Same but Different | Accidental Icon

Today I head back to the city. I discover there are certain things I can only find there. While I love my new home on the Hudson, there are just some experiences of my former life that are irreplaceable. This includes having a haircut with my Japanese hair stylist Jun. I’ve tried a few stylists up here, but they just don’t seem to know how to handle my stubborn, thick, and straight hair. My hair resists them. Another is a bagel shop close to the salon. A trip to Jun always involves a bagel and coffee. Today is no different. I’ve stopped having manicures because I can’t find a place like the one on Lexington Avenue I went to for years.

I decide to walk up Madison Avenue on my way to the salon. The salon, tucked away on an inconspicuous block, is called Tokuyama. A Japanese lantern hangs outside the door. I’ve prepared for this day by acquiring new sunglasses. This pair is not from a classic fashion house like Chanel. It’s from a small independent designer named Carla Robertson. Nearsighted, she always struggled to find glasses and determined she would one day design her own. Her forte is shape and color. The glasses play with lines and circles. They are quirky and cool. Her website description says the glasses I chose are, “like raising a fist in an elegant way.” I imagine they will be the perfect accessory for what will be my new haircut. I ordered mine in black. I’m contemplating going for the orange ones, too.

 As I walk past flagship stores, memories flash. There is the time I visited Carolina Herrera’s atelier. They invited me to choose a bag. Soon after, I wore a camel coat with embroidered, cascading flowers to her show. Inside Marc Jacobs, I huddled on the top floor looking down with other influencer friends years younger than me. We watched the riotously colorful show of the Japanese designer Tomo Koizumi. A variety of influences inspires his ruffled tulle creations, including Japanese dolls and flower sculptures. I pass the new Hermes location and remember a trip to Paris and a new bag. It sits in its orange box, waiting for my next adventure. I see boots I covet at Loro Piana. They are the same butter soft suede and color of the loafers I received to do a post where I dressed in the brand. A German photographer took my photo for this job remotely through an app. I pass Anne & Valentin, where I found my most interesting glasses, the best prescription glass. Now, after cataract surgery, I no longer require prescriptions; a silver lining perk that comes from being old.

 Every time I’ve done something to my hair, there have been emotional implications, including stretching, excitement, desire, urgency, anxiety, pressure, rebellion, force, anger and yearning. I’ve often changed my hairstyle in order to mark an event in my life, to signify a new passage, to defy expectations, to subvert the old and make room for the new. There are social stories and scripts about hair, femininity, and culture that I’ve used to my rebellious advantage. My hair has always been a statement about self and society.

 As a child, someone other than myself controlled my hairstyle. My mother preferred to cut it quite short, like a boy. This is strange to me when hers was always curled and perfectly coiffed like Jackie Kennedy’s. In most childhood pictures, I’m sporting a pixie cut like Twiggy’s before she even came onto the scene. I wonder now if making me look more like a boy was my mother’s way of reflecting her ambivalence about gender roles during a time when opportunities for women were still quite limited. She gave me the male version of my name: Lyn rather than Lynn. There is a faded black & white photo taken at Halloween. I am 5. I am dressed as a groom and my friend Donald, scowling, dressed up like a bride. I can see my mother at the edge of the frame smiling. So perhaps my very short hair was my mother’s statement about self and society.

Once I was old enough to control my hair narrative, I wore it long, not because that is what all the girls did, but because it was rebellious. I parted it in the middle and it was bone straight. Long hair in the 70s was associated with counterculture figures like Grace Slick and Jim Morrison. Long hair was psychedelic rock, getting high, and breaking the rules that strict parents and Catholic school had imposed. Long hair was political. In high school, the times and spaces my body could move in, what I could wear, what was acceptable to express were all dictated by the authority figures in my life. Within those constraints, my hair was the only signifier I could control. Its movement and length made me feel sexual and provocative. I loved how it hid secrets like the tiny forbidden earrings I wore each day, flouting the possibility of detention.

 Sometimes in my life, I abused my poor hair. I hacked it off, let others texture it to death, subjected it to color treatments and harsh perms. These were moments when I was not happy with myself. When I felt a need to be punitive. It was after these difficult moments that I understood why I love my hair. Hair is alive. Hair is resilient. When you hack it off as an experiment, there’s no need to apologize. It is always self-correcting. It is forgiving. My hair has been a constant companion throughout the years. It has always supported me in expressing what I want to say, but cannot. It accompanies me when I take risks. It is the catalyst for me to experiment with endless reinventions. My hair has taught me self love.

 In the persona of Accidental Icon, who is me and not me, my hair and body, in interaction with fashion and clothing, build the character. It helps me make the visual statements I wish to make about getting older. Today it is a co-construction of my Japanese hair stylist and myself. We go back to the beginning, 2014 in order to find something to move us forward. Today my hair is short like it was then. When tucked behind my ears, I channel Twiggy. It has hidden undercuts, which feel like having a secret and allows for a surprise when my hair is styled upwards or slicked back. I shaved it to my skull in some places and left it long in others, allowing me to play with all my extremes and all my ambivalence.

 Jun and I look in the mirror and take photos. We are both excited about the result. It is the start of a new journey for us both. The haircut is the same but different from the one I had before. My hair looks even whiter. This haircut is now just half of the frame. The other half of the frame is Calvin. His black hair, grey at the temples, almost goes down to his waist. He is not scowling. As we stand together, me with my short hair and his so long, I imagine my mother’s smile. I look back at photos of my life and I see it is the changes in my hair that are telling the story. These shifts show who I am and who I wish to be. My hair, like myself, never remains the same. It’s the clay, along with clothes and sunglasses, I used to sculpt my story. It is with me as I re-imagine a new story. It is an “our” story as Calvin and I embark on our new adventure. Our respective hair styles an invitation for others to think differently. 

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