Hirsute Yourself 7: Fie rebirth.

I have undergone metamorphosis. I have undertaken a journey of strange new worlds and emerged a different entity. Kafkaesque. For clarity’s sake, I’m not a cockroach. There’s a change I’ve always wanted to enact. Try something outside my common experiences. I had a costume party to attend and I figured now was as good a time as any for a revolution.

Okay, let’s quit it with the grandiose imagery and be real for a second. I dyed my hair.

I’m a redhead, a ginger, a carrot top (without a propensity for props), I’ve got beet-roots, y’all.

It’s something I’ve had an interest in for some time. I’ve always been locked into my dark locks and thought something different could be nifty. I’m not a bright redhead, we didn’t go the bleach route. It’s more of a two-tone thing, like those snazzy cars. If light shines on my mop, the red bursts through. It’s a change that I’m getting used to. I keep catching myself staring into the mirror, captivated by the new person who stares back. As part of the costume, a beard shave was beneficial, so I’m staring at a new person who also looks 23. Quite the trip.

The costume in question is for a superhero costume dance party. I settled on a gender bent Black Widow. I know there were more than enough male heroes to choose from, but Black Widow’s a total badass. She’s efficient, intelligent and a slick brawler. What’s not to like? I’m going with my merino thermals, some bullet belt wristbands and a customised belt. Also the red hair, helps sell the image. I thought about holstered guns, but at some point if you’re wanting to shake your ass, peripherals start to get intrusive.

So I’m a redhead now. I don’t feel any different, but it feels like things should. I need to start compiling a list of proper redhead decorum. I guess I should be fiery? Passionate? Quick to anger, action or agitation? Sleek and seductive? Bold and impulsive? Seeker of adventure, experience and stimuli? Courageous? Lively? Confrontational? Did I suddenly switch from a Capricorn to an Aries? A leopard can’t change its spots, but can a goat become a ram?

Not that I’m one who subscribes to zodiaccessorising. I am who I am (and that’s not a ram) because of the ways I choose to react to the world around me, not by buying into mythical woo woo telling me who I should be. We all control how we affect the world, not the inverse. That being said, I could always do with letting a bit more chaos into my life. Going with the flow and following impulses for a while, regardless of my hair pigment, couldn’t be the worst outcome. If I use this change as an excuse to see things through differently tinted lashes, then surely that’s not gonna kill me.

 

Get it? Because it was a dye job?

More like, in groan here.

This has gotta be one of the weirder positions I’ve come to you from. More parts ludicrous than lewd, I promise. Sitting cross-legged on my girlfriend’s bed, I’m typing on her laptop while she investigates my back. That in itself sounds unusual, but I don’t know if the truth is more or less peculiar. Do you love ingrown hairs? I love ingrown hairs? Non sequitur? Non quite. She’s working over one of mine.

Tee em eye? You know how I feel about TMI, fuck TMI. There have gotta be so many couples doing strange stuff out there and I’d rather sit down and commit weirdness to the page rather than pretend it doesn’t happen or withhold due to fear of social ostracising. It’s entirely consensual and no duress is involved. She just finds them as oddly captivating as I do. It’s almost simian in a way, as if hunting for lice. There’s something about the thrill of the hunt, looking for a hair that’s so deeply embedded, but still even just barely visible. It’s a challenge, but oh so satisfying to chase after. Armed with a pair of tweezers, it’s possible to make short work of them.

It wasn’t always that way though. I went many years without the proper tools and I’d just use my fingernails. I’d sit there for minutes- many minutes sometimes- aiming to pull out something barely on the edge of visibility. I’ve had a number of spots that are often ripe for harvest. One on my right forearm, one on my left bicep and one just above my right shoulder blade. Usually with the aid of a mirror and an awkward pose I can get ‘er done. There’s built up scar tissue after years of picking, but it’s at the point where it’s almost a pastime.

