If you have never had to cut your own hair, then you have not lived a full American life. This is particularly true if you are of that subset of American humans who value the practicality and comfort of a short, but not very short, epic ‘do. Shearing off a couple inches of long, flowing locks when they finally inch their way past your butt seems like a fairly simple proposition. Judging from my experience with a parade of hair stylists, all of whom ought to have known better, short hair is a mountainous challenge, a subtle artistic shaping of the head based on factors ranging from the shape of the scalp to the nature of the hair to the amount of moisture in the upper atmosphere on the given day of cutting. Every trim is a masterpiece. Except, you know, not. I’ve had more disastrous haircuts from certified woman-hair professionals than I’ve had zits on my certified oil well of a nose.
Actually, I’ve had wonderful experiences with barbers, every single on of whom have been perfectly happy to take my money despite the fact that I am a woman. For this, I am extremely appreciative. I’ve had other experiences with designated male spaces where the company hasn’t been so welcoming. (In fact, just today, in the menswear section of our local H&M, a couple of hipsters whistled and snapped at my fiancee and I until we left the area. I understand the concept of peeing all over the walls and declaring a space Free Of All Female Evar, at least in the sense that I understand that a man might be inclined to behave this way if he were to miss certain adolescent developmental stages, but in a fashion outlet? Really? Wouldn’t a nice bear cage be a better test of their masculinity?)
As I was saying, I can’t say enough about barbershops as an institution. I’ve never been to one where I haven’t gotten a great cut. My estimation of the skill of a barber to style short hair is vastly greater than my consideration of a hair stylist. Furthermore, the barbers were vastly more affordable on my limited budget…until I ran out of money altogether.
I accomplished my first self-haircut in 2008 with a pair of fabric shears. The impetus: poverty. Plain and simple. Well, poverty and grad school. The day before my haircut, I had not been poor. In fact, I had been extremely wealthy. My humble little starter bank account had contained no less than $15,000. For a single golden day, I had been the mighty ruler of University Hill.
Then I paid my grad school tuition and bottomed out my savings. Alas, payday for my pathetic part-time convenience store gig (thanks, recession!) did not arrive for several days, or even possibly weeks, depending on whether or not my manager remembered that I was still working for him by Tuesday. I was broke. Broke like a little Tonka truck that has been smashed to infinity by the merciless tires of an 18-wheeler.
Food was not a problem. Like all of the other employees of the convenience store, I unabashedly stole hot dogs from the grill. However, they constituted their own punishment in many ways, and my school, rife with random pizzas, proved a much more fertile ground for foraging. At night, I mopped for a friend’s cafe, and in return I got all the vegan food I could possibly eat. Which was, I assure you, a lot. I mention this because I feel that my nontraditional diet may have played a role in my deranged decision-making process as regards to my hair.
I’d been studying for about six hours, having returned home from work at 5:00pm and set right to work. The muggy night air oozed through the open window, carrying the scents of a city still exotic to my rural mind. Despite the fact that my studio was tiny and infested with at least three different species of cockroaches, the view from its one large window could not be beat. The array of the city’s lights lay out before me as though someone had spread out a giant picnic blanket in the dark and caught a million falling stars. As I sat on my narrow bed, gazing at this scene, my head stuffed with cataloging protocols and my belly stuffed with the best bean burger in town, just one thing vexed my mind: the fact that my hair was poking my ears.
There is nothing that annoys me more than when my hair pokes my ears. It is an abomination unto my soul.
Having nothing else to do at midnight, I began to scrounge around my place for something sharp enough to fix my hair issue. I came up with a pocket knife, a butter knife, and a pair of sewing shears that I’d borrowed from my mother years before and simply never returned. (I don’t know why. I don’t sew, but I do sometimes cut fabric for various secret reasons.) The shears seemed most practical.
My place didn’t have a bathroom sink per se. It had a sink, and a bathroom. The sink doubled as the kitchen and I washed my hands in the bathroom’s shower, which did not come with its own mirror. This left the sink a preferable option for hair operations. Scattering a small group of roaches I leaned close to the mirror, over the metal sink, and, angling the shears delicately at my head, took a snip.
A finger-long hank of hair fell to the ground.
I inspected my image curiously, seeking signs of success. My hair was certainly off my right ear, but a new problem had arisen: a wedge-shaped gap was now visible close to my temple. More cutting would be necessary to repair the general shape of my head. Again, I snipped. Whoops – wrong hair. Now half of my bangs were gone. Oh well. I’d never liked bangs much anyway. Off with them!
Over the next four laborious hours, I managed to remove almost all of my hair with the shears, which were dull well before I’d made it halfway. Eventually, I resorted to using the penknife as a razor. This worked badly. However, that did not matter. Morning had broken and it was time to bring home the bacon!
