The Haircut



I sat in a hairdresser's chair, bangs combed over the front of my face. My nose tickled with the brush of hair, but I hardly paid heed to the split ends my stylist was trimming off. No, my attention was turned toward Ty, who sat in a chair just behind me. 

The stylist had taken his auburn locks and banded them into pigtails. Scissors in hand, she asked, "Are you ready?" 

But it was menot Tywho half-shrieked, "Wait!" 

I pulled out my camera from under the hairdressing gown. "I'm sorry," I laughed, "but I have to."

Tywho knew that I would be documenting the haircut one way or anotherwas unruffled. 

My stylist graciously turned my chair toward Ty. I readied my camera, and Ty's stylist turned back to him.

"Okay," she said, meeting his eyes in the mirror. "Ready?"

"Ready." 

She began snipping and, one minute later, Ty's thick locks, which had been almost as long as mine, were laying on the hairdressing table.

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It had been two years since he'd had his hair cut, three since he'd shaved clean. Though I wasn't always a devoted fan of the lengthy hair and bushy beard, I had gotten used to the look. I'd gotten used to running my fingers through Ty's hairwhich was quite luxurious, honestlyand brushing it aside as we kissed. Whenever he was driving, he'd use the back of his left hand to push it aside, tuck it behind his ears. And when we hugged, his cheeks would meet my neck and shoulder with a familiar, bristly tickle. We—he and Zoë and I, that is—would even talk about lumberjacks, the Brawny Man, Yukon Cornelius, and Ty's alter ego, Gerald Brewster.

When someone would ask Ty, "Why the long hair?" he'd wave a hand.

"Bah! I'll cut it once I'm a square member of society."

Zoë did confess, however, that she found Ty's hair "truly magnificent."

"When I am snarky," she said, "it stems purely from envy because my hair is rarely, if ever, luxurious."

Ty received plenty of flak for his shaggy appearance, though, even from strangers. In South Carolina, at a combination gas station-Blimpie, a middle-aged man stared and stared, crinkling his nose with silent judgment. The man's distaste was nothing compared to what happened in the French Quarter, however. While Zoë and Ty and I innocently stood on a sidewalk, a mule-drawn carriage passed by. The carriage was occupied by a couple of tourists who pointed at Ty and proceeded to snap photos of him as the mule clip-clopped, clip-clopped his way down the cobbled street. We laughed about it, but wondered what the tourists' intentions were. Perhaps they thought Ty was someone from Duck Dynasty?

As Ty's hair lengthened, his cowlick became a center part. He wore a ponytail. He wore a headband. His hair grew. And grew. And grew. And it becameas some things doa safety blanket.

Once, when visiting his grandparents, his grandmother pulled me aside. "With all that hair, I feel like he's hiding something," she told me.

For a brief moment, I thought of Mean Girls. "It's full of secrets!" I wanted to say. Instead, I shook my head. "No, he's not hiding anything."

She looked at me quizzically.

I stared at my feet. Inhale, exhale, sigh. "He's depressed."

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Depression is a sneaky bastard. At first, it drapes itself over your lap like a blanket, protecting pieces of you from the cruel world. But, after awhile, you realize that you're still vulnerable, that you're still cold, and that the pain might subside if you just pull the blanket up a little higher, a little closer. You actually don't remember when you pulled the blanket up under your chin, or over your head, but it's there. You don't remember when, exactly, you started to suffocate.

Depression is tricky, too, in that you can feel some things, sometimes, but not have enough energy to carry yourself through the necessary actions. This includes showering. Eating. Wanting to talk to an old friend. Getting a haircut. Feeding your pet pterodactyl.

At other times, you can go through the motions, but not feel a damn thing. You have no self-esteem. You have no self-confidence. You think you're not a good friend. You believe you are worthless. You believe you are nothing. You are afraid to try anything, anyway, because you fear you will fail.

Ty's fears kept him from taking action. Furthermore—and in his own words—Ty was "emotionally crippled." He quit cutting his hair back when we used to Skype until four in the morning, when he'd text me and ask, "Can we talk?" Back then, he told me that he needed to "sort out [himself] first, before introducing anyone else to [his] madness."

"Ty," I said, "I want you to know that both Zoë and I are here for you. We're your friends. We're whatever you need us to be, and I promise you that we won't give up on you. No matter how broken you think you are, or how broken you actually are, we're still going to love you."

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In her post "Depression Part Two," Hyperbole and a Half author Allie Brosh wrote, "It's weird for people who still have feelings to be around depressed people. They try to help you have feelings again so things can go back to normal, and it's frustrating for them when that doesn't happen."