I was once late for work purely because I got fixated. Sitting on the edge of my bed, bent over my forearm, fingernails pinching tightly together but so often coming up grasping nothing but air. Pre-tweezer days, obviously. The odds weren’t too dissimilar to a claw machine, but the prize was more of a moral victory than a substantive plushie totem. After about 20-25 minutes of this helpless clasping I finally gained a solid nail-hold and pulled free my Excalibhair. Coming out of my fugue state, I realised just how late I was. Work at this point was 4 minutes and 36 seconds walk from home, so I had no real excuse. Somehow my boss noticed my tardiness (we flatted together, he knew how close we were) and inquired as to why I didn’t make it on time. I started coming up with elaborate excuses in my head, then blurted out “I was picking at an ingrown hair.” You can’t make that kind of stuff up. He quirked an eyebrow and replied “Well, I guess that makes sense.” Done.

His flat out acceptance made me consider that it mustn’t be that strange. I’m sure we all have our own eccentricities, but I get the feeling that this ingrown hair thing pulls more people in than you’d think. I’ve met a few people, had a partner or two even, who didn’t find it particularly bizarre. Our bodies are absurd platters of flesh and organs with a sprinkling of curious toppings thrown on there for good measure.

Regardless of its biological function, hair is odd (just try imagining all humans existing without eyebrows. It’s a trip). It grows in small patches according to heat distribution. It’s unique to each person. For some reason I’ve got a natural soul patch on my chin, hair just doesn’t grown on the areas beside it. We have so many hairs, but they fall out constantly. We shape and style, cut and colour the damn stuff at our own whims. If we’re not satisfied with the mop we’ve been given, society has found many ways of getting the look you want, regardless of natural style. I’ve never completely coloured my hair, but it’d be a pretty fun thing to do for shits and giggles.

Maybe I could give it a try if I didn’t spend so much damn time on a few small ingrown ones.

Overly effish-ent.

And if my online dating analogy for flatmate hunting wasn’t apt enough, the online dating algorithm just matched me up with the girl I first offered the room to. Say it with me again guys, I LIVE IN A SITCOM.

If I do live in a sitcom though, one of my traits would be my love of tinned fish. It’s a stupid quirk to have as a defining part of your identity, but I can’t argue with the writing staff here. For years I’ve been eating the stuff for the high protein content and decent fats. At some stage I got wary of potential mercury poisoning and tightened up my act a little. I was eating 5-6 of the Sealord 185g tins per week for about 3 or years. It’s a wonder I’m not already on death’s door. I wisened up and cut down my intake to about 5 70g tins. Then I read a bit more on the subject and cut down to 2 tins per week. I supplemented the missing tins for tins of sardines. I don’t enjoy them, but I know they’re healthy. Wow, this is riveting writing. It’s a pity tuna is primarily found in warm seas, otherwise it would’ve been river-ting.

Anyway. I eat the olive oil flavour on the reg and I’m always scouting about for good deals. Usually 4 for $5 will be a bargain, but every now and then it’s cheaper than that. On Monday I walked into my local 24 hour supermarket (typically expensive) and found olive oil tins for $1 each. So I bought some. I cleaned out the shelf, but there were only 10 there. Chuffed with my purchase, I brought them home and stacked the little blighters on my shelf. I gazed lovingly at them, but something was missing. They looked lonely. Having that much fish was cool, but not as cool as a school of fish. With resolve in my heart, I returned to the supermarket the next day to find some company for my fishy food friends. Once again, I cleaned out the shelf. Another 10 cans of olive oil tuna, all mine. Mwahaha. I chuckled. It sounded kind of like the onomatopoeic laugh I typed right there. I felt devious, dastardly and downright duplicitous.

Wednesday struck and I happened to be on my way back from the gym. While walking past the supermarket, a mischievous air gripped me. I diverted from my path home and wandered into the store. Stalking the aisles with an aura that was half predatory, half impish, I made my way to the tinned fish section. The olive oil was gone. Cleaned out. Kaput. Only the olive oil. Everything else was fully stocked. Mildly irked, I found a restocker to see if it was possible to just grab a box from out back. I assured her I’d likely buy the whole box. She told me that some man had come in that morning and purchased about 20 tins. “You could always come back tomorrow, they might be restocked before then. The sale ends after Friday.” Taken aback, I let the sharp sting of disappointment take root. Then realisation hit me and a warmth radiated from my core.

