“How do you like my hair?”
“It’s great” I replied. I had always liked Catherine’s hair. I thought she knew that.
She looked at me expectantly, but I didn’t know what the expectation was related to.
One hand rose to her hip. “That’s it?”
Her agitation grew into the stiffening of her body, the sudden downturn of her forehead; lips no longer digging dimples into her cheeks…
I clawed my fingers into the corners of my jacket and strained slightly as though that was going to get a better insight into what I was looking for.
The tension between us began to strike warning blows against the hairs on my neck. My mouth was like a pair of clumsy feet stumbling up a staircase as it looked for some words to consolidate my girlfriend’s own ideas about her hair.
But it was too late. Catherine threw her bag down on the counter with tremendous force, knocking the flowers in the vase onto the floor.
“Good thing those are plastic” I quipped.
“Fuck! You! Bastard!”
For a month – an entire month – I contemplated what had happened and why. Don’t get me wrong, I knew that she had had a haircut, and I knew that she was very proud of it; I just didn’t know what the difference was, and there was, at least at that time, no way for me to be able to tell. Even after scrawling through all her facebook photos, so many of which were action shots with flowing hair out behind her or hidden behind the faces of friends or relatives, I couldn’t see it. Neither could I see all our fancy couple poses. Where were those I suddenly wondered? In an attempt to be anti-facebook (to an extent), I basically deprived our relationship of memorial pics, and certainly, I deprived myself a way to see the past through the present’s changed perspective.
It suddenly occurred to me, though, as I was writing an article about crowd participation at local gigs, why what had been so utterly boring in my life had also been so utterly boring in Catherine’s life: how women wore their hair.
There had been a massive resurgence in long flowing hair like it was the 60s and 70s all over again. While a few girls adopted their emo eyeliner and black or punked-up psychedelic fashions, the majority of these girls breaking out of their teens were sporting flower braids in their hair, loose fitting light tops that covered either tight jeans or casual shorts. The biggest standout in my memory of going to see Kora for the Rhythm & Vines warmup gig at the Soundshell in Gisborne (apart from Kora themselves who busted out fatter beats than are generally represented on their albums), was the distraction of so many girls leaning towards some kind of hippy crossover. I didn’t understand it at the time – I was only slightly aware of it (I mean, I saw it, and noticed it, but at that time it didn’t seem so odd). The hippy ‘look’ was something that my parents were a part of and only very briefly reared it’s head through my formative years during the 90s when grunge had its moment in the sun. Here were masses of young girls looking like they were seeking some kind of individualistic statement, yet I had seen something very similar – and for many years – whenever I woke in the morning, whenever I came home, whenever my girlfriend came home. Catherine had represented this throwback fashion before I had even noticed it in others; I guess, to the point where I had begun to take what attracted me to her in the first place for utter and complete granted that eventuated in our combined boredom.
When she came home that day, I still saw the same woman that I loved on previous days: her hair still framing her face, her clothes still fitting her like rags but exuding their own beauty and warmth. What I didn’t see was the natural wave that had always flittered across her shoulders in frail wisps, straightened and snipped at the ends to sit just above her shoulders; the frame no longer one length but a series of finely crafted steps that made their way from her eyebrows down to the base of her cheeks. And the contextual colour that had gone from a natural brown to a brunette with dark red highlights.
I wonder (now!) how I had managed to miss all that.
Never has the statement “When you stop looking, you find what you wanted all along” rung more true. I had been looking for something, didn’t know what it was; gave up and discovered it right there when I realised that the love of my life had gone against the grain of what she was slowly getting swallowed by: Her own individualistic statement being consumed and propagated by those around her.
For me, as a man not interested in fashion (at least not up close), I wasn’t looking for changes. And if I saw changes, I saw them from a distance, from after a passage of time and in retrospect; when the long wavy hair of a hippy cloned youth stood out as a stark contrast against the tightly clipped highlighted and defined hair of my girlfriend’s.
- 28-29th December, 2012
12:26 p.m, Gisborne