• megna paula

Short hair and shorter shorts

You’re going to love her, he said. I trusted him; I had trusted him from the first twenty minutes I saw him in my class at SoHo equinox. He toppled over in what should have been a totally stable, normal, basic pose. We giggled. Within thirty seconds, while I was teaching aloud, we had a quick repartee about being stoned, being plant based, high and happy vegans. The funny thing is we were both sober, so the giggling went on longer than it would have were we truly stoned.

I don’t know how to explain these things; they just happen. Within a few weeks, he had met my parents, and had a copy of my house keys. So when he said, you’re going to love her, yeah, I trusted him.

I sat in her chair, looked at her looking at me in this beautiful invisible set of lines that bounced from her eyes to my hair to my eyes back to hers via over-lit mirror. What do you want, she asked.

What do I want? I was incredulous. I am here for a haircut, I told her, in the same tone of voice I use when I teach the same person how to do a sun salutation for the millionth time because yes they did forget that one crucial thing about breathing. In other words: patiently, saintly, stating the obvious.

She used the same tone of voice with me and suddenly we were on an even playing field. Yes, but what are we doing.

Then I just bared my soul and the rest is really a history written into the fact that the nape of my neck is now naked.

I don’t know, I told her, I’ve always just gone to see my mother’s hairdresser for my whole life, and they just decide what my hair is going to look like so I just go when the appointment is made for me, and my mother drives me there, talks to the stylist while I sit quietly, and then she drives me home.

Very childish, I know, and I handled it appropriately, by avoiding it at all costs, so my hair was a default waist-length of slightly wavy, totally Bengali-beauty hair. No bangs, no angles, no layers, but also no husband, so just the semblance of traditional.

That day, Emma cut layers into my long hair, and it was a big deal. Early last year, we did bangs, which was a sensation in every Equinox in downtown Manhattan plus Williamsburg. I got a new tattoo on my belly around the same time, which was also a public sensation considering my line of work and distaste for covering my body.

Freedom, my friends— that is the story I am telling you.

When you realize the extraordinary physical flexibility that the body is capable of, clothing is always in the way, always a bother. My hair, too, fell into that category. Soon as I woke, or wanted to work, I had to tie it up, or back. How many times did I have to reset a bun during hours of Ashtanga practice? Too many.

There was a moment, in college, when I saw a senior. She was stunning. Standing at some distance from me. Tall and slim and tanned and my god her dark hair was short. So. Short.

The next time I was dragged to the salon, I worked up the courage to ask for short hair. I was 20. I should have been able to make that kind of decision. My mother and my stylist looked at each other, via the over-lit mirror. Then they both looked at me, also via the over-lit mirror. Gazes of loving care and a firm, no.

So I gave up on that and went on to other things that felt like freedom, like breaking up with beautiful, brilliant men and leaving my neuroscience career in order to run around the Capitol in short shorts and the only bare midriff in town. And still, my hair was long.

The pandemic came, more beautiful/brilliant men came and went, my midriff stayed tattooed and bare, and, wouldn’t you know it, my hair was still long. Emma, I texted her, I need to see you.

I didn’t say, this time, I’m here for a haircut. I said, let’s go short. Her eyes went big. How short? Short. She asked no questions, did not call my mother. She tied my hair into the last low ponytail I’ve had, and just cut it off.

It felt like the best exhale of my life.

Go get washed, she said. No wasted emotions; this is Manhattan and time is just goes on, whether or not you’ve just shed decades of weight from your head. More specifically, this is East Village, and we’re hippies, so my hair was recycled. Can you believe that? I couldn’t. Someone, somewhere, is enjoying my baggage.

Like you, right now.

I saw Emma again last night. I didn’t tell anyone I was going, which is another freedom I enjoy flexing. Ryan was at the door, which I struggled to open, for no reason, and we were giggling all over again, like the pre-pandemic 30 year olds we were once upon a group fitness lifetime. Emma didn’t ask what I was in for, and I didn’t say anything about my hair.

I sat down, eyes and masks bouncing in beautiful lines reflected via over-lit mirror.

Are you seeing any men? She asked. So single, I lamented, every so quietly. Great, she said. Great. We’re going shorter.

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©2020 by Megna Paula