I stumbled out of my wheaty-smelling building and immediately frightened a pigeon. Several passers-by recoiled and my manager took one look and fired me. I shambled back to my apartment and passed out. While I slept, my manager called to re-hire me, my mom asked if I was the mangy baby bear everyone on the Hill was talking about, and my sister had found and summarily distributed a picture of my new look on social media.
If you ever doubt the presence of a compassionate consciousness in this universe, ponder this: every bad haircut grows away. The soothing flow of time rounds all embarrassment down to harmless pebbles in the bed of your memory. I believe I cried about my hair that day, but two months later, I did cut it again. This time, the result was, if not beautiful, passable. The next cut was standard. My style was established. Uncreative, but functional.
Today, I cut my hair for the 70th time. I have a kit now: a $15 set of electric shears, a hand mirror, a barber’s scissors, and an old baseball cap that I use to shape the back. I measure each hank of hair against my fingers to make sure it ends up between one and a half and two inches long, snip, and then use the shears to even up the edges and get a nice close shave on my neck. I like to think I look pretty good. It’s routine enough that I can watch TV while getting everything just right.
The holidays are over. Done. Finito. Terminated, often with uncomfortable family prejudices! (Actually, our families have been pretty amazing. I heard some stories, but several involved eggnog.)
It has been, to say the least, a rough year.
However, I know that 2015 is going to be different. 2015 will be chock-full to the cockles with change of the most fecund variety. 2015 will be wealthier, healthier, and less fruitless by scads than the previous dire year. How, you may ask, do I know this? Have I been gifted of visions by the god Apollo? Have I been to the future itself?
I’ll tell you how I know that 2015 will be better: my ridiculously generous family has given me a bread machine.
This is integral to my happiness and quality of life for the following reasons:
- The apartment is too cold for yeast to thrive. Like, anywhere. Unless it’s summer and 90 degrees in the shade, those little buggers are freezing to death long before they fart out enough gassy goodness to make the dough rise.
- Bread is idiotically expensive in Boston. We’re talking $2 for a loaf of whole wheat. That’s shenanigans. I call it so, not only because it’s silly, but because darn it I don’t have that kind of bread for bread. Even with the energy the bread machine uses, it’s less than half the cost to make a loaf than to straight-up buy one.
- I dream a dream of a solar-powered house where my woman and myself will dwell unhindered by the guilt born of Earth-killing carbon fuels burning through the night to keep our showers hot and our toothbrushes electrified. In this dream, there exists a small but cozy corner where bread is made…with the power of the SUN!
These are all reasonable reasons to want a bread machine, I reason. It has nothing to do with my penchant for making the kitchen smell all nice. It’s just a useful thing to do. Everyone should make bread. It’s like knitting. Do you know who needs to know how to knit? EVERYBODY, that’s who! Seriously: it’s stress-relief in a sweater. Who wouldn’t want that? Who doesn’t *need* that?? Who doesn’t CRAVE that? Productive stuff can also be nice and relaxing, you know! It’s science! I read it in a book! You might be asking if it was a book of cross-stitch patterns, but you’d be wrong! Embroidery is WAY more complicated than just cross-stitch and there are some truly substantive books on the subject! Have I read them? Yes. Have I enjoyed them? May I remind you that these books are substantive? I love substantive shit. Give me some Hemingway! I will read it until it is thoroughly read! And I will have you know that, in the pursuit of making things freaking pretty as hell, my French knots are so regular and even that Theresa of Avila herself weeps tears of holy joy when she sees me working with a needle and thread!
Because, dammit, mason jars are awesome. And I like to fill them with dried apricots and tie little ribbony bows on them and give them to people who wish to God I were just another slob with barely the presence of mind to restock the M&Ms. I mean, I haven’t restocked the M&Ms. But I do have a large selection of semi-sweet chocolate for coating candied fruits. Think about it: candied chocolate apples. Better for you than a Snicker’s bar, right? Right?
Oh come on! A woman can enjoy Pinterest without becoming a stereotype! Just because I own an entire table full of crafting supplies does not make me a caricature of homely wholesomeness. I mean, I own a hand-crank drill! Oh God – that’s not helping. How about my vast collection of herbal teas in their handmade box? OK, I just re-read that. Forget it. Cross it off. What about my…collection of ties! Yes! My tie! They’re arranged by color, shape, texture, and…and…shit.
You will call me a domestic goddess. This will happen. I’m…not really at terms with it yet. I’m still a mighty adventurer with a wild streak. (Look at me swear! I swear like crazy! That’s wild for you!) And I’m no less a capable career woman. There’s nothing about scented candles that displaces an aggressive negotiating style. But ever since babyhood, I’ve been handed two separate, mutually exclusive bills of goods: one that includes kitchenry and prettyness, and one that includes board rooms and suit jackets. I say that I want both. Both, I say! I am not content to explore a mere half of my potential as though I were an avatar in a particularly stupid video game! I will negotiate. I will wear a suit jacket! And by my home-cooked cat food and pretty woodburned picture frames, we’re going to have some damn delicious bread in 2015!