I had a rival.

Ever since those days of Pokémon, I’d always wanted a rival. Someone to stack my achievements against to spur healthy competition. It was on. It was on like congee.

Then I forgot. But on the way back from the gym today, synapses fired and memories sparked. I had this. Provided he hadn’t come in that morning, I may’ve been in the clear. I made my way to the aisle and looked. There seemed to be no gaps. I looked for the olive oil cans. CONNECTION! I grabbed my basket and started stacking into piles of 4. 22 cans was all they had, but with a mere capitalistic transaction, I now had them all.

I’m sure you’re asking, do I feel petty? Well no. I feel secure in the knowledge that I’ll be stocked for maybe half a year. You may wonder if I feel guilty for getting greedy, taking a resource that should be available for everyone? Admittedly, kind of. Though I’m sure they wouldn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I will. As for my rival, what do I think of him? Well it feels like in another world, we could be friends. We both obviously have the same taste in tinned fish, I’m sure we’d have other tastes in common too. Maybe we could hang out, watching You’re the Worst and slowly dying of mercury poisoning together.

Then again, my life is a sitcom. Inevitability means I’m probably already friends with the dude.

So now the dilemma, do we call the place The Amazing Spider-Flat or the Flatcave?

The search is over, I have a new flatmate! It was a long and arduous journey. Actually, it was neither of those things. It was a bunch of exchanged messages, meeting in person and discussing likes, dislikes, gauging personalities for potential matches and what we each had to offer, then rapid onset disappointment when they inevitably left. So it was basically online dating. Seeing as my flatmate was moving out into his own place, he was pretty helpful at giving his input into who seemed like a good fit.

After posting a write-up of substantial length, lazier applicants couldn’t be bothered applying. I also didn’t get many applicants. A few people messaged, then didn’t reply when I offered them the opportunity to view. Others posted short blurbs about themselves, which didn’t seem remotely appealing. Okay, so I might’ve been slightly picky. It’s the place I call home, if not inviting the vampires in keeps me safe, it’s worth being a little selective. I did have a few who slipped through the cracks though:

  • The behavioural therapist for kids with autism, who described himself as a Big Gay Nerd.
  • The IT dude from Montreal looking for a place. He was also fluent in 5 languages.
  • The heteronormative girl who worked for a charity. Described herself as easy going, a pubs not clubs kind of gal.
  • The pop-culturally obsessed lesbian folk musician.

So I had some choice and decided to invite them all over in one night. I scheduled them each about 40 minutes so I could get a good gauge of who they actually were. The first guy seemed nice enough, but gave little hints he might be a bit particular about some things. He mentioned how much he loved going to live music and mentioned a band London Grammar. After he left, my flatmate gave the thumbs down. We listened to London Grammar. “You guys could listen to Florence + The Machine together. That’s all you’d do. It’s all you’d have in common.” He was right.

The second guy seemed on the level, but thought it was for a March occupancy. Bummer, missed opportunity.

The first girl had sounded a mite boring in her email, but was actually really great. We talked for about an hour and a half. She did seem easy going like she’d mentioned, she was interested in following her passions in health sciences and was realistic about what she had to do to get there. Actually had a late stage interview for a job the next day, which would complicate her choice to move in or not if she got it. The new place was further away than her ideal commute. She liked a bunch of decent TV dramas and good stand up comics. I did a total 180° on her and held her up as a strong candidate. She got the flatmate’s sign of approval.

The last visitor of the night got off work and came over around 11pm. She was a pop-cultural savant and seemed to be one of the only other people who’d seen You’re The Worst. She also spotted my girlfriend in a picture from the work Christmas party. She pointed “Is she… I think I went to school with her.” She was enthusiastic and conversational. She was keen to practice her music relatively often. After having a previous flatmate who practiced her music all the time, the lack of decent soundproofing in my house gave me pause. She was looking for a place ’cause she’d lived with an ex-girlfriend and the relationship deteriorated. I thought we’d probably get on quite well, but that’d be a lot of energy to deal with on a regular basis. My flatmate advised me to go for the first gal.

