Photo: Michael Edwards
At first, you think every detail will remain forever lodged in your memory. It was a Saturday. I had toast and a tangerine for breakfast. My sweater was cobalt blue. But with time and distance and a perceptive shrink, you begin the arduous process of moving on. You think you'll never forget, but you do—you must.
And still, the dreams come. In them, a kindly old healer—part Jonas Salk, part Jimmy Stewart—hears of my suffering. Tears well in my eyes as he clutches me to his bosom.
"It's been a nightmare for you, hasn't it?" he whispers.
Through tortured sobs, I manage, "Yes. Oh God, yes."
He takes my face in his weathered hands as a mixture of pain and fury clouds his features, and he hurls his wrath to the heavens. "That...butcher!"
This, my friends, is the story of a very, very, very bad haircut.
It all began one mild morning in February when I realized that I was about three and a half weeks past my "delightfully shaggy" look. It was only a matter of days before I'd start bearing an uncanny resemblance to my demented aunt Ida, a woman who spent her final years insisting she once had a "quickie" with the guy from Gunsmoke. I needed to do something, but rather than visit my regular stylist, I opted to save a few bucks and wander into one of those "no appointments necessary" clip joints. The year was 2005. I was 44 years old.
My haircutter—a chain-smoking artiste in white jeans—was named Frawmphh. He said it, he spelled it, I swear I heard Frawmphh. In retrospect, it occurs to me that Frawmphh may not have actually understood a whole lot of English, and that perhaps in the land of Frawmphh's birth, the phrase "Just take an inch or so off the ends" was phonetically indistinguishable from "Please, destroy my life."
Don't panic, I thought. It's only hair, I thought. I'll be fine, I thought. But I wasn't fine. My mojo was shot. And what began as a crummy haircut morphed into a 17-month-long lousy streak. Allow me to share a few highlights...
Maybe this isn't the story of a bad haircut after all (though, so help me God, it looked like I'd been mauled by an ocelot). Maybe this is about the feeling that we're all living in a world gone off its rocker. We're watching families try to exist on a wage of $5.15 an hour, we're waiting for the next terrorist attack, and, to top it all off, the planet is melting. It doesn't really matter that a lunatic French-kissed my Marc Jacobs bag, or even that my gynecologist's timing was absurdly off. What matters is that we're witnessing the death of civility, and—if I remember anything at all from ninth-grade history—that's generally followed by the fall of civilization.
There is a quiet but constant undertow, a dull persistent ache that's with me all the time, and I don't think I'm alone. It's gotten increasingly weird out there, and so we turn inward. It's easier to think about hair than to think about Darfur, to blame some guy in white jeans rather than political forces I can't begin to comprehend. I read the paper with a feeling of impotent rage. I worry that my daughter won't have the same rights my mother's generation fought for me to have.
But then I see Julia's face, and, to quote the Monkees, I'm a believer. I believe that for every nasty claims adjuster putting me on hold, there's a sympathetic one willing to hear me out; that for every Geraldine Cutler, there's a wonderful Wendy Goldstein just down the hall; that my ex's new bride probably has one of those screwed-up toenails that prevents her from wearing sexy sandals; that people are starting to make some righteous noise about Darfur, to finally pay attention to the climate crisis, to march against poverty, to demand a detailed exit strategy for this war. I believe that when Al Gore cautions against going "from denial to despair" without doing what it actually takes to solve the problem, it's high time we listen up. And I cling to the belief that even the worst haircut eventually grows out.
From the July 2006 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
We Hear You!