This afternoon, I ditched work in favor of hair therapy. Kegan, in addition to being the best stylist in Raleigh, has a doctorate in psychology. The man is good at what he does. The first time I went to see him, I had just started my architecture internship. “Let’s do something more polished and professional looking. It’s just all wavy and wild. It needs to be shorter, sleeker and more pulled together.” I was not very convincing when I said that.
He looked at me intensely for a moment, and said, “We can totally do that. But I’m not sure that’s what you really want. What if we went longer and looser, and kept the wavy?”
I thought about it for a minute, and said, “YES.”
Kegan is good at knowing when I am saying what I think I want instead of what I actually want. At the beginning of the summer, I went in and said, “We have to cut it off. It’s hot, and heavy, and wild.” As always, he said, “We can totally do that. But do you actually want it shorter, or do you want it long but less hot, less heavy, and by the way, keep the wild?”
“I can have that?” I asked.
“You can have that,” he promised. And he cut off piles and piles of hair, and somehow it WAS longer when he was done. It was so much better than what I asked for. He’s good that way.
He throws in the psychology, and the reality checks, for free. Once I discussed with him my Life List goal of dancing on top of a bar, and rattled off how many things in the cosmic order which would have to align to make that happen. (A bar you could gracefully climb upon, with tolerant management, and with music good enough that I’d spontaneously get on a bar and dance to it. It has to be spontaneous.*) I figured Kegan would be a dance-on-top-of-a-bar kind of guy, so I asked him where he’d suggest. “Girl,” he said to me in a no-nonsense kind of way. “You have got to take that mess out of town.” Good point, Kegan. Good point.
I came to Kegan after a kind of radical career change, from teaching first grade to architecture, when I was trying to get my feet under me and figure out how to navigate the next chapter. I had also just come from two months of traveling solo around the world, which I highly recommend. I didn’t have a hair dryer for sixty days; I barely brushed it. More than once I washed it with hotel bar soap in a Cairo sink, or leaned up against a radiator in an Istanbul hotel room to dry it while I watched it snow outside over Hagia Sofia. I washed it three times a day in Zanzibar, because good heavens, that place is on the equator. Your only hope is to stay in the shade, or stay wet. When I got home, my usually stick-straight hair was a long, battered, tangled mess. I loved it.
I thought I needed to look like the image of an architect in my head, and go in a hurry from everything that was grad school and traveler to everything that was professional. The best word I could think of was “polished.” It’s taken me a couple of years to figure out that I’m not the least bit interested in “polished.” If that mattered to me, I’d have made a whole bunch of different decisions that would have put me in a whole other world. I wouldn’t like it there. I envision a “Raleigh bob” and Lily Pulitzer outfits and Junior League committees and a lot of competitive hostessing and corporate ladder climbing. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of that, but no, thank you. It’s not me.
So I took “have one day when I feel polished from head to toe” off of my Life List. The week of the last family wedding, there was a facial (nice), a manicure and pedicure (stressful) a hair stylist and make-up person (tragic, I left looking like high-school at the mall in the eighties, but whatever), and a new dress and gorgeous shoes (canary yellow and sapphire blue, since you asked). There was even waxing (it hurt.) That’s probably as close as I’ll ever get to being more or less overhauled in a five-day span, and it was all fine. I crossed it off, just in time to realize all of the reasons why that item wasn’t something I really wanted on the list in the first place.
After that haircut when Kegan cut out all the layers that were weighing me down, I looked in the mirror and saw something crazy: a curl. Almost a whole spiral, on the left side of my face. I have never had a curl before which I didn’t put there. I told Kegan about it; he said your hair entirely changes every seven years, so it’s not that uncommon to go from straight hair to curly. “I like the wave,” he said. “Embrace it. It’s what your hair wants to do, so don’t fight it. Have some fun with it.”
Curl. I did not see that coming. I think I like it.
*I’m open to suggestion, but I’m thinking my best shot is Kings with the right band, partly because I know one of the bartenders from grad school and if I explained the situation he might not have me arrested. Also, last time I was there sitting in the window, I realized it’s one step from window seat to barstool, and one step from barstool to bar. It’s feasible. It’s completely out of character and I dance only under extreme circumstances in public, but I figure I should have a plan sketched out. You know, just in case.