…life on the synaptic firing range

Location: Los Angeles, United States

Bent but unbroken Southern California native seeks understanding, companionship, and resonance along and off the beaten path. Teresa plays well with others and makes every effort to perform to her potential. Usually. *processed in a facility that processes nuts and nut products

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

damn that britney spears!

Bitch is always copying me, like the annoying, aping little sister I never had. Does she see me going after K-Fed or dangling babies? No. I suppose she thinks she one-upped me by checking in and out of rehab and getting all those tattoos the same weekend. But check it out, toxic trash, my scalp is still shapelier than yours.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

i'm too sexy for (my) hair

Due to a confluence of recent events I found it deeply necessary to shave my head. Again. This marks the second such episode in my life. Let's call them my Otter Periods. OPs arise during times of suicidal depression, and I've found that mine is not such a unique response to that most perilous mood swing. In chatting with my friends at the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance forums, plenty of women have come forward to say, "You get urges to shave your head when you're depressed? Me too!" and more than a few (straight women, at that) have also obeyed the urge. It's both disarming and illuminating to discover that something I've always thought a personal quirk is in truth fairly common.

Where I may claim some diversion is in the aftermath. Many women who shave their heads during depressive periods say they do so out of an urge to self-mutilate; and isn't it better to attack dead cell filaments than flesh? Afterward most say they found themselves ugly, and few choose to maintain the look.

My first head-shearing urge came over me in my mid 20s. I awoke one morning with a wicked compulsion to shave my head and, as if under hypnosis, I got dressed, walked to my local Rite-Aid, bought clippers, and returned home to do the deed. Under all that hair I found that I have quite a shapely scalp, and for the first time in my life I thought I looked kind of extraordinary, in a good way. I kept it buzzed for two years. Some people (friends, girlfriends) loved it; others (my mom) hated it.

I was waiting tables at the time and my tips went through the roof, the result, I think, of altered expectations. I looked serious and a bit mean, and when I proved to be a friendly sort I was rewarded just for being me—there was no change in my personality, just a shift in societal perception.

(Note: A brief period of hairlessness occurred between my first OP and this last, but because it was motivated not so much by intense depression as by a bad haircut it cannot be considered a clinical OP.)

Fifteen years on the urge made itself known again. This time I knew a couple of things in advance, namely that (1) shaving my head has vast potential to lift my spirits, and (2) I have a shapely scalp. So it should have been a gimme, yes? Well, not entirely. It's not that I feel particularly old at 39, but I certainly feel older than I did at 25, and I had an attack of self-doubt that I could still pull this look off. Maybe folks would attribute my aesthetic choice not so much to youthful freedom as to midlife crisis. Or cancer.

I resisted the urge for several months.

Here's where the aforementioned confluence of events comes in. I've recently emerged from a short stay in a psychiatric hospital, about which I'll write more later. It was my first such commitment, and I expect and hope that it will be my last. I made a pact with myself that when I was released I would pull out all the stops to fight that bully in my psyche who taunts and torments me until I feel that I can no longer accept responsibility for keeping myself safe.

It's difficult to articulate why shaving my head is for me such a powerful antidepressant. I do like the way I look, but it isn't a simple matter of self-esteem. It's an expression of personal freedom, a letting go of concerns over what people think, what my mother thinks. In making myself less conventionally attractive I make explicit the idea that I seek no one's approval but my own. And there's a powerful sense of light and calm that washes over me when I remember to live first for myself, second for those who accept me as I am, and not another moment for those who do not.

Here I am, four days on. (My hair grows like a weed.)