My hair has always spoken on my behalf. Not just my hair; yours does it too. It communicates to the world about how you feel about the place you’re in at that moment. That up-do is telling me you’re having a fancy day. Your gnarly top-knot bun says you didn’t think we would run into each other. Your blow out at the airport might mean you think the paparazzi are after you.
One time I saw a photo of myself and was genuinely surprised to see how long my hair had gotten. Like flower child long. Like it falls over the back of the subway seat and you have the ask the guy on the other side to lean forward so you can stand up long. (Hypothetically speaking.) So I said, “My hair is so long in this picture. It’s crazy.” And my friend replied, “Or maybe your hair is a barometer of the amount of crazy… on the inside.” And that was my truth.
Other pictures supported the argument. Crazy fun and carefree eras resulted in high pony tails, sun-bleached and bleach-bleached highlights, or scrunchies. Mid-twenties identity crises saw some bangs and an occasional pink streak. Unemployed stretches or ill-advised long distance relationships could result in an allusive white-girl-dreadlock.
On Wednesday, my husband and I moved from New York to Los Angeles. That sound? It’s me patting myself on the back for surviving it. Moving house is unpleasant, it’s stressful, it’s hard, it feels awful. The same muscles that grip your stomach before you give a wedding speech are the ones that kick in weeks ahead of the moving truck arrival. And that’s if you have coping mechanisms. So, imagine what kind of weepy, manic monster I was. When the tow truck came to pick up the car, I hiccup-cried and took pictures as they pulled away.
For two weeks, we gradually packed 106 boxes of our precious crap while my husband chanted his mantra at me, “Hey it’s okay, Hey it’s okay.” Then, at a mission critical moment, he had to “go to work” and then “leave on a business trip” to “earn money” in order to “pay for the move.” The teamwork ended and I became moving captain.
The level of crazy on the inside rose steeply, but I did a good job of keeping the histrionics to a soft whine. The moving men came with their truck and we labeled all the boxes of assorted junk and sentimental garbage. But the screech of their packing tape fried my nerve endings. That evening in an echo-y apartment, I laid on an air mattress, eating take out with my fingers, breathing shallowly and quietly waiting for morning to come so I could go to the airport.
With four suitcases, a cat carrier, and a carry-on bag, I elbowed my way past the spring break families to get some curb side attention. For the next 9 hours, I focused all of my energy on obsessing over my cat’s comfort, while my cat quietly napped in the seat next to me. The mental wringing turned into physical exhaustion. Once we landed, my winter clothes baked me in the California heat. I felt gross and I looked gross.
At last, we walked into our new home. Sans shower curtain, I crawled into a bath and washed away the stress vapors, the airplane grime, and weeks of worry. I put on my best can-do wrap dress and slapped on a little lipstick to go explore the area. I towel dried my hair into little tangles and reached for a brush that I had not packed. It was the perfect way – the only way – to show my new neighborhood how I felt about the past 24 hours.