Pure As the Driven Slush: Heather Corinna's Journal and Diary, Online since 1999

Archive for the 'vanity' Category

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Not only am I not dead, it’s my birthday today.  And unfortunately for me, I’m sick as a dog.  Blue caught some nasty cold/flu thing last week that put him down for days and never one to want to be left out, I had to pick it up myself yesterday.

So, I can’t work, because the fever and malaise has made me stupid.  And I can’t play, because I’m not the kind of stupid that’s any kind of fun.

But I said to myself, as I was resting in the bedroom, “Self? This really is not so bad.  You’re sick, but you’re sick in this beautiful floaty-looking room with some beautiful sunlight streaming in. This bed is seriously cozy. That bagel you just ate was fresh and delicious. You don’t have the Black Plague, you’ve just got a bad cold.  And you can take a day or two off without the world coming to an end, or worrying about getting fired or winding up unable to pay for food because you got sick for a couple of days. You have a bucket of muppety-looking stuffed flowers from your sweetheart, who loves you, and would take care of you tonight if you actually would let anyone do such a thing. You can hear birds chirping (and your old cat yelling, too, but when you’re that old, you’ll probably be whining nonstop yourself). You’re just having a less-than-awesome day in what remains a presently wonderful life.”

Then I realized the light was so lovely, and I was unable to do so little else that I could at least take a few snaps to document my entry into my 41st year, despite being without a tripod right now since I misplaced the plate. And so I did. Even sick and tired both, as it turns out, I’m holding up pretty darn well for being an age I never even thought I’d reach some of the years of my life. Getting older remains more exciting than scary. I still have the freckles over my eyes I like so much, even though sunlight remains a rare commodity here in the Pacific Northwest. I like the lines I’m getting still. I heart the grey at my temples. I’m clearly getting my parental grandmother’s mustache, but that’s okay, especially since if I’m ever out of a job, maybe I can cultivate it and join the circus as the bearded lady. I look contented, how weird is that? All mighty swell.

I know, I continue to be pretty quiet over here, and I think the fact is that I learned all of my arts during crisis and turmoil. I’m one of those walking cliches who only seems to be able to really churn out the creative work when I’m unhappy or scared or in some kind of serious crisis or distress. Since I refuse to turn that situation into its own crisis, I decided a while back, when it became clear I had been happy for a good long while and it seemed to have become a trend, that I was going to just give myself whatever time I needed to get to a point where I could learn to create things when I was happy.

It’s not like I get nothing done: I put in 60 hour workweeks mostly helping other folks with their own scared/unhappy/fearful/crisis. I churn out a ton of work-work in my field just fine.  In fact, I seem to do that work far better in the space I’ve been in over the last… you know, I can’t even clock it, actually, which is kind of super-amazing. So, it’s okay if I do less creative writing, less art, less of what has most often been the way I out parts of my spiritual life and practice into tangible form.  It’s even entirely possible — and I don’t think I’m just telling myself this to rationalize it all — that I’m finally learning to make the work I’d always thought of as the least creative of everything do its own art; it’s own spiritual practice.

My days anymore go something like this: I wake up, I get some coffee, I have a smoke on the porch, maybe stretch my legs outside a bit. I listen to the sounds of the island.  I go to my desk, I get a couple hours of work in. I go outside again. I go up to the loft, do my yoga while looking out into the trees. I take a hot shower. I go outside again. Then I do another bunch of hours of work, now and then take an afternoon walk somewhere in there. My workday ends anywhere from early evening to a little later, with some hangout & a lovely dinner with my sweetheart. Then we vegetate in some way or another. Then we go to bed, and more times than not, I sleep like a baby.

