I arrive at the salon and Gina, the girl who does my hair, looks at me with fear in her eyes. “What the hell did you do?”
I reach a hand up to touch the tangled birds’ nest that is my hair. “Mostly just neglect, but I’ve also been using it for storage.”
I push past her to the salon chair. “You’ll see.”
My hair can’t be washed because it’s tangled. Gina starts to brush it out and lets out a laugh. “You have like 8 ponytail holders back here.”
“My hair eats them.” I take the elastic bands, one by one, as she goes through the process of digging them out.
“And I just found a pen.” She passes it to me.
“Starting to get what I mean by ‘storage’?”
“Is this a roach clip?”
“Yeah, there should be half a dube in there to go with it.”
She passes it to me. “How does your hair get like this?”
“I blame an albino parakeet named Sheila.” I meet her perplexed look in the mirror. “When I was a kid, my mom got me this bird, Sheila.”
Gina pulls out a comb. “What does a bird with a stripper’s name have to do with your hair?”
“I’ll get there.” I flinch as Gina starts working on a knot the size of a baseball. “Sheila was an albino parakeet. She was really pretty. Pink eyes, beautiful white feathers. She was always preening,” another wince as Gina works out the knot. “You know, that shit that that all birds do with their feathers, where they rotate their head like 180 degrees. Creepy as fuck…”
“Focus.” Gina is used to my rambling.
“Anywho, for 9 months out of the year, Sheila was beautiful. Then, every January, she’d start to molt. Because she was white, you could see the skin underneath her feathers. She was real ugly then.” I squint as I try to describe it. “You know that retarded vulture from Looney Tunes?”
“I think he was a buzzard.”
“Whatever,” I continue on, “by the end of her molting period, she looked a lot like that. But for the entire molting period, she never preened. Not once. She just sat there, eating her bird food, watching TV with me, looking content. It was like she knew that she looked terrible, couldn’t help it, and just decided to roll with it. Honestly, after all her regular preening, I think she just liked having the time off.” I shrug. “And I thought, ‘if a bird can do that, why not me?’”
Gina looks confused. “Why not what?”
“Why not molt!” Gina has brushed out most of my hair and I’m starting to look human again. “Why not take a few months out of every year, to look like shit, and not care about it? I’ve been doing it for a while and it has a ton of benefits.”
“Like what?” Gina squirts me with a spray bottle.
“The comparison alone is worth it.” I look down as Gina starts to trim off my ends. “You ever have a friend, who always looks perfect?”
“I am a hairdresser.”
“Good point. Anyway, that friend who always looks perfect gets a cold, stays out late, whatever. The point is the next day, she looks like shit. Everyone she knows points it out to her. ‘Hey, you ok? You aren’t looking so good’ or ‘what’s wrong? You look terrible.’ It’s like everyone in the world feels justified in telling her how ugly she is.”
Gina turns my chair sideways. “I’m following.”
“Ok, now flip it. Think about a friend who doesn’t make much of an appearance effort, and then have her get dressed up for just one day.That day, it’s like she’s the most beautiful girl in the world. All she hears all day, is ‘wow, you look amazing. Have you been working out?’”
Gina spins me around as I finish off my theory. “When you really think about it, the girl who works really hard on her looks doesn’t get any credit for it. But the girl who’s lazy about her looks gets a parade for throwing in a token effort.”
She reaches for the hairdryer. “And this is the reason that I’m pulling pens and roach clips out of your hair every year at this time?”
“Yup, I just ended a molting period.” I smile. “I’m preening.”
“Then you might want to preen that eyebrow, because you only have one right now.”