A 'Langue Bien Pendue'

Inside view of 'Feeling'
'Feeling' - an ordinary hairdresser's, on an ordinary street,
100 metres from the boulevard Haussmann.

A Bit of Parisian Chit-chat - For What It's Worth

by M-R Erickson

Paris:- Tuesday, 23. December 1997:- I can suddenly bear it no longer. There always comes a time when the so-called fringe curls up into some exotic style perhaps fashionable in the 1900's - this is the warning signal. My hair is too long.

When I first came to France, I gave my custom to Jacques Dessange - and spent hours waiting to be 'fixed' on the rooftop salon of the Tour Montparnasse. To be perfectly truthful, I hadn't even realized that Dessange was a 'name' - although I probably would have gone there anyway had I known - such a snob was I and still am.

In the following years, I graduated through various salons: the last of which was Jean-Pierre Maniatis,' whose salon is on the Galeries Lafayette's second floor. This is where I saw ladies leaving tips of 100 francs for a simple blow dry. And then I woke up. I couldn't afford this.

I found 'Feeling Coiffure,' run by Madame Jacqueline in the rue le Peletier, not far from the boulevard Haussmann and the 'Grands Magasins.' I used to work in an office in rue le Peletier - but even though I have moved away, I still come back here.

Madame Jacqueline herself is 60-plus something, but looks a young 'Parisienne 50-plus' - which is good, in other words. Her 'look' is always just right - classical yet modern.

Madame Jacqueline is a real Parisienne - with a tongue to match - the French call it "avoir la langue bien pendue" - in English this translates to a 'well hung tongue' or to be on the ball - and she started working as a helper in a hairdressing salon when she was sixteen.

Still, I know that if I want a hint on how to look 'right,' I wouldn't hesitate to pass the question on to her.

To get back to the issue at hand, which is one of my more common problems - my hair needed a serious cut and I got an appointment today. This is the 23rd of December and so the salon is all decorated, as are its personnel. Madame Jacqueline is wearing a little black number that is fairly clingy - and she gets away with it.

Valéry, their new hairdresser, is wearing a theatrical blouse, with full ruffle down the front, gathered sleeves and large-heeled gold buckled shoes, which reminds me of Elton John.

He and Asia, the Moroccan 'color technician' in her gold top and short black skirt, looked as if they might burst into one of the hot numbers from Grease - but only the repartee is spoken. This is interspersed with comments from Madame Jacqueline such as "you two should move to Versailles soon - you'll obviously fit in there."

My normal hairdresser, who I adore, is Clarisse - has gone off to have a baby. The last time she did this, she was twenty and had twins. That's why it has taken her so long to decide to do it again. Her replacement is fairly much like her - Patricia is slim, attractive and about 35. She is divorced and has sons of ten and thirteen who she has to bring up alone and it is not easy.

What is great about some of these Parisian women is that they are - contrary to the would-be intellectuals or people working as civil servants or something else administrative - are real and lively and full of guts and laughter and tears and anecdotes.

Patricia makes my day today - when talking about how things are rather than how tough things are, she tells me that she once gave up hairdressing. She gave up what she loved doing, and learned to type and took a job that her father had 'pistonné' - talked someone into giving her - and she ended up working for the city morgue.

It was okay for her as long as she could choose her clients - the oldies; but when she had to deal with babies it got too hard for her. Now she's back in the land of people like me.

While doing the cut, we talk more than people in the morgue. For what it's worth.

M-R Erickson©1997

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