Have you ever obsessed about your hair?
Has a haircut ever made you develop insomnia because you can't decide if you hate it or love it?
If the answer to any of the above questions ranges from an emphatic yes to a shaky maybe, then you'll understand.
If your answer is a 'No' to any one of the questions, then you are lucky.
However, if your answer is a 'No' or 'Never' to both the questions above, then you are blessed- believe me.
A brief history:
I have had short hair most of my life. When I was little, my mother believed in the least amount of fuss in the mornings - so my sister and I sported the 'boy cut' hair. Our innocence and our small town upbringing made the 'boy cut' cool - we were fine with it.
High school saw me championing a well oiled plaited look because oiling equalled long lush tresses and if I had long hair, the boy of my dreams would love me. The wisdom of Hindi films and hair oil ads on TV had to be true.
'Who's ever going to even look at you with all that oil?" asked a kind classmate once. He was obviously trying to help, but I didn't see his point of view.
University days were all about quitting the oil and letting go. The boy of my dreams had to be around those corridors somewhere. I couldn't risk it. Open tresses to French braids- I tried it all.
One day in college, I decided to wrap a scarf around my loosely tied hair. I had seen some other girls carrying this look around the campus with aplomb.
A friend who was sitting behind me during a riveting lecture on Income Tax tapped me on my shoulder and with great concern in his voice asked, " What happened? How did you hurt your hair? Was it serious? Does it still hurt?"
It took me a few seconds to decipher his concern. My scarf was muslin and WHITE - bandage white!
His big brown eyes were tearing up with silent laughter while I watched the boy of my dreams racing down the long college corridor towards 'the end' of my love story.
Three hairdressers refused to cut my waist length hair short. This was more than twenty years ago in New Delhi and the idea that long hair equals beauty was very much intact.
One kind hairdresser took pity and unwittingly ushered in the neurosis that I have associated with haircuts ever since.
"It's taken 10 years off you." was the usual response I got from my new colleagues at my new job after that first chop. I was 21. Who wouldn't want to be eleven and earn money and be independent?
The battle between sexy long tresses (even though the boy of my dreams has since been captured and tethered to me for better or for worse) and short hair ( for its ability to take years off my age) rages on.
Here's a 'sample' of what happens when I visit the hairdressers every couple of months.
It's called the POST HAIRCUT RITUAL or PHR for short- pronounced (in Hindi) - phir se? (translation- again? what gain? No Lord, NOT again!!)
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to visit the hairdressers-
not the expensive kind
but the kind one finds in a mall.
The kind one usually uses
when one knows what one wants
one is planning a change
but doesn't know
what kind of change!
The plan was to get a trim, but she took a lot more off. I could sense it but I was unable to stop her. I always feel that they know best. The big pile of hair on the floor looked forlornly at me- almost accusing me of abandoning it.
Regret started setting in like a Plaster of Paris mould- emanating heat. All the signs of 'what did I do' were there.
'Thank you', I chirped shrilly while tipping the chopper of my hair and stepped out in a daze.
One would think that years of putting up with my post haircut behaviour would have taught my husband what to say. My girlfriends, on the other hand, are a God send. I'll let you decide who handles the PHR better.
Husband (getting in from work- opening the door- grinning and trying to look excited): Smart haircut!
I: You're just saying that. You know that's the safest thing to say. You don't really mean it.
(the husband puts the briefcase down on the floor next to the sofa.)
I: You're not even looking at me. You just want to play it safe.
I: You really think so? I could wear it like this (pin up) or like this? It doesn't make me look old, does it?
Girlfriend: Of course NOT!
The husband has changed out of his work clothes and has been fed and watered. The elephant in the room is waiting patiently to be stroked back into conversation.
I: Is this better than the last one ?
Husband: "Uhhhh ...what?....Sure.
( The poor man can't recall what he had for lunch that afternoon- let alone a trim I had six months ago!)
I (the eyes are getting wider and the pitch a tad sharper): Sure ? What? Sure YES or Sure NO??
The husband pulls out his phone and pleads for it to ring. It doesn't. He wears the 'serious- I- have - a -crisis- at -work- situation' look and checks his phone for texts.
For all I know he's probably sending spiritual SOS messages to all the Hindu gods and goddesses to save him.
The Gods I'm sure have tuned in to our sitting room just to watch the drama unfold.
His prayers are answered. The phone rings. He gestures with his hand to suggest that it's an important call and that we should take a break from our stimulating conversation. He needs to take the call. To get more privacy for this VERY IMPORTANT CALL, he turns around so that now I'm facing his back. My eyes are getting wider, the brows are drawing closer and the tone of my voice when I use it next WILL NOT be friendly.
His phone conversation goes on for a bit.
He hopes I have disappeared.
But like Rosemary's child, I am there with my new hairdo - waiting.
I: So, what do you think?
Husband : Do you like it?
I: I asked you.
Husband: Sure! I mean -it's nice.
I ( almost screeching): NICE? Is that all you can say?
Girlfriend: Do you like it?
I: I'm not so sure anymore.
Girlfriend: I think it's nice.
I: Really? Do you mean it? It doesn't make me look old, does it?
Girlfriend: Of Course NOT!
Scene 3 :
Husband: So guys, what do you think of mum's new haircut?
Teenagers ( in unison): Mmmmm...
They mumble and leave the room shrugging their shoulders. They move suspiciously faster than normal- without dragging their feet- it's almost like they are sprinting out of the room but manage to cleverly disguise it with teenagers' indifference so that it seems like they are retracing their steps back up the stairs to their room sanctuaries at NORMAL speed.
I ( sounding desperate): Did I do the right thing? Should I've gone shorter? What suits me more? Long or short?
Husband : I've always preferred short hair on you.
The BOMB has been dropped.
I: AND you are telling me NOW? After I've grown it for almost a year! You couldn't have told me SIX months ago?
Needless to say- the silent war is declared without a murmur being whispered.
Girlfriend: Short hair is so 'you'.
I: Ya! I think so too, but..
Girlfriend: But the way you tied it up when it was long, looked good too. You know it's hair..it grows..have fun with it.
I: I know. It doesn't make me look old. Does it?
Girlfriend: Of Course NOT!
(My girlfriend and I say cheers to that and hold hands and skip happily into the sunset
while the poor husband is left to deal with the SILENT treatment for an indefinite period!)
The same scenes are repeated in my household every time I visit the hairdressers. My vanity and neurosis hit an all time high. These are not my best moments, but they're mine and they make me who I am.
Girlfriends who know me have been subjected to the same treatment via whatsap messages and texts, but they know exactly how to respond. They choose any one or more of the following options:
1. It looks great for this time of the year. (non- committal. Hair grows.)
2. How do you feel about it? ( Notice that this is the same question asked by the husband but when a girl friend asks, it warrants a different response- she cares about how I feel- Awww...)
3. This has taken years off your age. (my favourite)
4. I love your hair. (again- non committal- I love your hair does NOT mean I love your hair style- but once again I love her for showing me the support.)
If you have any hairy tales to share, please do.
Yoga has taught me to accept and let go. Like some Asanaas I find difficult to get into, letting go of my vanity about how my hair makes me look is proving to be challenging.
I just want to thank the universe for a husband who puts up with it and for the girlfriends who know what to say every time.