Monday, October 6, 2008

Songs Mean A Lot When Songs Are Bought*

This adventure is brought to you by the letters J and B. Which stand for JMac and Brianne, two very good friends of mine who donated to Locks of Love last year and inspired me to do the same.

I have known JMac since we studied abroad together in Rome. She is a very smart and funny gal with a kind heart who let me sleep on her couch on and off for almost a month when I decided it would be a grand idea to up and move to DC with no job and no apartment. JMac is a dear friend of mine not simply because she is easily bribed with food, but also because she has educated me in the art of constructing unnecessary and lengthy backstories when lying to people. In a good way.

Brianne and I met when I moved out here. At the time she worked for a senator and often gave tours of the Capitol, and I happened to have guests coming in to town who were interested in such a thing. We bonded during that tour, and have since spent many days and nights – when Bri is not at work until 3 a.m. because she still works for the government and they like to pull that sort of shit and keep you at work really late, apparently – eating a lot of food, drinking margaritas, and shopping for bras. Though not all at the same time. Usually.

Thank you, J and Bri, for the inspiration. You will both get a Major Reward, even though you technically didn’t suggest that I do this, but you certainly did put the idea in my head, so in my book that totally counts.

On with the show.


There is not a woman alive who doesn’t have thoughts (good, bad, or neutral) about her hair. Hair is such a personal thing, right up there with family, religion, and pizza preference, a sticky and tenuous relationship that goes beyond hair gel. For a woman, her hair is an asset, or a nuisance, or a constant reminder of what she will always or never be or have. Sometimes, it is all three.

My own relationship with my hair has always been, at best, unstable. It’s not exactly curly but it’s not exactly straight, and were I to just say it is wavy brings to my mind a picture of a sleek, bodied head of hair, and that’s not right either. What I have is weirdly frizzy hair with a wavy twist and more and more grays threading their way through my mane. (Thanks, Mom!) It only looks nice when I go to the salon and have a cut and a blowout, but two days later I am back to wrangling with it in my own disastrous way once again. None of my other sisters have hair like this. No, they all have lovely hair, shiny and able to be tamed and coiffed into magnificent styles. I’ve always thought my sister Nancy in particular has terrifically great hair. You could take a hacksaw to it and it would still end up looking fantastic. I don’t think she even uses product in it. I would very much like to hate her for this, but she’s my sister, you see, so I cannot very well do that because I love her very much. Instead I sigh a great wishful, somewhat jealous sigh and then go buy another lottery winning’s worth of products that promise to give my hair that fresh-from-the-salon look despite that I am, in fact, hair retarded and have only just recently gotten the somewhat hang of using a blowdryer.

Oh, the pity parties I could have about my hair.

Until I remember that at least I have hair.

In fact, I have lots of hair. It’s fine hair, but there’s a good amount of it, according to the hair stylists I’ve known and loved over the years. (And oh, there have been many.) So I decided that I should stop whining and share what I have.

I will share my hair.

I’ll let you read up about Locks of Love yourself if you so desire, but the gist of it is they collect donated hair to make into wigs for kids who don’t have any. You need 10 inches of hair for a viable donation, which means This Girl has been growing her hair out for over a year to make that goal.

I had hoped I’d be able to cut it before the summer started, but I was about an inch or so too short. I was heartbroken. Or at the very least, I was very disappointed. It looked ratty if I left it down and frizzed even more so than usual in the humidity, but there was not a chance in hell that I would subject myself to a blow dryer followed by a hair straightener followed by constant brushing followed by another round of hair straightener in the middle of July in DC. I am not a masochist. Instead, I invested in more hair ties and bemoaned another summer of ponytails and messy buns. And by the end of the oppressive heat season I was overtired of long hair, tired of the work that went into it, tired of it never looking nice. It was just so long.

And then a couple weeks ago, I tied my hair back and pulled out the tape measurer. Contorting my arms and neck to get an accurate read, I smiled broadly, threw the tape measurer aside and picked up the phone. Two weeks and I would be a free woman. Two weeks and I would have an appointment with Justine at the salon. Oh joy of woman’s desire, I was going to get a haircut.
The Length To Go To For Hair:

The Best is Yet to Come
The day of the cut was perfectly fall. I had the afternoon off from work and tottered along to home, all the while anticipating my 5:30 appointment. Frank Sinatra came on my iPod to tell me that the best was yet to come as I sauntered into a Metro car, and I believed him.

So happy was I that I almost felt guilty about the new hair life ahead of me. I felt like I should take my hair out for coffee to break the news to it gently that I was breaking up with it, that maybe in the future we could get back together, see each other again, but I couldn’t make any promises. I didn’t know what my future would hold; I didn’t want to give my hair false hope.

“You’re too high maintenance,” I would tell it. “It’s too much effort, and I can’t be who you want me to be.”

“Who do you think I want you to be?” I imagined my hair asking me angrily, hurt and confused, trying to understand, desperate to make this relationship work.

“Someone with hair styling skills, to treat you right and make you a better head of hair,” I would respond solemnly and a little sadly. “You want me to be your hairfriend.”

