Calm down, you text. You’re beautiful no matter what! xoxo
Stop that. I haven’t even sent you a picture yet. I know they programmed supportiveness into you as a small child, and it’s not your fault but–
The “‘you look great’ sight unseen” thing cuts into your credibility.
In my bathroom, a sprawling mirror hangs beneath a fogged case of LED lights, and it’s pointless to wish to go back but… Once upon a time, my hair hung in squirrel-brown waves past my armpits. I could tuck it strip-by-strip into a perfect French braid; I could curlicue it into a bun.
It was many–ten–minutes ago.
The last time I cut my own hair, I was five and yearned for bangs like a little girl, April, in my class. “BANGS?” my appalled mom had said in the aftermath. The conversation then proceeded as though I’d chopped off my nose instead of half of my most grow-backable appendage.
I shake my head from side to side. My oddly bobbed hair shimmies, ragged and weird. I am also weird.
This is all my doing.
Well. My doing and Giovanni’s. He Who Made the YouTube video “Give Yourself a Gorgeous Wolf Cut in Five Minutes.”
Now I know Giovanni is a con artist. I can’t believe I gave him YouTube ad revenue! I ponder how to make my crowning, lowercase-G “glory” even fractionally better. The left side is longer than the right. My layers look better on the left. Should I keep cutting? I should even out the two sides.
Except–no no no! Stick-to-it-tiveness will be the end of you.
My phone pings on the counter. You’re still there. Do you want me to come over and look? you ask.
My stomach promptly learns yoga and twists into a pose. Do I want company on top of this aesthetic/moral/capitalistic catastrophe?
Nah, thanks. My unfolded laundry is on the kitchen table; there’s a pile of dishes in the sink; and I just heard Zelda hock up a hairball somewhere back in my bedroom.
That’s okay! I text. I’ll play around with it and then send you a pic.
You can’t see me. Not yet. I love you forever, but you’ll give me tips for “next time” and I am too fragile to hear that I should’ve visited a professional.
Last time I went to your hairdresser, and she charged me two-hundred bucks to cut and color my hair–all before a tip. (Before! And I can’t leave a bad tip. Our tipping culture in this country is abysmal. Also–what would people say about me?)
I walked out of that salon with shining balayage waves dangling over my collarbones because Hairdresser Emily is an arteest. I’d rationalized the price tag with a WELL, IT’S MY HEAD. If I was going to spend money or effort on a body part, it was hardly a bad choice. Abs and butt were lost causes, according to the conventional yardsticks.
I made up for the pricey ’do by buying expired dairy and off-brand Cheerios for the next two months.
You’re still pinging my phone. I’m coming over. Don’t panic. You insist that your eyeballs on this situation will make it better.
Anxiety about cat puke on my carpet aside, I can’t see what you’ll do. I come from a family of “choose happiness” folk. We know how to love ourselves while also hating ourselves. (It’s a brain-melter. Welcome to therapy!)
When I was thirteen and my pubescent skin had its worst breakouts, I committed to a face-numbing regimen (“The tingles mean you know it’s working” and THAT MEANS YOU’RE TRYING DAMMIT SO GOOD JOB). My mom would pat my back. “Oily skin is frustrating when you’re a teenager, but you’ll be so glad when you’re my age! You’ll have waaay fewer wrinkles.”
This was a cool thing to say to my childhood self because it let me think about my physical insecurities both in real time and in the future.
I’ll bring a bottle of rosé with me, you say. We’ll figure this out together.
It’s a comfort (that’s also a hurt) because I’m a problem to be solved. I’m a collage of stray hairs and flesh-colored flesh. Monsters rise from dark basements to slow-stalk me with contouring sticks and blush.
You’re the best friend. I keep thinking about that. Then my shoulders droop because you’re hurt, too. Someone once told you your teeth were too big for your mouth and, my, you have such stubby little eyelashes!
No one writes sonnets about how your teeth let you eat the best cheeseburger of your life. Your eyelashes have batted away dust motes since you were nestled in your parents’ arms.
I frown at my reflection. Me, with a brand-new DIY head.
It happens in a flash–a finger snap and it’s done. For a second, I see her. The five-year-old holding her Fiskars aloft. “Mooooom! Look what I did!”
Back when I was an art project of my own creation.