My hair, my self
Happy New Year, my frondz.
I’m back, but not exactly with a vengeance. Mostly, I just wanted to say hi, to check in and see how you all are doing. I’m hoping this letter finds you in good health and good spirits. The typical optimism of a new year feels a little…reserved, shall we say? Cautious? Maybe. But here we are, hurtling around the sun once more. It’s not a fashionable opinion to be in favor of resolutions, but I’ve strengthened my resolve to not give a shit about that sort of thing.
So last Sunday afternoon, after an invigorating chat with one of my besties, I designed a kind of annual review workshop for myself, and then spent most of Monday in quiet introspection, working through the exercises I’d pulled from a few different sources. I wish I had known about this one then, but I might still try it anyway.
I guess you could call it metacognition, or solipsism if you’re nasty, but I’ve been reflecting on the idea of reflection lately, and how little time we (errrmm, I) actually devote to it in any meaningful way.
And that’s my resolution, in a nutshell. To take the time to pause and consider. To allow my thoughts to coalesce into something greater than the sum of their parts. Ostensibly this is what I’m meant to do as a writer, but I’ll be the first to tell you that is not always the case. Especially in writing these letters. Still pantsing all the way.
Finally, just a little note. I’m planning to spend the next two-ish months around Boston. Are you a Boston person that I know and love? Drop me a line if you might like to meet up at some point! You know where to find me.
Love (in the time of omnicron),
Let it fly in the breeze/And get caught in the trees. Hair, 1979
I got a really good haircut back in October. I mean, how often does that happen, when you’re truly satisfied with a haircut? When you are independently capable of achieving the minor miracle of looking “Like you just stepped out of a salon” well after you have actually stepped out of the salon? You could probably count on one hand.
We – and by we, I’m mostly addressing women – all suffer the definitionally insane delusion of expecting to emerge as a wholly new person every time the stylist spins us around in the chair. We still believe in our tender little hearts that changing our hair will change our life. I’m looking at you, my sweet lockdown fringe-cutters; my darlings of the grey-naissance. I see you. Well, me and The New Yorker see you.
A funny thing has been happening recently, but in a way, has always been happening. People are commenting on my hair. Ever since this haircut, I’ve been wearing my hair down. Maybe it’s a slow news day when this sort of thing becomes note-worthy, but if you know me, you’ll understand that it’s a dramatic style shift. If you don’t know me, you can hit unsubscribe and resolve to be more ruthless in the preservation of your limited attention capacity. I can totally appreciate that. But..maybe you can relate, ye of messy buns and ponytail headaches, the ever-present hairband around your wrist containing all your superpowers and protecting you from harm.
Did I ever feel so naked, so vulnerable as when, in a woefully misguided attempt at playfulness, a boyfriend once yanked the clip from my hair and tossed it in a nearby trash bin? “I love your hair! You should wear it down more often,” he said, as I blinked in wide-eyed horror and scrambled to twist my somehow simultaneously matted and frizzy tresses into a more respectable, more contained form. The nerve of this man!
“Hair is everything,” said Fleabag in an unforgettable monologue in the second season:
“We wish it wasn’t so we could actually think about something else occasionally. But it is. It’s the difference between a good day and a bad day. We’re meant to think that it’s a symbol of power, that it’s a symbol of fertility. Some people are exploited for it and it pays your fucking bills. Hair is everything.”
I’ll be honest. This new letting-down of my hair has very much been part of a metaphorical as much as a literal identity shift. Since we’re still within an acceptable window of reflection and intention-setting, I can say that the past year kicked off a cycle of personal transformation that is set to continue and deepen in the year ahead. Last year around this time, I was contemplating a fallow period, having taken advantage of the pandemic spring, as much as it was possible, to quietly restore my emotional and intellectual resources. The past year, then, has been all about upheaval, a tilling and replanting of the fields. Weeding and sowing in equal measure. Soaking up sun and praying for rain. Waiting. Watching. Hoping.
You see? Hair is everything.
For years and years, I pulled my hair back or pinned it up. I wanted my unruly, unpredictable, unmanageable curls out of my fucking face. I preferred no nonsense buns, slightly messy. A minimal effort, though never quite effortless in that chic French-girl way. When I wanted to look professional, I’d get a blowout, especially when I lived in New York, where it’s the ultimate girlboss status symbol. Straight and sleek equaled confidence, poise, and grace. Charlotte is a blowout; Carrie is a chaotic, curly mess.
But now? I’m not going to fight nature anymore. Not my nature, and not the interminably rainy nature-nature of Northern European weather that is the mortal enemy of the curly-haired. I’m just going to let myself be a little messy and chaotic. My hair will never be coiffed and neat and tidy, and neither will I. So this year, I’m going to channel my inner witchy woman. I’m going to shake it all out like a maniac. I’m going full big hair, don’t care attitude. Hair I am.
I spread like strawberries, I climb like peas and beans.
Just gonna lean into that gardening metaphor a little harder.