On the rare days when I don’t have to do any work — though I have been doing decently at taking one day off a week — they tend to start the same, though now and then, they start with sex, which is even better. (I’m of the mind one has to start the day with something productive, after all. And yes: that totally counts.) On Saturdays, we go into town, see the farmer’s market, do our errands, sometimes take a drive somewhere lovely, which is pretty much everywhere on this island. Some days we stop by the beach, where I find too many things to bring home. Then we’ll bake or cook or make a fire, or, when the tub outside is working, have a soak or work the dirt. Blue has taken up the ukelele, so now and then we’ll both play together in our new home-only band, Tiny Instruments.Often enough, some friend or another will make a pilgrimage to come visit and we’ll spoil them to pieces because it’s fun as hell to share what we have here right now with the people we love.
I think if I hadn’t lived a life that was nothing close to so provincial up until now, I might even feel a little embarrassed at how much so mine is right now, but I’m not.  I’m constantly grateful for the peace and the solace, and the small, quiet joy that’s pretty much ever present. I never really saw anything like this coming for myself, and some days I don’t notice, but other times I’ll get whacked upside the head with the wonderful surprise of it all and remind myself not to take any of it for granted.

So, I’m sick on my birthday. Whatever. And sure, I still am way overworked and have way too much on my plate way too much of the time. So it goes. Because for the most part, I feel pretty awash in gifts pretty much all of the time, and I’m not sure what else a person can really ask for.

Friday, August 24th, 2007

I am at the point where I am accepting that it is time to start saying goodbye to my red hair.

The fact that there are moments in which this is earnestly sniffle-worthy — hell, the fact that this is something I even feel a need to publicly mention and invest any emotional energy in whatsoever — is freaking ridiculous.

Ah, vanity: you heartless bastard, you maker of small minds and distractor from far greater things.

I can justify this preoccupation ever-so-slightly by saying that those of us with any brand of red hair are often defined by it, even if we don’t self-define by it. I was born, oddly enough, with nearly gray hair, to the point that my mother had a moment of fear thinking I wasn’t actually alive. In early childhood, I was one of those very light blondes, which soon turned to a dark strawberry. In juniour high, I tried to be blonder, but that soon made way for being pink, burgundy, black (alas, I didn’t look like Siouxsie Sioux as I’d hoped, but rather like Snow White gone terribly wrong), until we came back to just making the red brighter and brighter. So, sparing summers when I was just out in the sun so much, the stuff went almost white, I’ve claimed and amplified my copper for a good twenty years now, and if my appearance is mentioned by anyone, even in press pieces, it’s usually been mentioned that I’m a redhead above all else.

When you’re red, you can do nothing else to yourself, and people seem to think that you invested as much effort as they did in sprucing yourself up: it’s a great cheat for the lazy primper. When you’re brave and your red, it often feels as if your hair advertises that bravery; if you’re bold and you’re red, it seems to prepare people in advance for your assertiveness, which can be a real blessing.

But it’s going away. My father’s side of the family has a history of going grey incredibly early: his mother was nearly full-on white by her mid-twenties, as I understand it, and my father’s went that way by the time I was in high school. Who knows whather it’s the premature grey that’s hereditary or simply the legacy of trauma and stress. My mother had that hair everyone wants, that gorgeous deep russet stuff, but she’s bleached it for so long that even she doesn’t know when hers went grey. I started seeing white hairs in my twenties as well, but it’s been a slower process for me than I anticipated, which perhaps gave me some false hope.

I say that, but really, I’ve always looked forward to going grey, but in part I realize that’s because I had the silly idea that I’d go to sleep looking like me one night, and wake up the next looking like Emmylou Harris. Hope springs eternal, eh? When it became clear that wasn’t exactly the most realistic expectation, I just figured that the streak of white that had started growing on my crown would get bigger and bigger, until you’d have a hard time distinguishing me from Bonnie Raitt: in fact, when I’ve had my hair highlighted over the last handful of years, I’ve always had Sy just throw more bleach there to make it bigger artifically.

