A curly digression

Leggi in italiano

No travel updates at the moment. I promise I will do soon, but I’ve been mostly stuck at home with various viruses coursing through my body and trying to cough their way out of me, so not much to report, really. Pinky swear that I will write more soon.

But in the meantime, allow me this digression.

Those who know me (and sometimes even those who don’t) know how important my curls are to me. And you know? It took me a long while to get used to them, to know how to handle them, and even longer to love them. But one day someone told me: “people with curls find that the curls define their personality”. And yes, that may be a bit excessive, but it is true to a large extent. And on the rare occasions that I straighten my hair, I do look like a completely different person. Men seem to love the curly long haired look too… I don’t know if it speaks to unbridled sexuality or what… but that’s the feedback I’ve been getting.

Anyway, so why talk about this, I hear you ask? And even if you didn’t ask, just sit down and listen.

I was in the Buenos Aires Subte (subway) the other day and for some reason I started noticing how I was one of the very few – if not the only – women on the train with curly hair. Now, this city is made up mainly of people of Spanish and Italian descent, so I know what I am talking about. Also, you can tell, most times, when women straighten their hair. And it got me thinking that now this is the norm. Who would stay with curly hair when they don’t have to? Like removing an unsightly mole or unwanted body/face hair, like using contact lenses or making small cosmetic adjustments like permanent make up and similar. God forbid, like those women who use chemicals to lighten their skin.

And this image flashed in my mind. So I will try and recreate it for you.

The lovely Julianna Margulies way back when, in the amazing ER. We all remember nurse Carol Hathaway, and her curly curls:

JM curly

Cute, isn’t she? Now, compare with a more recent shot of the same actress:

JM wavy

Beautiful, wavy, almost natural hair.

And to finish, compare with one of her looks in The Good Wife (by the way, the best TV series of the past 10 years – go watch it if you haven’t), not even one of the more “rigid hair” ones:

The Bit Bucket

Look again at the first and last picture. Very very different person, right? But those are characters, decades apart, I hear you argue, of course they’ll be different. And I would counter with the fact that in the first picture, that is obviously her REAL hair, when later on it is obviously NOT. Please show me one instance when a woman’s hair was deliberately corkscrewed for her standard look, apart from 80’s period pieces or fancy dress stuff. Definitely not for sexy leading women. Again, I would agree with you that the Alicia Florrick character in the Good Wife has quite a bit of the strait-laced about her, so the hair has to conform to that. But really, my point isn’t about the lovely Julianna Margulies – think of Nicole Kidman as well, or Keri Russel. My point is that the curl gets straightened out of life. Curly hair is becoming like some sort of endangered species.

I’m aware I am not saying anything that black or Asian women don’t already know (for one thing, read the amazing Americanah).

Still, I’m going to say it. There are some other curly goddesses around me (you know who you are, ladies) who’ve embraced the curl and sometimes toyed with the straight. And I just wanted to acknowledge this, and say: let’s stop flattening the way we look!

And just to drive the point home, here is a picture of one of the most gorgeous curls in the whole wide world. I fell in love with it in my teens:



Leggi in italiano

“Between the funeral services with a flashing sign and the agricultural bookshop, that’s where you’ll find us.”

So the plane was cramped, but somehow I managed to sleep for most of the flight and only get up once to use the toilet.

Buenos Aires greeted me with a hot breath of an embrace, and scrambled my head with memories of Rome, Tel Aviv and imaginary places. The interesting thing is that there has been no culture shock for me. Everything feels very, not just European, but Italian, even Roman in some respects (minus the ruins). People look the same to a very large extent, the smells are the same. The avenues are wider, the buildings a little taller, the cars a little more American, there is less fresh produce on sale at the shops, but overall, this could be Rome in an alternate universe (Fringe-Rome?) where some things are better organised/laid out, but the same attitude prevails, of lassitude, world-weariness, of stumbling over broken concrete and dog shit without a second thought because, well, it isn’t my problem.

The little sting in the tail has been the illness that I thought defeated on departure. After the first couple of days, where I thought it was the huge change in weather/humidity and jet lag that was making me feel crap, I started to notice other symptoms. Coughing, sore throat. Today, spurred by my ever anxious mother, I decided to get checked out by a doctor in case I had something more sinister like tonsillitis.

Destiny works in mysterious ways, I think we’ve established that, so I remembered noticing that right in front of our building there was a sign about “ear/nose/throat institute”; that isn’t odd: we are very near the big medical school, so all around us there are many specialised medical supply stores and medical practices of all kinds. When I pop out for a coffee or lunch, I always notice I am surrounded by a strange mix of people in hospital scrubs and very very old people, either shouting loudly at each other or carrying oxygen tanks…

Anyway, I went into the earnosethingy place, and with my rudimentary Spanish I managed to be seen in about 15 minutes altogether, at a cost of 300 pesos (which apparently it is quite high for here but being around £23 I wasn’t about to complain). The doctor spoke perfect English, visited me and the verdict is it’s just a viral flu that is struggling to budge. I just have to be patient (don’t I know this!). In this respect, Buenos Aires is millennia ahead of Rome.

So far then I have been keeping quite a low profile, getting to know my neighbourhood, working, sleeping (trying to get better), hanging out with my friend J with whom I am staying (more on this later), and seeing the lovely Palermo with M, a friend’s relative, who kindly babysat me yesterday and showed me where the young people go to hang out. So here’s a pic from Palermo. A groovy, if manicured place, that reminded me a lot of an area of Tel Aviv of which I’ve forgotten the name. The kind of area that feels good but that, underneath it all, I don’t feel entitled to inhabit.


Gotta go now, another big thunderstorm is threatening to break, and I have a prime, sixth floor spot to watch it from.