“I never said I wanted that,” my hair would retort huffily.

“You didn’t have to say it. It’s written all over your follicles,” I would pat my hair gently, telling it it was going to be okay, that it would move on to bigger and better things and it should just let me go, it was better off without me.

My hair and I marched to the salon to make our split final. Stacey, Justine’s assistant waved me over to the chair as Justine was finishing up with another client. When she approached me I could feel her eyes roaming over my hair, taking it in. “What are we going to do today?” she asked.

“Cut,” I said. “The Big Cut, for Locks of Love. And color.”

Justine’s eyes lit up. “Oh, that’s great!” she exclaimed and then asked me how I wanted my hair cut. I looked at her blankly.

“I don’t know?” I said. “Not shorter than my chin? But other than that, do whatever you want.”

“Okay, like a bob,” she decided. “Highlights?”

“Umm…you can dye it purple for all I care, just make it shiny and pretty and cover the gray, please,” I requested. Justine is a magician with color, and I trusted her completely. And as I sat in the chair waiting for her to pull out the scissors, I knew that any cut she gave me would make my hair look better than its current state.

I did have an inkling of worry, though. Clearly, for some time now, I’ve had long to longish hair. I haven’t had very short hair in about 10 years. And I worried that if I cut my hair too short hair would make me look like a boy. (A longish-haired boy, but a boy nonetheless.) Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel this way about other people, I feel and worry this way solely about myself. I think short hair, on others, can and does look phenomenal. I see other girls skipping down the street with their short, swingy hair and heave a wistful sigh. But on me, I’m not so sure. It’s akin to how I feel about wearing flats with skirts and dresses – I think they look so cute on other girls, but they make me feel like I am short and squat and have stumpy legs, and I just am not sure that I can pull it off.

But while this inkling was trickling through my gray matter, Justine was busy measuring and combing and then snipped her scissors and looked at me in the mirror and said, “Ready?”

“Oh my God, yes,” I replied, and I realized I was. Who cares what I looked like? I decided. It’s just hair. And it’s for a good cause. There are worse things than thinking you might possibly end up looking like a boy, I snapped at myself, like not having any hair at all. But what if it’s not pretty? a small voice tried to pop up in the back row of my brain. What if it makes us look silly and like a mushroom, and…and…

Oh, shut up! I nearly fell out of my chair trying to push the voice out the plate glass salon window. It’s for a good cause! I hollered at it as it tumbled into the hubbub of G Street.

Justine took a keep breath. I took a deep breath.

And then she lopped that ponytail right off my head.

Freedom! ‘08
Oh my, it was short.

Especially when I reached around and felt the back, which was much shorter than the front. That’s what happens when you cut your hair off in a ponytail, after all.

The ends felt fuzzy and razored, but I smiled, happy to have all that hair gone, though still harboring a slim shred of nervousness about what it would look like at the end. Stacey walked me over to the shampoo bowl, and is there anything better than having someone else wash your hair? Not in that creepy, trying-for-sexy way like in that Brek commercial back in the early 90s when the girl was in the tub on her front porch while her lover washed her hair. Because who takes a bath on their front porch? But when you’re at the salon, and there is nothing else you can do but sit back and let someone fuss over you for awhile, and give you a scalp massage at the same time, it’s pure heaven. And the shampoo just smells so good. By the time Stacey was done, I was so happy to not only have clean hair and a relaxed crown but to also have the long hair gone, Justine could have come over and said, “I’ve decided to give you a buzz cut,” and I would have said, “Okay, just make it shiny and pretty,” and sat about the salon chair in my merry way.
The rest of the visit flew by. One minute I was sitting under the salon’s space helmet letting my color bake, and the next Stacey was blowing out my hair with surprisingly little product before Justine came over to detail the cut.

“Do you like it?” they asked me, and I stared in the mirror. I most definitely did not look like I did when I walked in. And I most definitely did not look like a boy.

“I love it,” I said breathlessly, calculating in my head how long I could make this sleek, shiny cap of hair last before I had to ruin the moment and wash and style it myself. I gave it three days. (I was right.) Justine and Stacey beamed.

After dropping a few oodles of cash at the front desk for the bill, I damn well waltzed out the door to the Metro Center to catch the train home, flicking and fluffing and preening my hair. George Michael’s Freedom’90 played through my head and I wanted to sing in the street. I wondered if I opened my mouth if his voice would come out, but I realized that since I was not singing with a black turtleneck sweater pulled over my face, probably not. My ponytail was tucked in a plastic bag, ready to be stuffed in a padded envelope and sent off to make a child hairfully happy. I will say it looked so much better in Ziplock than it did on my head, as I’m sure it will look better on someone else than it did on me.

My friend JMac came over later that evening, wanting to see the haircut before she left for the weekend.

“Oh, it looks so sophistamicated,” she said seriously, reaching to pet it. I nodded and smiled. I thought so too. But I’ll let you decide for yourself.

*Note to readers: The first person to correctly identify how the title of this entry is linked to the subject of this entry will win a batch of my super awesome oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. You can leave your answer in the comments section, and I’ll be in touch with the winner.