Brosh, who has suffered from depression herself, knows that the illness is devastating for both an individual and an individual's loved ones. Her description reminds me of those old Cymbalta commercials, the ones in which a woman's cool voice asked, "Who does depression hurt?" (The answer? Everyone.) The idea that depression hurts everyone is a painful catch-22. When someone is depressed, their misery makes their parent/sibling/partner/roommate/child/pet pterodactyl miserable and frustrated as well. In turn, the depressed individual feels guilty for making their parent/sibling/partner/roommate/child/pet pterodactyl feel such frustrations in the first place. Personally, I have felt forgotten and unimportant, too. Really, though, it's almost expected. It can be difficult to have a relationship (romantic, familial, or otherwise) with someone who is unable to fully return affection.

A few weeks ago, my struggle to remain patient culminated with a phone call to Ty's best friend.

"Well, you obviously still love him," he said, after listening to me cry over the phone. "But let me ask you this. Given everything you just said, why are you with Ty?"

With the back of my hand, I wiped the tears from my cheeks. "Because I know who he can be."

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I met Ty five years ago, when we both worked at the student newspaper. He kept his hair short, then, and his facial hair to no more than a few days' scruff. He was skinny, too, and tall, and, my God, was he pretty.

The newsroom was located on the second floor, and you could always hear the echoing slam of the ground-floor door, which meant that someone—or a group of someones—was mounting the stairs. I remember working the copy desk one night, at a computer that faced the door to the stairwell. I heard the familiar bang of the door, and the trudge of shoes on steps. When the door opened, I found myself looking at a dapper sort of young man wearing a herringbone coat, and I thought to myself, "That's a good looking gu- oh my God that's Ty." Had he noticed me right then, he would've seen me blushing, cheeks as red as ripe strawberries.

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Back at the salon, Ty's severed pigtails were still on the hairdressing table, as limp and feeble as a pair of deceased ferrets. His auburn locks were practically no more; the stylist had cut, buzzed, and scissored onto the floor a carpet of hair.

Ty watched the stylist in the mirror, his face set, unflinching.

He'd told me, just hours earlier, that he was planning a haircut. He'd told me, too, that he was going to shave clean.

At the time, I'd said nothing; I was stunned into silence. When I had managed to speak, my first word was, simply, "Why?"

"It's time," Ty had said decidedly. "I want to do it before I change my mind. And I thought you might get a bang out of watching."

I had been surprised. I'll admit that the comfortable rut in which Ty had settled worried me, and that I thought change would come gradually, perhaps glacially. But the haircut seemed ... well, it seemed like a step. With each snip of the scissors, Ty's face resembled, more and more, the narrow, handsome face I'd first seen five years ago.

I closed my eyes. "Because I know who he can be," I had said.

I thought of our shared past at the student newspaper. I reminisced about editing sessions, when we'd accidentally-on-purpose sit next to each other, stealing glances at each other's work and throwing rolled-up candy wrappers at each other's foreheads. There were the nights that we ended up at Harry's, too, just the two of us, sharing conversation and sweet tea vodka over the sticky, dark wood of our booth. As a hater of straws, Ty would bend his over the edge of the plastic cup, fingers pinching it into place. In contrast, I would hold mine between my middle and index fingers, like how you would hold a cigarette. Like how you would inhale nicotine, not Firefly. And, oh God, there was that fish net thing, too. That little green fish net that the photo desk had for some reason, and that Ty and I used to pass to each other, alongside notes and flirtations. I'd slide it under his office door, after he'd gone for the night. He'd slip it into my backpack two days later, with a cheeky pun.

I shook my head a little, smiling at the memory. When I opened my eyes, I saw that Ty had been watching me in the mirror. His stylist was finishing up; she trimmed one side, then the other.

Almost done.

Ty and I found each other in the mirror's reflection. He smiled, albeit a bit sheepishly. I smiled, too.

And blushed.

As full and as red as the night he'd walked into the newsroom, I flushed. 

5 comments:

  1. ♥ sending my love to you both :)

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  2. Such good writing! So much truth in your statements about depression, which is hard to describe other than saying, "I feel sad."

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    1. Thank you. Depression is a hard topic, as it is such a complicated state of being. You're right--it is much more than "I feel sad," but sometimes there just aren't words to describe *how* it is more than that. Thanks for reading. I always appreciate it.

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  3. An incredible and raw piece of writing. Thank you for that. Sending some good vibes to Indiana for you.

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  4. Dawn, you have such an incredible way with words, I'm always engrossed in your beautiful writing. From someone who has experienced depression (although I haven't been brave enough to ever talk about it) you captured the feelings exactly. Your supportive and loving presence probably means more to Ty than you'll ever know!

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