haircuts and healing


I had grown attached to my hair. After muscling past that awkward, interminable phase where short hair becomes less-than-short hair, and when less-than-short hair becomes not-quite-long hair, I’d arrived at my destination, hair that had gotten curly with length, hair that had options, hair that was noticeable, that cascaded, that feel on my shoulders with sturdy but sensual weight. I began to love it, began to welcome the opportunity, even, for its care, began to contemplate and move to a deeper awareness of my own femininity, wore different clothes, walked differently, ran my fingers through it often, used it for emphasis, woke up in the mornings to its sexy muss, admired my new silhouette, the shapely grace of it, saw the woman of myself emerge and strut her way down the street.

My lover had buried fingers in this hair, reached for it in the dark, welcomed the waterfall of it between our bodies. I had equated its length and fullness with passion and loyalty and foreverness. I felt its soft nesting, the way the world disappeared when we lay against each other, my hair shielding us from whatever it was we were both escaping from. It tethered us, dammed us back from the brutal realities, the testy irreconcilabilities of our love. It was a wall of amnesia. I rested in it, hopeful, stubborn.

Perhaps resting isn't the right word. I knew the buoy of this love couldn't last, the sea turbulent and unyielding. The hair grew heavy, oppressive on my neck. And suddenly, a dragging down, a pulling back, a too-muchness, spring on its way in and the hair like a wool coat, overbearing and scratchy. We had been disentangling for months, my lover and I, and yet we'd resisted it – the letting go, the paring down, the turn away. Meanwhile, the hair was dulling, losing its coil, its easy movement. I was carrying it like an ox heaving its load up a high mountain pass. The air had gotten so thin, the road narrow and precipitous. And yet, even weighty and troubled - or perhaps because of it - I would not yield. I clung to my hair like I clung to my love.

. . .

Sometime last week, getting ready for a friend's birthday party, a struggle in the bathroom, hair down to the middle of my back, my face almost obscured by its bulk. I kept fidgeting with the curling cream, trying to tease out a dance from the strands. Nothing. The hair flaccid as a tulip past its prime. Something was dying, or had already died. It was time to bury it.