So I had a choice, but it was pretty clear. I sent a message to the first girl and said to take a few days, get back to me after she’d thought about it and knew how the interview went. Then I got another email.

Friendly girl, quick wit. She described herself as “friendly” and “neighbourhood” in that order. I gave her a chance to look, just in case this first offer didn’t work out. As a callback to her initial message, she came to the viewing wearing a Spider Man tee under her shirt. Good sign. She was easy going, but had her priorities in order. She didn’t drink, but had no problem hanging out with people who did. She played hockey and roller derby plus had a cool job as a Research Technician at the hospital. Conversation flowed well, she described herself primarily an introvert that knew how to be social. I pictured her as a flatmate; quiet but amicable, low maintenance but clean. In short, perfect. I asked why she was looking, she mentioned that she and her girlfriend broke up, which led to moving out. I thought back over some things she’d said and put a couple of pieces together. I went for it. “This is gonna potentially sound creepy, but your ex-girlfriend’s name happen to be [pop-culturally obsessed lesbian folk musician]?”

It was.

She seemed cool about it and talked openly and honestly. She said that my place was great, but if her ex had come to look at it, it was good for the ex’s price range and she thought the ex and I would get on famously. She said to give it to the ex, she needed it more. Which, of course, is one of the most endearing things I’ve heard. It may have just been amazing reverse psychology, but it worked. I kind of wanted her in lieu of the girl I’d offered it to. Bummer.

But then the girl I’d offered it to passed it up in favour of a place closer to her new work. She got the job? Good for her.

So I offered it to the Friendly Neighbourhood Flatmate. She said she’d looked at a bunch of places and found somewhere super close to her work. She said she’d love it as a back-up, but understood if I needed someone sooner than that.

So I offered it to her ex-girlfriend, who didn’t reply that night.

The next day, Friendly Neighbourhood Flatmate sent me a text saying she hadn’t gotten the place. “May I be the Robin to your Batman?” She asked.

I told her my predicament, that I’d offered it to her ex, but while I didn’t want to put her in an awkward position, she was the flatmate I wanted rather than the ex.

She said they’d been talking and decided she should take the place. I emailed her ex explaining that the room had been taken and she replied that she’d found somewhere better for her price range.

So everything wrapped up neatly with a little bow. Do I ever have reason to think I don’t live in a sitcom?

I mean, I’ll probably still be a recluse anyway. The internet doesn’t care for seasons.

You know something’s up when I’m tired of an excuse to stay inside. For a short month, the blustering winds and heavy snows of February seem to be stretching on to forever. I don’t even think it’s the weather itself that’s dumping down on my mood, but all the associated rigmarole. Getting ready to leave the house shouldn’t take 5 minutes once you’ve reached the front door. Still, when it’s below -15 Celsius you’ve gotta have thermal long johns both top and bottom, a sweatshirt, your jacket, gloves, a scarf, a hat and chunky boots. No matter how many times I tell myself I’m just playing as Iron Man, it doesn’t lighten the load. Despite my aversion to sun, fresh air and gratuitous exposure to both, it’ll be nice to at least have the option.

I miss summer dresses and exposed legs, denim skirts and (surprisingly) high waisted shorts. I miss those floppy dilettante hats and people wearing smiles. I miss feeling warmth on my arms and legs without standing by a heater. I miss flopping about in jandals, being aware of the ground so much closer to my feet. Dogs and their owners jogging together.

I want to recall what it was like not to have to plan for clothes. No coat check, auxiliary footwear or alcove for excess apparel. I want jogging to be something in my life, for the potential of dangerous slips to fade back into memory.

