Saturday, August 25, 2012


Many things I want to do today: for one, get my hair cut – it's longer than it's been since that fatal day, in my senior year of college, when I asked my room mate to cut off my golden hippie locks. Like most of my major life decisions – getting married and having children, for instance – I have no idea why I did it. My theory is that if you actually know why you did something, it wasn't really a major decision: it was just a detail of implementation.

The gold, baby-fine hair drifted down to the floor. Martha found it too traumatic and had to leave the room. When we were done I was someone else: less arrogant, less confident, less opinionated. I had decided, though I didn't know it yet, to become a Buddhist: I had decided to get over myself.

It's a strange thing to pick up your old life, silky and gleaming and weightless, and feel it between your fingers. I wasn't sure, course, that I'd keep cutting it. I might have just let it grow again. But in fact, I've been cutting it for three decades, and whatever I do, I will never have long golden locks again. Long white hair is another thing entirely, with an entirely different range of meaning: more Dumbledore than Roger Daltrey.

Periodically I trim my beard. It's a task I enjoy and am good at. I end up with a handful of soft, stiff, multicolored fragments (but tending more and more to snowy white), which I must always handle, just for a moment, as I'm cleaning up: they too are soft and barely there, vanishing threads, and they always remind me of the day when I made one of the decisive, unknowable turns of my life, and my past whispered over my ears, off my shoulders, to the floor.

If I could have shed my name as well, I would have. I wanted to go forward with no tokens, no banner, no representation, no assertion.

‘Who are you, Master?’ he asked.

‘Eh, what?’ said Tom sitting up, and his eyes glinting in the gloom. ‘Don’t you know my name yet? That’s the only answer. Tell me, who are you, alone, yourself and nameless?

No one; or everyone.


marly youmans said...

I'd say that you do have a bit of the Bombadil in you!

Yes, I like the idea of new names when you walk through big doorways. Inconvenient on Anywho, of course. "Favier,"

Pure white hair is lovely...

Zhoen said...

I wish I could have had my hair full long most of the time it was a lovely chestnut. But now that it's grey, I appreciate it more, luxuriate in it all. And a mere glance from the checker when I buy beer at the self service is a breeze.

Kathleen said...

Wonderful to read this and to feel, via your words, the light strands of hair between my own fingers! Thank you.

Lucy said...

Yes, I think you should do the long white hair thing.

Our former elderly neighbours' daughter and s-i-l, who had been fairly smart, neatly coiffed ordinary bourgeois-type Paris people in their working lives, blossomed in retirement and explored their inner hippies, growing long grey locks and a beard (for the s-i-l!) and wearing loose sloppy clothes. It was delightful to see.

Seon Joon said...

"My theory is that if you actually know why you did something, it wasn't really a major decision: it was just a detail of implementation."

Wonderful and so true. Made me laugh, with rue and with memory, of all my own major decisions.