Sunday, February 27, 2011

Old email: 2006 Lebanon

One of the things that I miss the most about my old job at Refugees International was how much freedom and creativity I had there. As I sit here now working at the UN and stewing under "travel authorization" forms and formal ccing of people and slaving over my email's tone - I miss my "cowboy" days. MSF for all its "cowboy" attitude had nothing on Refugees International. When you are picked up from the airport, shepherded around, and have a place to live, you are not free to meet the crazy and the wild and the wonderful from the world.

Here is an email I wrote to my friend Alec about getting my hair cut and colored in Beirut during the war there. I spent 6 weeks in Beirut during the Israeli bombing campaign against Hezbollah. While it was intense and scary, there were these weird moments of normality - I got my hair cut, I bought sunglasses, I went out for drinks. Here's one of them:

August 7, 2006
Beirut, Lebanon

Let me relate my latest scare. Was it a bomb? No. A terrorist? No. An anti-western demonstrator? No.

I got my hair cut in Lebanon and my roots touched up. Since my hair is fried out and platinum blonde right now from the Sudan/Beach/Mexico and I never had time to get it cut before I came, I decided to take Kristele up on her offer to find a hair dresser.

I am traumatized. The hairdresser, a very dapper very hip looking gorgeous (straight!) Lebanese man asked
me through my translator if I wanted to make my hair match the lighter or darker part of my hair. I said, I don't want it the same color as my ends and launched into an explanation of how it had become quite a bit blonder than I normally had it because it had been ages since it had been cut. He offered to put highlights in it and tone down the color a bit. Sounds good. I then explained how I wanted it cut so it's more curly and that I always just scrunch it with some product and he knodded.

Imagine my shock and horror when they took the bits of foil off and my hair was dark brown with white stripes in it. I started to panic but he tutted me. "It will look very natural." Then I started to remember what Lebanese women look like. They are all a size 2 with dark tans and they have severely highlighted hair that is either dark brown with chunky blonde highlights or red blond with white highlights. They wear designer jeans, stiletto heels, off the shoulder dresses and carry Fendi purses.

I had just spent three exceedingly hot hours in a parking garage interviewing refugees and was wearing a very wrinkled linen shirt, my RI vest, those orange shoes, and was sweaty, shiny, and feeling very bloated and fat. And nothing makes you feel worse than sitting in the chair, facing the mirror with your scagged back wet dark brown with white striped hair reflection looking back at you. I just stared at my lap. "I can wear a bandana until I get to Paris. Noone knows me here." I reassured myself.

Then he washed it and low and behold, it blended in. Then we sat at the chair and he cut the first piece of hair at my chin length. "I still want  it long!" i shrieked at my translator. He just chopped away without talking. I was scrutinizing the color and watching to see where the white parts were peaking out. I could still see them, I thought.

Then he turned me away from the mirror and made me bend over while he blow dried my hair. He turned me around to the mirror. 

It's ash blonde. It matches my roots and eyebrows. It's...... my natural color. And the longest part barely reaches my shoulders.

I don't know how I feel.  

I just came out of the shower after scrubbing myself clean. Put on fresh clothes. Put on some makeup and my earrings. I'm drinking a beer and preparing myself to go look back in the mirror again.

I don't know how I feel about being my natural color.

I'm going to be 39 tomorrow. I suppose after 15 years, it's about time.

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