I seriously do wonder about that, but not as much as you’d think. I used to watch a lot of The Office because I worked in an office-type setting where I was probably more of a Dwight than a Jim. This was where I cultivated my momentarily-fantastic taste in music, for there was often little to do at this job except jam ecstatically in my giant solo office with my very own door closed. It was like having my own little kingdom that I ruled by way of my badass air guitar skillz.
That’s not true. I swear that’s not true. Oh my God Shannon if you read this I swear I did my work. The previous paragraph was just a gag. Really.
Anywho, I’m always impressed when I see someone like Kaling, who effectively ignored the rules that I scrupulously followed into a day job, massive student loan debt, and responsible adult stuff like that, succeed. I wonder how they knew. I also wonder if I would have done anything differently if I’d known. Probably not. I have a pretty sweet life: ubiquitously wonderful fiancee, great home city, two simultaneous careers that I like equally well, plenty of friends, no substance dependencies. Plus, I live in The Future, so I get to overshare at will on this blog.
I do think of alternatives fairly often. After all, it’s not too late to do a Crazy Ivan if I start feeling constrained by the high-pressure librarian existence. Here are just a few ideas:
1. Kerouac it up
This plan involves persuading my fiancee to join me in an epic lifelong trek across the globe, making our living as traveling gambolers of the Medieval variety. We would modify an RV into a tiny house on wheels that runs off of kitchen scraps. Quaint, no? The only potential negative is the presence of our three cats. I do not want to imagine how we would handle the litter situation in a tiny house on wheels.
2. Artiste Mode
Imagine me, wearing a beret and headphones, hunched over my Macbook in some hip cafe. A sonic wall of music gently numbs the mind as percussive spits of industrial alt rock leak from my headphones and into your brain. You look over my shoulder to check my contract. Five dollars an hour for erotica? How painfully hip! You may choose to offer me a cigarette, giving me the opportunity to whip out my inhaler and give you a superior stare as I suck down a double dose of asthma medication. “I want you to know,” I would say, clearly suffering, “that I paid for this out of pocket.” What an artist.
I’d really just run around after my fiancee saving her from stuff. A dog? I’ll save you, dearest! A homeless guy? Quickly, run to safety – I’ll distract him with this dollar! My drive: to keep her safe. My reward: her limitless amusement.
Believe it or not, housewifery holds a certain appeal for this otherwise rock-solid butch dyke. My father stayed home and raised the kids while my mom supported the family, so I feel like I have a pretty good template. All I have to do is build a house while simultaneously baking a chicken and cleaning the toilet and doing a kid count every three minutes. No sweat. I’ll start right now. Child roll call: 0. Damn. Now I’m depressed. Maybe if we just keep trying?
I don’t know what it means. I don’t know what I’d do. But if it keeps a pestilent, syphillis-ridden clown like Joe Murphy in bacon, I imagine I’ll be a millionaire before the year is out.
So, three months ago, at the behest of forces real and imaginary (but mostly for a job,) I moved to Salem, Massachusetts.
I may as well have moved to Timbuktu. In my hometown of Nelson, New York, neighbors responded to my plans with chortles of disbelief. “Why,” they would ask, “would you want to leave all this?” And they’d sweep their arm wide, wide over the hilly upstate New York landscape to indicate the great and beloved treasure of Nelson: the dairy cow.
Where I come from, dairy cows alone outnumber humans roughly three to one. Why would I ever want to leave Nelson? How about the impending cow uprising for starters?
Also, Boston. It had been my dream since high school to run off to a Big City, get a job where I could use my brain, and be a Great Big Dyke in a house by the sea without molestation or grief. Freedom beckoned from the coast. Restaurants and public transportation beckoned. Provincetown Women’s Weekend beckoned very hard – I had pictures to prove it.
And, one day, while minding my own business, I got a job in a library on the North Shore.
The hopeful little lamp I carried for Boston turned into a full-fledged genie overnight. I got a sweet bachelor pad and a CSA and trucked my cat, my books, and my motorcycle out to Salem over a weekend.
Then, rent came due.
Then I had to see a doctor.
Then I got my first paycheck – and heard the word “Taxachussets” for the first time.
Life remains fairly rosy. I wouldn’t return to Nelson for the world. My job rocks, for one thing. My boss is legitimately great. Salem’s always got something going on, and anyway I’m not sure I could get my cat back into the carrier after the last six-hour car ride. But life’s different here. It’s expensive and full of strange twists. It’s the first real challenge I’ve ever had. Frankly, it’s exactly what I needed.
This blog will chronicle my take on living in Greater Boston, from the food to the fines to the freaky goings-on. Boston via country mouse: what could be better? I even like to think that maybe, just maybe, YOU are a pansy in a bed of petunias somewhere and are considering a Big Jump. Jump away, my friend. If I can do this, you’ve got proof that even the least civilized of hicks can make it anywhere.