by Melinda Gallo

Nuovo negozio da parrucchiere

I never realize how set I am in my ways until I am forced to go to a new negozio da parrucchiere/parrucchiere (hair salon). My usual parrucchiere (male hairdresser) is on holiday, the one closest to my apartment is also closed, and so I had no choice but to find a new parrucchiere. I talked to a few of the ones that I'd seen in centro (downtown), but only one that I liked was open on the day before Ferragosto (mid-August holiday). I don't blame them for wanting to get a head-start on the festa (holiday) since the city has emptied out quite a bit.

The girl I made the appuntamento (appointment) with yesterday was kind and friendly. I told her that I wanted to come in the morning as soon as they open and she agreed. She didn't take my name down, but instead handed me the biglietto da visita (business card) to make sure I had the address.

I didn't want to already have to explain myself that I know where I am, so I left.

This morning before my appointment I was walking to the parrucchiere and tried to calm my nerves a little bit. I was feeling a bit hesitant about having to talk with a new parrucchiera (female hairdresser). I generally enjoy meeting new people, but sometimes it can be a bit stressful because I'll be engaged in long conversations with a person I don't even know. I know many people don't talk to the parrucchiere and read a newspaper or magazine, but I tend to feel guilty that I'm not helping them pass the time a bit better.

I did bring a book so that I would not feel obligated to talk with my new parrucchiera.

When I arrived, all three of the people working in the parrucchiere greeted me with warm smiles. I would normally feel comforted and welcomed, but instead I felt even more nervous. Generally, the fiorentini (Florentines) aren't immediately warm and friendly and I'm more used to the reticent looks and sincere greetings.

The parrucchiera after seeing that I'm obviously not Italian asked me the usual questions: "Di dove sei? Che fai qui? (Where are you from? What do you do here?)" I tend to not tell people initially that I'm married to an Italian because people tend to make assumptions about why I'm here. I feel the need to clarify that I chose Florence before I met my marito (husband). I like others to know that I love Florence and chose to live here. As if the opening of my heart to my city allowed me to find love.

I could see on the face of my parrucchiera that I didn't interest her much. After I answered her few questions, we had nothing else to talk about. Instead of pulling out my book, I sat there and listened in to the other conversations around me. The woman next to me talked about how she can always tell who the locals are because they are the ones who are abbronzati e incazzati (tan and upset). They are here to check up on things in the city and can't wait to get back out to the mare (seaside).

The woman's parrucchiere asks her where she's going for the festa (holiday) and she said, "Cambiamo argomento. (Let's change the subject.)" From the sounds of it, she'll be here working like a few other locals because there are many tourists in town.

To spark up the conversation again with my new parrucchiera, I asked her a few questions of my own, like "Di dove sei? Perché hai scelto Firenze? (Where are you from? Why did you choose Florence?)" I could tell by her accent that she wasn't fiorentina and she told me that she was from Switzerland. She picked Florence because she has cousins who live here and at the age of 22, she didn't want to go to a city where she didn't know anyone at all.

She appeared to like Florence and didn't say anything negative about the city or the locals. Sometimes people who aren't from here tend to say the same thing, "I fiorentini sono chiusi. (The Florentines are closed.)" I always feel the desire to defend my fiorentini because I understand them now after living here for many years. They don't welcome newcomers with open arms, but with time they create strong and long-lasting bonds with people.

I like to meet new people, but I don't need to meet new people and make new friends. Of course, it's nice to find someone you get along with and have an affinity with, but there is no burning need for me to do so. I have been able to create a family for myself in Florence: my marito and his family as well as my closest friends.

I don't feel the urgency to be nice to everyone in the hopes that someone will be my friend, or that everyone thinks that I'm a friendly and nice person. I know that I am and I don't need to prove it to strangers. And this is how I see the fiorentini because they don't need to win anyone over. If you have the patience and interest to be someone's friend, it might just happen. If you want a strong bond in ten seconds or less, it probably won't be with a fiorentino/fiorentina because they tend to not operate that way.

My overtly friendly parrucchiera actually turned out to be quite conservative in the end, not talking a lot and not giving out too much information. I'm sure it will take a few more visits for us to get to know each other. She did a great job on my hair as well, so I might just go back. Unfortunately, I've created a bond with my other two parrucchieri, so it'll be hard to choose to go to someone new.

It was a pleasant experience for me and it did pop me out of my comfort zone, which is always good. Being a creature of habit, it's easy to just keep going to the same places I'm used to because it feels good and I know what to expect.

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