I’m thinking fondly of stone fruits: Peaches, plums, nectarines. Tropical platter fruits: Pineapple, cantaloupe, watermelon. Sangria in lieu of cider, margaritas taking the place of evening hot chocolate. Soups could be salads, stews could be sausages (laid diagonally on the bread, down under style of course). Ice cream erryday.

Days spent lazing about with grass on my back, armed with a pen and a notebook. Hearing the hum of cicadas, to once again be amazed by the manifold miniature lifeforms with which we share this planet. I want barbecues and outdoor potlucks with beers in the dusk. I want movies in parks, late night walks and sunsets that last a lifetime. I want music festivals, food fairs and tramping. To sneak into public pools late at night, skinny dipping on nude beaches. To recall what water’s like when it’s fluid, not firm. People happy, enraptured. At this time of year a giggle almost feels like a fantasy.

I’m ready to complain, to bitch and moan about how terrible it is to sweat. I want to loathe my lack of energy, how drained I feel. I want to feel petty, because I’ll know that the luxury of being able to grumble means that things aren’t really all that tragic.

Mostly though, I’m ready to live rather than just survive.

Hirsute Yourself 6: Hairitage

If I was ever worried about my lack of maturity, I can cease worrying. I’ve turned into my own mother. Metaphorically of course, because if I’d somehow switched physical gender and time travelled back to have sex with my father… well I think I would’ve led with that. My physical gender and temporal fixture remain unchanged, but I’ve reached a plateau that I never thought possible. For the first time, I recognised when I needed a shave and a haircut.

I’d forgive you all for not reeling back in astonishment, but for me this was kind of a big deal. My face had become bushy, unkempt, scruffy. I had no logical reason for growing so much face foliage, but a combination of laziness and nobody to rub faces with didn’t give me a heap of reasons not to either. Still, the realisation that I looked eerily Amish gave me cause to bring in some facial deforestation. Also I started getting irrationally angry with technology. I think I just looked hobo-ish in general, food got stuck in it and at times I found myself thinking someone had put hair in my meals, but I was actually just chewing on my moustache. Out came the beard trimmer and I mowed away. Things look better now, some older Russian lady in the work kitchen this morning told me I was handsome. If that didn’t justify it, I don’t know what would.

As for the crop top Lego man haircut? Well it’s cold. I need the extra layer, like a natural toque woven with my own tufts. When the ice melts, who knows what I’ll do? I know I don’t really suit longer hair after a certain length and I’d look more employed with something shorter, styled. The problem that arises is my disinterest in putting any effort into this mess on my head. Whatever I wake up with, that’s my look for the day. Do they have things similar to a perm, but it just keeps a certain hairstyle 24/7? Like a hair helmet? A hairmet? Maybe I can actually get a Lego man kind of clip on dome. I just don’t want to have to think about it. I’ve got more important things to focus on, like how to switch gender and time travel for kicks, giggles and messing with the spacetime continuum.

How far does this new-found maternal responsibility extend? Will I look in the freezer only to find stacks of carefully proportioned meals? Make my bed daily? Keep a continuous cycle of washed and dried clothing? Change my sheets once a week? Brush my teeth twice a day while flossing regularly? Oh shit son, I already mostly do those things. IT HAS BEGUN. If I actually find a hairstyle that works, will it lock in maturity to a level I can’t quite handle? I remember freaking out when I was given an adult watch. It wasn’t me, I wasn’t ready to stop being a kid. As soon as I got a watch, then I’d get a leather wallet, fancy pens, a wife, mortgage, kids and haemorrhoids. Who in their right mind sought to give me that kind of commitment? Thing is, those things have started happening gradually as a natural progression. I stopped liking the look of my tattered 8 year old Ripcurl wallet. The thought of commitment freaked me out a little bit less. I started seeing traits I liked in children, how their minds developed and retained information. I ceased seeing the point of opposing growth and instead learned to define the things that made me happy, irrespective of my age. So no, I’m not becoming my mother. But I think as time goes by, I’m learning to become someone who would feel okay about helping a kid of my own to develop perspective. A thought that brings comfort, rather than fear.

When it comes to hair though, they’re on their own.

