Taking a Haircut…in Paris: Guest Blog Post by Laurie Frankel

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I have thick, curly hair—think Magic Sponge Animal expanding six times its original size—Diana Ross meet Cousin Itt. Cousin Itt, Diana. And so one of the more pressing, first-world problems upon moving to Paris was finding a good stylist.

Allow me to introduce you to the Parisian concept of “La Formule” or package pricing. La Formule is most typically associated—and advertised—in food establishments. You can pay through the nose for a meal à la carte or pay a reduced “prix fixe” for an appetizer and entrée OR an entrée and dessert. If you were solving this equation for appetizer, you would see it equals dessert and vice versa.

appetizer + entrée = entrée + dessert

appetizer = (entrée + dessert)/entrée

appetizer = (entrée + dessert)/entrée

 appetizer = dessert

When solving an equation it’s important to ask yourself, does this make sense? Does it make sense that the value of an appetizer is equal to the value of a dessert? On average each comes in around 5-7€ so yes, this makes sense. Hold this thought. 

I asked around and got a recommendation for a salon called, Morphorelooking. That’s right, Morphorelooking. Beware the foreign salon that combines English words but doesn’t bother to ask anyone if what they’ve concocted means anything other than something someone might say in the middle of a stroke.

Were they trying to riff on the Greek God, Morpheus who appears in your dreams or perhaps the word “metamorphosis” because they change your look…ing. I don’t know. I’m being as generous as I can here.

Adèle, the stylist, was one of those effortlessly beautiful Parisian women, thin with sexy straight brown hair and lips so full they looked punched, in a good way.  She was the kind of stylist who ran her fingers through your hair, eyes closed, as if she were convening with, well, Morpheus for instance. She said Zen things in french like, acceptance comes from within and never fight your hair. Easy for Miss Sexy Straight to say. You see I come from an alternative perspective. I once went on a volunteer vacation at an animal sanctuary and cared for a three-month old baboon—a furry, perpetual motion machine with great leaping and swinging abilities. Imagine that on top of your head. I don’t have to. 

For my first appointment, Adèle colored my roots—“No #5,” I said, “trop foncé”—then, armed with only a straight razor, she set to cutting my hair. I thought, this will either be amazing or The Year of the Hat. It was kind of amazing. She set my curls free. For the honor I coughed up:

 hair color = 65€

eyebrow color = 15€

cut/dry = 90€

Total = 170€!!!

Fast forward four weeks and I was back at Morphorelooking for color only.  I told her I loved the cut—start with a positive—but the color was too dark.

Me: “Did you use #5?”

Adèle: “No. Let me check. What’s your name?”

What’s my name? Was she trying to make me feel unimportant or did it just come naturally? A Dale Carnegie graduate she was not. Turned out she had used #5. Mine is not to ask why, mine is but to deal and move on.

Me: “Ok, please don’t use #5 this time.”

Then she lifted a lock of my hair—there was a distinct line. She said it wasn’t her doing. If it wasn’t her doing, whose was it? If you’re wondering am I one of those people who drinks to black-out and then gets my hair dyed let me stop right there you because typically when I black out I get a facial. [Bottom line: don’t argue with someone about to color your hair…give you a tattoo, a Brazilian or a colonoscopy.]

Me: “Ok, well please go lighter this time.”

Adèle: “D’accord.” And off she went to mix my color. 

After application, I pretended it was no big deal to look like Krusty the Clown while everyone around me looked like Paris Fashion Week. Forty minutes later Adèle rinsed my hair during which she stepped out to take a ten-minute personal call. Hello, Dale?

Last step: Séchage. (drying)

I go to bed with my hair wet. Upon waking I slather in a boatload of goop and off I go, all of which is to say, I don’t need to pay for something I can do in my sleep, literally. But as Adèle fired up the hair dryer I figured when in Morphorelooking…

With eyes closed, sensing only with her fingers, Adèle blew my hair so big it was fit for the Macy’s Parade. I looked like Donna Reed on crack. Proud of her work she gave me a mirror to admire the back. From a layering perspective it looked great, I’ll give her that, but how often in life does one walk backwards?

Cost (color only):

hair color = 65€

eyebrow color = 15€

dry = 50€

Total = 130€!!! What the?

How is it for one service I paid 76% of what I had previously paid for two? Enter La Formule. I looked around—no sign, no advertisement, no nothing. Adèle made up I mean explained it as follows: with “cut and color” the price of the séchage was built-in whereas without it, it wasn’t. I’m not sure what galled me more—the deceptive pricing, having been made to look like a parade float or being charged 50€ for something I could do in my sleep.

Testing the theory of does this make sense, I asked if this meant a cut costs 40€ , you know: 170€ – 130€, to which Adèle replied, “Non.”

By this point, all eyes—those of the clients, the suave owner, the other gorgeous stylist and Adèle—were on me, the giant-headed foreigner. It was one of those zoom moments when, all of a sudden, the lights got brighter, the studio quieter. I felt alien and small (except for my head which was expanding faster than the Big Bang, “beeg bong” in french). In that moment it was clear I was a stranger in a strange land, a trespasser of sorts, never to really fit in. Logic and reason would not prevail. It was me against the Morphorelookians—they were in charge. It was clear there was nothing to say in French or English so I resorted to the international language of plastic, handed over my credit card and paid up after which Adèle gave me my coat (I think I actually said, Merci) and with all eyes still on little ol’ big me, I headed toward the door, exited sideways and floated away.


Laurie Frankel
Laurie Frankel

Writer and humorist Laurie Frankel knows pain is the root of all comedy and is thrilled her life is so damn funny. Her literary work has appeared in ShenandoahThe Literary ReviewSequestrum, North American ReviewBelleville Park Pages, Alaska Quarterly Review and New Orleans Review among others. Her books include “I Wore a Thong for This?!” and “There’s a Pattern Here & It Ain’t Glen Plaid.”: “. . . laugh-out-loud funny . . . great practical suggestions . . . A quirky, earnest guide to regaining self-esteem for the modern woman.” — Kirkus Reviews. She is the winner of the 2014 Time and Place Prize, Brittany France and the 2014 Walker Percy Prize in Short Fiction. Visit her blog at http://www.frankelymydear.com.