Sunday, November 19, 2006

making do

Every so often I have my hair 'done'. It's a luxury, a kind of time-out. Two hours or more to think and dream along different streams. A public kind of dreaming, especially on a Thursday evening, when it's crowded.

I get to read fashion magazines. I am far from the type for these. I could not wear the clothes featured, nor put on the shoes or contemplate the make up nor the diet fantasies proposed and propelled along their pages. It is all wonderfully alien, yet territory for thinking.

My hairdresser, Sam, gives me decent coffee, maybe a small Greek biscuit from the cake shop across the way. I don't talk much. The staff and other customers gossip around me and there's a lot of laughing and screeching. This is both comforting and friendly, but also exclusive. Or, as I realise, it's me who excludes. That I have nothing to say into this. But that isn't the point for me.

This time, and I wonder if it will stick, I think of ways in which I might need to change my life. This includes my writing - though I immediately fear this sounds like the ending of too many poems.

I think of hairdressing as making. Of choosing where to cut, on what plane and angle, and how to cut. Sam uses those sheep-shearing tools, different kinds of scissors, sometimes a razor. Tools to work with materials, at the present moment being my very material hair. And because it's his salon he has to make sure all the others are working as needed, expected. He breaks off cutting at one stage. Something is going on I can't quite hear. But there's no real tension, though there is a conversation going on between him and one of the women who works there. I tell him, when he returns, he is like a film director, and he agrees. 'Every day I have to tell them the same thing. They never seem to get it.' He is actually referring to just one person. And he laughs.

But I spend most of the time reading, looking at the latest mags. How can anyone expect to emulate the highly posed, buffed, manipulated tableaux inside? The stories of the rich and rich? But, of course, I am not supposed to emulate. All I could do would be to purchase a token, a brand, sniff a droplet of the elixir from afar. It is for dreaming. Of course, I can't pretend I wouldn't enjoy shopping in New York, or Dubai, or LA, if it was possible. I've never been to any of those places. Or to be able to afford London, where I have been. I would buy different things on my spree, or go to places that sold different things, to see and feel them. Books, paper, pens, music, sensible clothes.

In the magazines are also stories that tend to the real though I doubt them. Non-fiction is still story, composed, fashioned out of streaming ordinary reality. But there are people out there doing things - relationships, careers, successes. I like some of the photography.

To read is to be alone. I try to talk to the young guy putting colour on my hair but I have nothing interesting to say - weather. Please! I'd rather read. So I shut away, down, in. And all these directions are metaphors. All the while the pages offer me, as Barthes would say, 'the present tense' of fashion. I am happy to place myself as looking inwards as if, being alone here reading, there is an expanse where fantasy plays out alongside my critical self (so, I'm made of selves?), that even with the images and restricted vocabulary and diction of these magazines, there is still an expansiveness on offer, or that I take on. As if I could take off my clothes and live in the sun (an entirely dangerous enterprise, in point of fact).

Which perhaps, gets me to the point, if there is a singular point to be made. Anyhow, the point about the open, or a kind of nakedness. Or being less protective. How does one explain a metaphor? In images? Open, naked? I am sitting in a white vinyl chair in front of a long mirror under strong lighting (quel horreur) with hair dye covering my hair. I am not entirely happy. I know that I am not entirely happy, though just slightly euphoric (maybe it's the chemicals). I know that there are things to be done, just as those poems say. I walk into the cold night and think of writing about it. Is that enough?

5 comments:

ralph said...

beautiful post Jill. (Perhaps I could nick it for my June issue?) Richard Flanagan had similar interesting things to say about nakedness in a recent interview promoting 'The Unknown Terrorist':


KERRY O’BRIEN: You said after writing ‘The Sound of One Hand Clapping’ that it was like disembowelling yourself and leaving yourself as a shaking, gutted cadaver. Are you sure there isn’t something else you’d rather do?

RICHARD FLANAGAN: I’ve said some dreadful things, haven’t I? If you pour yourself into a book, it’s a bit like getting your gear off and running down the main street of your town. There’s nowhere left to hide. Equally, there are moments of great euphoria and jubilation in it.

KERRY O’BRIEN: But are you one of those who does feel you’ve maybe given away something of yourself that you are uncomfortable about in the process?

RICHARD FLANAGAN: You always have to give away things, you are uncomfortable about yourself. If you don’t, if you don’t open yourself up to all that’s not simply best, but worst in yourself - you have to canvass the full range of what it is to be human. So you can’t simply pretend to be one sort of person. You have to open yourself up to all humanity can be and do, all good, all evil, everything that’s funny and everything that is despairing. You have to open yourself up to everything. Of course you feel vulnerable and naked after that.

Jill said...

Hi Ralph,
Well, first, thanks - and if it's something you can use ... by all means help yourself.

Thanks also for the Flanagan quotes. I'm interested in the 'nowhere to hide' idea. Of course, we can hide. Well, I don't know about R. Flanagan but who knows who I am, or who cares, apart from my nearest and dearest?

On the other hand, and I'm sure this is what you're getting at, it's case of 'you can run, but you can't hide'. There's not one unified, or straight-forward self. of which you can say, 'this has nothing to do with the things I do (ie, for instance, the writing)'. Writers are users, however you might wish to interpret that.

But to be 'naked'? Can anyone really be so? Will culture allow that? As a woman, I wonder, very seriously if that is possible. Neither fashion magazines nor religious systems, neither customs nor legalities leave any room. Nor, do I think, does language.
Thanks, Jill.

ralph said...

Hello Jill,

Thanks for permission to use your post; a lovely way to begin what at this stage is a clean slate.

As for Richard and nowhere to hide: yes, we can hide - but I guess that Richard (being a public figure) finds there's an issue of public accountability involved ...to which he willingly subscribes. As for nakedness ... Richard's forthright, he makes enemies - probably no great wonder to find that nakedness and vulnerability are part of his experience....

Ralph

Ivy said...

Great post, Jill. :-)

Andrew said...

Yeah, liked it, Jill. Spent 5 yuan on a local campus cut her in China the other day. No inter-language so no chat. He wouldn't have known anything about poetry or cricket anyway, so there's no matter. They never cut it short enough - like scalp me, master. I tell 'em, show 'em a photo of me with short hair from my wallet - but no, they still leave it 'long on top'. Keep writing about the everyday, Jill - you could Ponge the hairdressers.