A couple years back, I stopped having any sort of allover color done, primarily because a) I got tired of it ruining my hair, b) red has always been easy for my hair to hold since there’s so much red already in it, but as the red has started to go and the greys began to take over, it would fade out very fast, and thus be a total waste of cash and c) I began to get visible roots (yuck!) because what was growing back in was so ashy. So, I’d only gotten some foils put in twice a year or so, and mixed some henna into my conditioner every now and then: I’m generally thrifty both of out habit and necessity, as well as the fact that I’ve appreciated my decreasing care in what I look like over the years. But even then, the foils with the red have started to look more and more odd to me, sitting next to a weird mix of fading copper that’s now looking more and more gold and the encroaching silvers. In some ways, it looks more like I’m going blonde than grey, which is a strange disappointment.

Yesterday, I came in from gardening and passed a mirror where the light was just hitting that certain way, and my hair was up just-so, in which I was able to see that not only are my temples now filled with white and ashy hairs — which I hadn’t noticed, having been distracted by the greys in my crown — but that it’s clearly all growing in…well, not red, and not even all that reddish. I’ve heard runours before that red-types don’t often go grey so nicely, that we do get this weird ashy stuff, and the color just starts to look more and more muted and strange, but now the proof has begun to find itself in the proverbial pudding. I remember this older woman I taught with who was a red going grey, clearly desperately clinging to her old hair, with her rinses whose color always seemed off and the whole works looking a bit like the red version of those clothes we all tried to dye black with Rit dye in high school, all spotty and mushy and nothing close to black.

I’ve had folks tell me that no, absolutely, it’s not going as much as I think it is, but I think that’s what you’re supposed to say (and I confess that I also bring to this the eagle-eyes of a photographer: we’re obsessed with tonal values). And that’s not what my hairdresser says. When leafing through my hair, and mention is made of the color and the grey, she — and I expect they teach you this etiquette in beauty school — lets out a small sigh and a simple “Hmm, well, okay.” (And as Becca could back me up with, that near-silence is quite the statement: Sy talks more than I do, which is really saying something — I write like this because I talk like this, but if my mouth is usually doing 80 in a 50MPH zone, Sy’s is careening off the highway with screeching tires and a bloody mess in her wake.)

Ladies and germs, this copper-top is going down, and I intend to go down gracefully.

I’ll be in Minneapolis very briefly next week to photograph a friend’s wedding, and because I gave up on trying to find someone here who could cut my crazy hair decently, I’ll be engaging in what has become a very silly habit (that feels very bougie, even though it’s not like I only go there to get my haircut, and it also costs me less to get a good cut there than it does to get a crap one here) of still getting my hair cut by my hairdresser who is now over 1600 miles away. She, too, has loved my hair over the years; I know that she’ll want to toss some red foils into it, but I feel it’s time to decline, and say farewell fuschia, sayonara scarlet, and cheerio copper.

(And heck, I won’t be the first person in this house to lose their red hair: Mark was even more red — by a serious longshot, he had that brillo-pad copper — than me before he lost his.)

I can’t promise, mind, that I won’t backpedal at some point (nor that I’ll win this battle this time with Madame Sy). While it’s silly as fuck to invest identity in one’s hair, or any aspect of one’s appearance or body, given how much flux we’re always in, really, my unruly red mane has been part of me for a long, long time. I’ll likely keep my red ends around for as long as they’ll have me, and if Sy argues that she wants to do something so it’s a more gradual transition, I probably won’t put up that much of a fight. Honestly, I might tell her to hack the whole works off at this point, save that for the first time since maybe the seventh grade, I have a partner who is so in love with my hair — even though he’s usually been a short-hair fan with other partners of his — that his little face crumples at the mere mention of hacking it off. Since I figure I’d react similarly if, say, he wanted to change the canvas of his perfect bottom with a giant tattoo, I get it. I’m not ready to cut it all off again anyway, if for no other reason than the fact that the upkeep sucks with short hair.

Anyway, I’m going to start adjusting my brain, and looking for some good symbolism in silver and gold to get attached to.

…and keep hoping that I’ll wake up one day looking like Emmylou Harris. A girl can dream, after all.