In the story about the health check/chest x-ray, I know I mentioned the fact that I had incorrect paperwork pasted into my passport. I was slightly worried at the time, but not enough to go back through that ordeal to make it right. As a result of this initial paperwork mishap, the French government has sent me down the path to a serious identity crisis.
My true identity is in tact, at least in my own mind. However as a result of that paperwork mishap, the French government now thinks that I have Tim’s last name and all of my resulting paperwork gives me that as my second identity – including my ‘Carte de Sejour’ which is my legal id card saying that I’m allowed to be here. The government clearly has no idea who I really am. Luckily, at this point in my life, my badass moments are relegated to butchering the French language, not committing crimes.
And just the other day, I acquired a third identity. I’m now known as Celine.
It all started in the fall when I finally broke down and got my hair cut here. The reason I didn’t tell you about it was because it was too painful to write about. At the end of the haircut, the woman told me to bend over with my head between my knees and she pulled out the hair dryer and dried my hair upside down. Anyone who knows me, knows that my hair hardly needs more body and this tactic is best reserved for those in the world with flat-ish hair. By the time I left the salon, I looked like Jon Bon Jovi in the 1980s. Nothing against Jon, but somehow even back then I knew he would live to regret that hairdo.
I took a picture of myself that day for proof of what was done to me, but my hair barely fit in the frame. I would show it to you, but my ego is fragile and it would hurt too much. Take my word for it. It was very bad.
So I recently found a person with curly hair and loving stalked her until I could have a conversation with her about where she gets her hair cut. This is the kind of thing I wouldn’t think twice about in the US, but France is different and going up to people and asking them things that could be considered personal is seen as very………………..American. I was going to write “strange” in that space, but I’ve been made aware that Americans are perceived as very open which also makes them very strange. As proof of this, I recently walked up to a British woman I’ve known since I arrived and said, “Hey, I love that shirt! Did you get it around here?” Although I don’t consider this statement/question very personal, she looked at me like I was asking for a mènage à trois (like the woman in this article – more on that one later). I’ve since realized that there is a chasm between the friendliness of Americans and the private nature of many other cultures (including the French and the British).
In any case, I was desperate for a haircut and I kept seeing this curly-haired mother at school and when I finally found out that she was neither French nor British (she’s Spanish), I finally screwed up my courage to ask her about her hairdresser. Not only did she tell me about her hairdresser, but after she explained to me how much the Spanish like to party (good to know), she told me all about the hair products that she uses. This was a critical conversation for me since the French think hair gel is only for men and I’ve been walking around for months smelling like an Old Spice display at CVS. Also, it’s always helpful to know someone who likes to party. Clearly, we should hang out more.
Once I got the name of the curl cutter, I went to the salon in person, since making appointments on the phone can be the most challenging thing for me. My number processing in French is still at the “suck” stage of learning and since appointments involve both dates and times, I decided not to take a chance with the phone. The future of my hair was at stake, people. I could not take any chances – at all.
When I showed up at the salon to make an appointment, I was very proud that I was able to not only track down a woman who can cut curls, but I also managed to secure an appointment with her. However, my pride quickly diminished when she asked my name. The French always ask for the last name first, which in my case, is impossible. People don’t even understand my last name at home, where I can speak fairly well, but here it’s a disaster because there are so many “e”s involved. When I try to spell my name in French, all sorts of other sounds come out of my mouth that sound nothing like the letter “e” in French. In any case, when I said, “Teleen” and paused and took a breath before spelling it, the woman at the desk said, “Celine? Ok, Celine.” Rather than correcting her, I just went with it. To the hair salon I am Celine.
I’m hoping that when I leave the salon I look a little more like a Celine and less like a Jon. Bon Jovi, that is.
Here is the butter that is smeared on my shirt when I am trying to look like a hipster.