Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My Dirty Little Secret

Here's a dirty secret: I haven't washed my hair in five days.

I would. I have nothing against
shampoo. But I can’t wash my hair because I no longer know how.

At some point during puberty,
my nice, normal wavy locks took a twisted turn. I woke up one morning
to find a mass of matted, frizzy poodle fur atop my yiddishe kop, and
I had no idea what to do with it.

Naturally, I did everything
wrong: I brushed it. I blow-dried it. I applied product after product
to it to make it look less… less… Jewish. But nothing worked.
Like a bat mitzvah present I couldn’t return, I was stuck with it.

Kids being the tolerant beings
that they are made me feel totally comfortable with my new look by endowing
me with such loving nicknames as “Cave Woman” and “Yeti.”

Around this time, I read about
a hairstylist named Ouidad who billed herself as a curly hair expert.
A dubious distinction, I thought. How hard is it to be queen of hair
that looks perpetually messy? Still, hearing about her helped me embrace
my twisted tresses.

I never became a curly expert,
but I did make peace with the weird stuff growing out of my head, and
I learned a few tricks (bye-bye hairbrush!).Over time, I came to see
the fuzz, the fuss, the finger-in-the-outlet mess as a fate I could
learn to live with.

Then I rediscovered Ouidad.

The woman I read about a lifetime
ago has opened a salon in Santa Monica.

I went. I got cut. I got styled.
And now I can never wash my hair again.

After "slicing" my hair, Kate
styled my locks in some magic way she described as “Rake and Shake”
that sets each curl apart like a precious little gem. I have no idea
what, exactly, she did, but I am now convinced that on the Seventh Day,
G-d did not rest. He created the Rake and Shake, and He saw it was good.

Using hair clips and advanced
calculus, she separated my tresses into little tribes across my scalp.
She then wiggled her fingers through each of them in a manner resembling
someone ringing a bell, misting and blotting and geling as she went.
When I told her that I doubted I’d be able to recreate this method
at home, she tried to allay my fears.

“Don’t worry,” she told
me. “I’ll give you a book.”

A book? Is there nothing our
people can do without text?

Sure enough, when I was done,
Kate handed me a book explaining how to wash, dry and “Rake and Shake”
my hair.

I’ve powered through medical
journals, legal briefs and Pynchon. But I can’t comprehend a manual
explaining how to wash my own hair. And it comes with pictures!

So, for the last five days,
I’ve sacrificed a clean scalp for sculpted curls. And I’m going
to keep going until I can no longer get away with it.

Sure, it’s taken me back
to the dark days of pubescent insecurity. Once again, I’m a greasy mess who doesn't know how to deal with the DNA heirloom on top of my

But at least this time around,
my confusion looks fantastic.