Thursday, March 05, 2009

Hannah and Her Scissors

A very clever friend of mine once wrote a parody of T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land that began "February is the shortest month." Hilarious as the parody was--if I remember correctly, some of the footnotes were in Swedish--I mostly think about it in the context of the February blues, and how grateful I am that it is the shortest month.  I'm tough and all, but 28 days of that is about my limit.  

Most years, the February blues hit with a general malaise, a sort of mid-winter blah, in which I want to, as another friend put it, declare life bankruptcy until...well, until April, frankly: the worst part of February is that the light at the end of the tunnel is March. 

This February what I had was not so much malaise as mania, not so much a lack of sunshine and warmth as an outpour of it, in this unseasonably warm and dry winter, which I can't enjoy at all due to a life that is nothing but work work WORK.  This February would be best experienced as a montage: no one wants to live those individual days of waking up before dawn to study; or of being in charge of a conference and so running from room to room to plug in electrical equipment, take out trash, unlock doors, and set out snacks; or of a long drive to Bakersfield for even longer sitting around chatting aimlessly when there's WORK to be done; or of days of eight hours of class in a row; or of, I don't know, all those other boring aspects of responsible adulthood: dishes, sweeping, grocery shopping, and trying desperately to get enough sleep to function. 

I fight the February blues in the same way every year, and this year was no exception. One Thursday afternoon about two weeks ago, I couldn't take it anymore.  I got up from my desk, packed up my stuff, jumped on my bike, and stopped at the first haircut place I found, which turned out to be a tiny, Vietnamese-run family shop down the street from my house.   I sat down in the chair and described what I wanted ("short") to the lady, who nodded at everything and started cutting. As we made small talk, mostly me asking questions about Vietnam, it quickly became clear to me that she didn't understand my English, but was simply giving responses to what my questions might be: "My village is in northern Vietnam," to "do you live around here?" and "I started cutting hair when I was little" to "when did you come to America?"

If she doesn't understand those questions, I slowly realized, she certainly didn't understand my directions.  I wondered, briefly, while watching her snip away, whether this should worry me, but then decided that, after my college years of cutting my hair myself, on a whim, using paper scissors and no mirror, I probably shouldn't care about what a professional decides. 

The professional's decision was fine, even decently cute--though I did have to fix the back a little bit, again with my paper scissors--so now my hair is short short short again, vaguely Sound of Music, and I was, as usual, surprised at everyone else's surprise--didn't they know that this is my real hair, the haircut of my soul? Didn't they know that the shorter my hair is, the happier I am? And didn't they know it was February?  They don't call it the shortest month for nothing.  


Tony said...

My best hours of sleep in college were face-down in The Waste Land.

Matt said...

I was going to go to sleep, but now I feel all guilty, like I haven't sacrificed enough Zs to be a real student.

So thanks. Really. From the bottom of my sleep-deprived heart.

Minnie said...

February always makes me wish that humans could hibernate.

Ginsberg said...

I agree with this Matt here, Petra. Reading your blog makes me feel like the laziest excuse for a grad student the state of Kansas has ever known. Or perhaps we just "fight the February blues" in different ways: you by getting a haircut, me by laying in bed way too long and spending way too much time deciding which movie stars would play my siblings and in-laws if they were to turn my family into a movie.

KrumperKids said...

It makes me so happy to read your blog even if it is about the struggles you are having, which I feel bad about, but hey it makes for great reading. And honestly, your titles have to be the best ever! Come visit me so your little cousins can soak up some of what makes you amazing!

The Dancing Newt said...

The haircut of your soul. :)

I love that.

Annie said...

we DO both have short hair! doesn't it feel great to be back to your normal hair? when i cut mine and people said they liked my hair cut, i CUT? no, this is just my hair the way it's supposed to's my personality in thin strands of protein.