I’m Not Hair

“You mean when I see you after, you’ll be like a totally different person?” Cameron asked with almost vexing incredulity. As though, yes, hair dye had the power to really make Zelda into a new woman. One without all the little quirks and faults that Cameron had recently come to be annoyed with after the novelty of the relationship had worn off in Month Two. She had been platinum blonde when they first met. Encountered during an over the top squabble between a couple in Central Park. They were middle-aged, maybe together for what might have been ten years. Evidently, something that the man did set off the woman in front of the Nuts 4 Nuts stand. Maybe it was a slight as simple as: she didn’t want any fucking peanuts, she wanted cashews. It’s difficult to ascertain what will set a person off after enough time subjected to the same foibles of a “loved one” for so long. Whatever did it, the woman was grabbing nut sack after nut sack to pelt at her erstwhile object of affection.

Caught in the nearby crossfire was Zelda, waiting patiently to buy her desired three dollar cashews. Assuming that the woman would simply ignore her as she went about ordering, Zelda, much to the surprise of Cameron, who happened to be walking by, was instantly deemed the enemy in league with the now ex-boyfriend or husband. “Oh so you’re on his side, huh? Are you fucking him too? Is that it?” the woman screamed as she began to heave the remaining nuts within her grasp at Zelda. Cameron, in full reflexive chivalry mode, swept in to pull Zelda aside from the crossfire, a move that ended up toppling her to the ground in what was likely a sensation more painful than being hit with the nuts this woman kept kifing from the cart thanks to the out of shape vendor’s physical inability to do anything to stop her.

As a police officer approached to intervene, the woman bolted, leaving her ex to give the symbol of the cross in silent gratitude to God. “Are you okay?” Cameron entreated, gazing at Zelda from his overhead perch while simultaneously helping her up. It would be a metaphorical position to set the tone for the duration of their impending relationship. Looking down upon her while trying to elevate her to what he thought was his higher level. It would be enough to drive anyone crazy after a while. And maybe it finally did after only the aforementioned two months of Cameron and Zelda shacking up together (meaning that Zelda saw fit to carve out a drawer for herself at Cameron’s Upper West Side apartment, where he lived alone in an expectedly overpriced one-bedroom) almost immediately. Going from spending most of her time in the low-key, faux bohemian environs of South Brooklyn, Zelda was starting to feel decidedly out of place in this new and bourgeois milieu (though at least not as bourgeois as the Avenues Madison and Park on the Upper East Side). It was, in part, what spurred her to go to the CVS one day after she was finished working at her sad waitress job in Hell’s Kitchen. What did someone like Cameron see in her anyway? He was intellectually superior, better looking. What did he want with her if not to murder her and stuff her with a bizarre filling of his arbitrary choosing? There must have been some sort of catch–other than enduring undercutting and insidious verbal abuse (e.g. “You’ve made a lot of progress in that book…considering your attention span.” The book in question was Don Quixote, and she was already on page 549–but still, it was somehow a sign of her inferior intelligence).

Her insecurities had seemed to augment tenfold since meeting Cameron, foremost among them her hair, which she had been bleaching for three years before her Central Park encounter with this supposedly chivalrous addiction psychiatrist. His profession didn’t become readily apparent until their first date, when Cameron called her out for having a mere four glasses of red wine. And it had nothing to do with his overall parsimony. It was a judgment on her lack of self-control. A stern warning that he wouldn’t be tolerant of such “indiscretions” in the future if she decided to keep this folly up. Which, of course, she would. She was Zelda. Her namesake ended up in a mental institution (though Zelda’s mother vehemently maintained she wasn’t really crazy, just pegged as such so F. Scott could continue to pillage her mind and use her as literary inspiration without her getting in the way).

Still, Cameron had an ineffable magnetic pull. One that kept Zelda coming back for more despite knowing it would drive her irreversibly mad. Not Britney shaving her head mad, but Kim Kardashian dying her hair all the time because of the ennui that comes with being rich mad. Though Cameron would tell her, in his professional opinion, that women who dye their hair frequently are generally more confident, she knew that he didn’t see what she was doing that way. Even if he was trying to paint a portrait for himself that this was his chance to get some flavor of the peregrine–while also getting the opportunity to parade around a girlfriend who might at least look smarter with her brunette locks.

So to the CVS it was. It took Zelda almost a full hour to finally decide on something. Why was it that all the girls on those hair dye boxes–regardless of brand or hue–seemed to be forever trapped in an existential quandary? Did you have to be having one in order to want to make a change, no matter how subtle or drastic? Why was the alteration of hair color in a woman so tied to identity–or, rather, a crisis of identity? Zelda couldn’t say, nor did she want to speculate, for it would mean delving a little too deeply into her own reasons for wanting to make an aesthetic amendment. Surely, if she had taken the time to fully explore why, she would have seen it stemmed from a lack of fulfillment or satisfaction. Ultimately, she could only choose her new shade by deliberating on which woman on the box seemed to have the most authentic, non-damaged smile.

***

“I mean, sure, if that’s how you want to look at it,” she replied to Cameron when he said, “You mean when I see you after, you’ll be like a totally different person?” She couldn’t help but inwardly roll her eyes. What was it with men and the need to constantly feel as though they were fucking a “different” woman? Getting some taste of the exotic?

To avoid being further irked by his comments, she chose to follow the instructions on the box, to endure the process of metamorphosis, while Cameron went out for an hour to take an emergency session with a client. When he returned to his apartment, The The’s “This Is The Day” was forebodingly blasting from the stereo.

Making his way toward the bathroom while calling out Zelda’s name, he opened the door to find her wearing a silk white chemise, the shower water pouring over her for who knows how long as the runoff of dye pooled around her to make it look almost as though she was bleeding (she had opted for an auburn hue, in the end). She glanced up at him, mascara tracks down her eyes. “I’m not hair,” Zelda insisted, rocking back and forth in the corner of the shower as Cameron walked in.

“What?”

“I’m not here,” she corrected. Though, in truth, what she meant was “I’m not hair.” No woman should have to be. And yet, that is primarily what defines them when one gets right down to it (that is, of course, unless they’re, say, morbidly obese and that sort of offsets any noticing of hair).

Herbal Inessences? Nothing Is Clairol? Wella Shit, I’ve Gone Crazy? Deadlon? Boring’al Paris? Which brand to choose? Which one will make you over anew? Wash away that tired identity down the drain and, with it, all associated memories from that phase of one’s life.

For Zelda, it was no brand. No color. Maybe she ought to try white next. A reflection of all color. A refractory mirror to all other shades that didn’t have to decide on being any one thing.

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