding that store to the ever-growing list of places I can’t
return to, such as the fantastic restaurant where a tampon escaped a bag, rolled across the length of the floor and
finally came to rest in the aisle by the door. I still don’t know if I was the culprit or one of my friends.)
And then there are my feet. They are different sizes, which presents problems from the outset. But sometimes I wonder if
I have razorblades for toes. My socks are so holy they belong in a Church. I have this unfortunate habit of buying shoes
with soles that detach within a couple of weeks. I bought some of that super-strong glue once to fix my footwear, and
promptly glued my fingers together instead. I want to buy some knee-high boots which are all the rage over here, but I
don’t know how well they’ll go down in N.Z., where such footwear was more popular on K-Road than in K-Mart when I used
to live there.
Revealing my midriff is a bit of a problem too. Take my advice: never go to an Australian beautician training school to
get your belly button pierced. Not unless you want to spend ten minutes trying to relax the shaking trainees as they try
to stick a bit of metal through your belly, only to have it fall out four weeks later and leave a scar that’s still
there three years down the track.
As for the physical act of shopping, it’s a nightmare in Geneva. No matter how often you politely ask other shoppers to
let you pass, they will blatantly refuse to make way on footpaths and aisles. A friend who had the misfortune to be
constrained to a wheelchair for a couple of weeks found this out the hard way. She had to literally stick her good leg
in the air and ram into shoppers to get them to move.
But all is not lost. I suppose I could always dye my hair purple and buy some really flamboyant gear. Make a Fashion
Statement. Set My Own Trends.
Put a Bag on My Head.
Or I could consider what really matters: that true beauty comes from within. Life would just be an awful lot easier if
the gorgeous people on the street knew that.
Copyright Julie Symons 2002