If our love was a pie the filling would be Space Jam.

Oh, hello world. It feels good to be back. I just returned from a leave of absence, taking a step away from the bounds of gravity to reacquaint myself with a special certain someone. My girlfriend returned from her United States trip and now that we’ve compensated for nigh on two weeks’ lack of physical proximity, I feel like I’m settling back down to Earth. With an arrival time of 12.30am Sunday, most of my Saturday was spent in a nervously excited state of fidgeting. Having that kind of distance from a girlfriend has never seemed to have quite that effect on me. I’ve always had an unfortunate (depending on perspective, I guess) habit of compartmentalising, sorting their absence into a little box in the back of my brain that prevents any resultant emotional instability. Not so much this time. I got mopey, missed her voice and her touch. I’ve never before felt the tangible, physical sensation of longing. Maybe I’m getting more sentimental as I age. Maybe I had a stronger support network of friends in my life before I came to this country, lightening the strain. Maybe I’ve changed and matured emotionally in the last few years and this is how love manifests now. Whatever the reason, it was unfamiliar, debilitating and embarrassing.

So after spending the day feeling uncharacteristically anxious and wound up, it came as no great relief to find her flight had been delayed 2 hours. By the time I arrived at the airport terminal (just prior to 3am) I was thankful for the energy drink and coffee pumping through my veins. Time passed and flights came and went. Still hadn’t seen her flight. I asked someone where they’d come from. “Cuba”, they replied. Her flight number wasn’t on the board, but sometimes those change. She was coming in from Miami. Orlando was on the board. Maybe that’s what she meant. I got a text, she was spending ages waiting for her baggage. She was close. My heart started beating , I couldn’t wait for her to walk out the doors. I texted her as much. More time passed and I got another text. She was just about to walk through the doors. She didn’t. A group of people walked out, no sign of her. I got another text saying she’d come through, but I was nowhere to be seen. I looked around, but she wasn’t either. I looked up at the terminal and realised.

I was in the wrong building.

I texted her an apology and picked up speed. Race-walking, I made my way up the stairs and over to the inter-terminal train. 1 minute 48 to wait. It didn’t even tick down in real time, a new message just scrolled over every 14 seconds or so. 1 minute 34, 1 minute 20, 1 minute 06. My heart was beating like a hummingbird as the train pulled in. I boarded and we left almost immediately. I’m not gonna lie, despite my urgent desire to see her, the train was kinda neat. It felt like a monorail, as if we were about to visit Epcot. The train took all of a minute, I ran off and sprinted to find her. Along a horizontal travelator, down some stairs and straight to the seat where she was sitting. I rushed over and held her. We kissed and pawed at each other almost feverishly. It was somehow more emotional than I’d expected, flooded with relief and affection.

It all seems so alien to me. I’m used to being ruled by logic and reason. She was never in any danger, I knew she’d be back within 2 weeks and even going to the wrong terminal wasn’t more than a 10 minute issue (now if we didn’t have cellphones or reception, that’d be a different story. I have no idea how theis 3am situation would’ve resolved back in the 90s). Still, I found myself overcome. It’s amazing to feel this depth of care for someone, while simultaneously being exposed to that kind of emotional fragility terrifies me. I know she’s happy, that she’s not going anywhere, but that doesn’t completely quash that tiny fear in the back of my mind that she’ll leave one day and I’ll be left picking up the shattered remnants of everything I’ve built her up to mean to me. It’s dumb. I know that without opening myself to the possibility of that kind of hurt, there’s no way I’ll be able to invest as much of myself. I haven’t felt like I could give to a partner in this way for quite some time. I’ve been afraid, haunted by the spectre of break ups past.

This time though, pulling back doesn’t feel like an option. I guess there’s nothing for it but to keep all limbs inside the ship. Let’s stay the course for whatever otherworldly experiences we navigate together. If we crash back down to Earth, so be it, but our mangled frames will’ve seen a glimpse of something beyond this world. Who knows? Maybe we’ll just keep on floating out there untethered by anything beyond our hands clasped tight.