Safe Sex

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Ok, here’s something really important I need to adjust to now that I’ve moved to Panama — having good-looking hair. Yeah, I know it sounds trivial, but in the short time I’ve been here, the topic of my hair — primarily it’s need for attention — has come up A LOT. Mostly Mom brings it up. But sometimes other people do, too. We invited a female CFO to dinner the other night to discuss a business idea. And eventually, the conversation turned to hair. Our guest mentioned that she can recommend a great stylist. Considering we’d just met, I don’t know how to receive her comment — as an insult or support. But given that Mom is there and she probably raised the subject, I don’t take offense this time.

Since, admittedly, my hair does look awful, and I haven’t yet found a salon I like, Dad’s nurse Ali — who is just as interested in my hair as Mom — asks Ondina, a friend of hers, to make an emergency house call.Ondina arrives the following morning and a little bit I feel like a princess not having to leave home for a beauty appointment. Billy sits in my lap and I drink coffee while Ondina chemically straightens my hair. Next she offers me to the best conditioning treatment I’ve ever used — a magical bright pink cream she scoops out of sandwich size Ziplock bag. I love it so much I ask Ali to ask Ondina what it is so I can buy more.

“Gusano de seda y esperma de ballena,” she replies. Translation: silkworm and whale sperm. Suddenly I don’t feel like a princess anymore. “Mom, did she just use sperm on my hair?” “Yes, but look at how great it turned out. Muy bonita!” I try to coach Mom into saying *mas bonita* so as to not give me the feeling that I was ugly before but my coaching hasn’t yet stuck.

So there you have it — my introduction to the highly involved world of hair in Panamá. I put sperm on my head and wasn’t even in treated to dinner and drinks in return. Talk about safe sex.

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