How My Stylist Joined the Resistance.

In a very nearby alternate universe, I’d be sporting the Sinead O’Connor look right about now.  How you narrowly missed this fashion atrocity is a bit of a story.

Having snowy-bleached hair that still looks like hair, especially at a decent length, is not something most of us can accomplish at home in the bathroom.  So to achieve my current look (which has, at this point, become part of my “brand” and allows folks to pick me out of a crowd at conventions), I’ve been spending a whopping $200 a month at the Doves Studio in Santa Monica.  “It’s cheaper than therapy,” was always my excuse, “and does as much if not more for my self-esteem.”

And it’s strangely true.  Since 2014, my platinum hair has been a sort of magic feather (a la Dumbo).  My new look not only pleased me aesthetically, but served as a symbol of the “new me” and of my recovery from 2013’s suicidal depression.  Even on days when I hated everything else about me, I still loved my hair.  Seeing how much the new hair color boosted my mood, we’ve never questioned the expense.

Then November 8th happened.

Suddenly the world was burning down around me, and I was spending $200 a month on … hair?  I told my husband that I couldn’t stand to look at myself in the mirror anymore, couldn’t enjoy it.  So I decided I was going to buzz it all off after ConFusion, reducing my hair expenses to $0 a month, and donate the money to ACLU and the Sierra Club every month instead.

It’s amazing how hard this decision was to make.  It seems like the obvious choice, right?  What does it matter what I look like, when civil rights and the environment are threatened?

Okay, but here’s a secret: I’ve done this before, when I was a decade younger and hotter… and it looked terrible even then. We’re talking tragically, embarrassingly bad.  This is not false modesty, friends; the next time I went to the anthropology class I’d been taking, so proud of my daring style, my classmates averted their eyes as though I’d showed up with a sudden oozing rash.  No one said anything.  I’d had hair down to my waist and it was suddenly gone, and my classmates were unanimously silent on the subject.  Pretended they didn’t notice.  As though I’d shown up with one less limb than I’d had the day before and they were afraid to even ask.

That, my friends, is the sign of a bad fashion choice.

So the memory of this made my $0-a-month hair plan slightly less attractive to me, I’ll admit.  But I was still determined.  Even when my husband expressed concerns for how a sudden loss of my magic-feather hair might affect my mental health, I was still determined.  Even when a suitor, unaware of my plans, wrote me a three-stanza poem about… you guessed it, my hair, I was still determined.  The only genuine qualm I felt about the whole thing was when I broke the news to my stylist Andrea during what I’d planned to be my second-to-last hair appointment.

I explained to Andrea why I was doing what I was doing, and she was very undersrtanding.  As an intelligent, principled young woman of color she was as outraged about the new regime as I was, but my choice of gesture obviously pained her, and not just because she’d be losing a client (she’s greatly in demand).  For two years she’d been bleaching this stuff, treating it, helping me grow it out and shape it.  She loved my hair.  Every month she went into new ecstasies about its inexplicable strength and resilience in the face of all we were doing to it.  It was her baby, her canvas, her piece de resistance.  Once I caught her gazing at it adoringly while she was blowing another client’s hair dry.  And so that day it genuinely hurt me, on her behalf, to take away something that gave her so much pride.

Well.  On January 18th I went in for what I thought was going to be my last hair appointment.  Andrea met me by the front desk and, as she helped me into my salon cape, she said, “I talked to my managers.  I don’t want you to have to choose between the Resistance and getting your hair done here, so from now on, you pay the $30 model fee, and that’s it.”

[insert line break of pure astonishment]

So essentially, for the time being, my stylist Andrea is donating $100 a month each to the Sierra Club and ACLU.  The donation comes from my card, and it’s in my name, but it’s Andrea who’s taking the hit.

Obviously I can’t let her do this forever.  In the fall, when my youngest is finally out of day care, I’m going to go back to paying Andrea full price and also increase my “Resistance funding” on top of that.

Meanwhile, so long as Andrea and I are both still living in Los Angeles, you’d better believe that no one else is ever touching my hair.

December: On Phantom Pains ARCs.

‘Tis the season of giving, and I feel like giving to those who give.  So, throughout the month, I’m going to send six signed ARCs of Phantom Pains to those who are willing to give a little something to make the world a better place.  Since not everyone has even $10 to give to charity, I’ve created a couple of options for how to get entered into the drawing.

  1. Give $10 to a charity of your choice, and forward the receipt/acknowledgement to my first name @ this website address.
  2. BCC me on an email to a local politician or government representative in which you voice your concerns, in your own words, about an issue that’s important to you.
  3. Better yet, email me a photo of a paper letter on the subject to the same person (and the stamped envelope ready to go) – apparently postal letters make more of an impact.

Doing any or all of these things will get you one entry into the drawing.  If you haven’t read Borderline, do two of the above things (or donate $20 to charity) and request that I send you a signed copy of that, too.

Drawing periods break down as follows:

  • Dec 8-11
  • Dec 12-15
  • Dec 16-19
  • Dec 20-23
  • Dec 24-27
  • Dec 28-31

If you don’t win during the drawing period for your entry, you may enter again for the next drawing period by writing another letter or donating another $10.  If no one enters during a specific drawing period, I’ll choose from those who didn’t win during the last period.

Enjoy the season, and get ready for a crazy ride with Millie, Caryl, and some new characters including Alvin Lamb, head of the U.S. Arcadia Project, and– well, gosh.  Even naming two of the most interesting characters constitutes a significant spoiler, so… just read the thing, all right?

The Black Dog.

Drawn by cries in the night, the black dog shows its teeth.

The first time was at thirteen, the night I heard my mother’s chilling howl from downstairs where my grandmother slept, knew that our home had been visited by death and would never be the same.  My grief was natural.  But it didn’t ease, as the months passed.

Three weeks ago, I heard my next-door neighbors cry out in pain and horror, knew what that meant, even though I’d long since put down my phone.  It’s as though I’m thirteen again: an emotional hemophiliac, constantly bruised and breathless, weak and raw, unless I pull back into a shroud of black wool.  It’s too soon to know if this is grief or something worse.

In 2013 the black dog savaged me near to death, scared me into changing my life in a dozen important ways.  I’ve been doing well for three years, but the changes I made only mattered in a sane world; right now the dog’s teeth are sunk in so deeply that I just drag it from room to room.

If I stop moving, it doesn’t hurt so much.  But I know that’s how it gets you.  So onward I hobble, dragging a muscular carnivore by the teeth.