Today in the shower I come up with a new modern art form: hair painting.
Against the steamy glass of the shower door, I spread the hair washed clear of my head. With my index finger, I twirl and stretch, creating a rabbit and then a sailboat.
More hair is falling from my scalp and I create new swirls, growing bolder, like a child with finger paint, reworking, winding, retouching. In the future, I envision scholars pondering the depths of my work and fresh-faced college kids scribbling notes about the hidden meaning in the curve of this bit of Homo sapiens’ fur. This hair, this symbol of beauty while attached to its follicles, is a symbol of disgust when found in the shower. My work will change all that.
I used to worry that I was going bald. Some women do. The hair loss began when I was still in high school and has gone on for years. Now that I’m married to a nearly-bald man, the fear is more distant. My hair is thinner than it was ten years ago, when I wore it in a thick French braid halfway down my back, but it still shines in the light and reddens under the summer sun. Anyway, female pattern baldness rarely results in total hair loss. I do wonder what I would look like if it went completely.
My sister recently shaved her head, not all the way, but pretty close. Her scalp turned out to be shapely and everyone complimented her boyish good looks. I wonder what the phrenologists would think of mine, but I’m too scared to take the plunge and anyway I don’t believe in the meaning of lumps on the back of my head. Instead, I share my hair with the world in bits and pieces, leaving a strand here and a clump there as lining for a bird’s nest.
But then I think, what’s the point of hair anyway? Beyond our looks and helping the birds, our hair serves no real purpose anymore. We no longer need it for warmth or shade from the sun. And when we stopped, as a species, spending all our time hunting and gathering, we stopped needing our hair for protection. Then we began creating art.
I watch the water droplets accumulating around my creations. They slowly sag and are soon washed away. But I think I am on to something. There will be more hair to work with tomorrow.
About the author:
Olivia Tandon is a graduate of Columbia University's creative writing program, specializing in creative nonfiction and short-form fiction. Her creative work has been published in Creative Nonfiction, Lung Poetry and The Eye, and several nonfiction pieces on teaching in NYC have been published in the magazine of the NYSUT. She is also the New York editor of Two Cities Review, an online literary magazine.