This post instigated by a 3-hour she has shiny boots.”
My boots have become my hair.
I didn’t realize that was happening. I thought that my hair was the only cool thing I would ever have, and when I cut it off, I thought my days of people walking up to me and commenting on how I look were over.
For fifteen years my hair was in long colorful box braids. My hair became my signature self.
It was all completely fake – I braided hair extensions and ribbons – purple, red, gold, blue – into my own shoulder-length, flacid, nondescript ‘real’ hair. Within 6 hours I was flamingly cool. Having been uncool for the previous 40 years.
People would stop me and say, “I love your hair,” and they would touch me.
Ambassadors would touch me, and ladies cleaning airport bathrooms would touch me. They would reach out and take a handful of those strands, and feel the texture, as if my hair were a flower, or a dream, or chains of gold in a treasure-chest.
As if my hair said, “Yes, go ahead, it’s fine. You can touch me.”
And it was fine.
I love that strangers touched me with this childlike delight. That my hair made them forget it was impolite. And so it became a simple, genuine, spontaneous act of human connection.
And then, one thanksgiving I cut it all off. You’d think it was brave, but it was – what’s that word – the guy who looked in the water and fell in?
Oh right … Narcissistic. My marvelous braids were pulling out my un-marvelous hair and receding my hairline in unflattering ways. As if there are any flattering ways to recede a hairline.
It was after dinner, when our friends Thomas and Stuart had left. I was sleepy after the meal. I’d stopped on my way to the bathroom, and leaning against the doorjamb, I glanced at the television where my husband – no, actually, my boyfriend – he’s not my husband – was watching Lady Gaga’s Thanksgiving special.
She was singing “I am my hair. I am my hair. I am my hair.”
And I thought suddenly, “I am NOT my hair.”
I walked into the bathroom, pulled out the scissors and cut off the braids one by one. And put them in a ziplock bag. And then looked at myself in the mirror. It wasn’t the world’s best haircut. But that’s not what I was thinking.
I was thinking: how do you step forward into your life when you’ve just cut off something that defined you?
I won’t describe all the hats and wigs I bought, hoping to make some kind of ‘transition’ – and finally gave up and accepted it was over.
This was me. The End.
… only, apparently not the end.
Because one day I noticed my boots. Or, I should say that I noticed that other people noticed them.
And here’s the thing. The boots are simply boots. They’re plain and simple cowboy boots. I bought some silver chaps for them, though, or whatever they’re called. Like stirrups, but decorative – with shiny silver discs, as if the boots are each wearing a manly bracelet.
And then there are the necklaces.
I don’t wear necklaces. But I love them. I love the way they hang, and move. I love the glint and the ever changing sway.
And so I hang them on my boots – I run them through the fingerholes that help you pull the boots on. Four or five necklaces on each boot. A silver necklace with stars, elegant simple chains, a string of rhinestones.
And when I wear my boots. I feel powerful. And whimsical. And people stop me and they say: I love your boots.
And sometimes they touch my shoulder when they say that.
This post was instigated by a 3-hour GrubStreet workshop earlier this week. I wrote about it here.
(Dear Deborah…I love your writing talent, too!!! )
You are an amazing person! I’ve never known a ‘true-to-self’ person or came so close to one like yourself. I love having the visual, listening and copying experiences…even though it was only through the website in “HIP HARP TOOL KIT, LATIN STYLE”.
To be honest, I think it’s what’s inside the ‘lady with the braids’ or the ‘metal-laced boots’ with pretty necklaces. Is it the magic and creativity of this wondrous mind, heart, and soul that you take so lightly, and which become short-lived….when so many of us are awed at your sharing inner and outer feelings and talent with us?
I wonder why you travel to the “ends of the earth” to make people happy, and at the same time…fulfill your happiness for sharing. Is it because you have been so blessed that you want to share your talents with others, so they can be as happy as you, somewhat, and heal this crazy world we live in? Or do you feel like you’re working so hard and rushing around hither, thither because time is passing too quickly?
You’re still amazingly young, and it’s like you’re running out of time by all the productions that are happening…one after another. I’m actually astonished that you can produce so much in such short time spans, or you have another talent or more in doing about every idea that comes to you. I wonder…I wonder what it would be like to be an AMAZING you!
P.S. I am still reviewing HHTK recordings. I feel it has been completely rewarding to have had the experience being in your class and at least absorbing some of your theories and harp-playing techniques. As I said before, I’m a ‘slow-learner’, but I am continuing to enjoy every minute of your inspirational teaching and coaching. (Now if this sharing is not what you expected, it’s a good excuse to tell you how much I appreciated your creative teaching method. Thank you, again for the wonderful opportunity to learn, know, and admire you and your talent! Lorna Liu-Ota
Part 2, after a second reading of your writing:
I wonder if you grew out of a playful childhood too soon, concentrating on the arts and music, etc. I wonder if you’re searching for that ‘lost treasure’ with a playful parent or friend, who might hold your hand as you skipped and jumped and danced around, especially when you felt a little sad or lonely or didn’t understand. That people from everywhere couldn’t help touching your beautiful hair or noticing your shiny black and decorated boots (which could get tiring after-a-while). But these things, as you know, are passing. I think what matters most is the love you feel within yourself, that glimmers in your eyes…that moves you to play the harp, sing, and dance for joy. When you share all of these things, you are ‘touching’ millions in this world and permeating each one with lasting joy and peace!
But, alas! You probably already know all of these things. Sometimes, I just wonder too much!