Coversations with Joey

71. about my hair

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„I’m changing my hair tomorrow,“ I exclaim with the fervor of a priest. He’s sitting by my side, and there’s really no need to be as loud as all that, but I shake my fist in front of his face anyway. It’s the only way I know how to be independent anymore. How to say it’s over.

Changing my hair.

I can hear Rosa and Simone turning in their graves .

„What are you trying to prove?“

„I’m not trying to prove anything. It’s just a haircut.“

He knows it’s a lie, and so do I. it’s never just a haircut. We know what lurks behind every lock I discard. A new beginning, inevitably preceded by some untimely end.

Case(s) in point.

1. I’m fourteen and have nurtured my long ash-blond hair for over a decade. It’s my final year in elementary school and I’m awkwardly coughing out both cigarette smoke and stolen philosophies. I see a photograph of Kurt Cobain and paint my hair orange. The next month, I sail through air and cloud toward Britain with Suede lulling me into my teenage dream of seeing Albion. My heaven. I buy a Libertines album from another ginger (a real one) and give it a spin on my disc-man that afternoon while monopolizing a swing set and making little children cry. When I return to my home town, my mother doesn’t recognize me. High school starts in a month and even I don’t recognize myself. All people seem to notice is my orange hair.

2. I’m fifteen. Right and wrong isn’t as black and white as it used to be (or as orange). I still spin my records, and sometimes, they spin me. Out of my world, out of the ordinary. A girl gives me a Tegan and Sara CD, we talk for a while in a park and when it’s through, when we‘re through, I cut off my long hair to keep it from catching between kisses during long afternoons of hiding. I wear my boyish haircut like a badge and make my mother cry. A long time passes before she talks to me again. The time it takes for hair to grow out to a respectable length, for a woman.

3. At seventeen, I fashion myself into a pixie. I’m all about cabaret, as my springtime goddess and me swirl around bars with antique furniture and people whose faces I recognize from photos taken decades ago. We swirl around that season with a vengeance, always wearing black and lace – her long silver hair glinting under the neon lights in nights when we sneak far from our homes. She gives me a top hat that belonged to her grandfather, and I give her my best smile, a trust that is hard to betray, a promise of loyalty. I give her a little lie and my truth. They end up being one and the same.

4. I’m eighteen when I start college and decide to let the strands go wild again. Blondes have more fun, it’s true. That’s why my second hand lover decides I’d be better off with brown. I spend a year being brown, and don’t like it. It’s too much like blue.

5. When I decide to get rid of him, red is my color. When I finally am, I chop it all away. Hair holds too many memories. It reeks of him.

6. By and by, I settle on a new kind of look. Not caring. Letting things fall where they may. I decide I am more than my hair, my coloring. Who knew you could change as much by not changing at all.

7. I’m twenty three and back where I started. Long ash blond hair and an embarrassing idealism. A need for something more. A want for more and less at the same time. My hair dresser, my psychotherapist, sees this ambivalence and asks whether I trust him.

„Of course, Joey, you’re the only person it’s true of anymore.“

Cut cut cut, then the acid smell kicks in. We’re burning away and cutting off all the unnecessary history I’ve trailed behind me since I started putting faith in hair. When I go out of the parlor, I finally  look just like I feel.

Indefinable.

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