Stream of consciousness II

I run into Santa at a stop light. An actual (crazy) person dressed as Santa casually meandering about the neighborhood. I decide I like that dude. I also decide this is a sign that it’s finally okay to start playing Coldplay’s “Christmas Lights”.

***

I go see yesterday’s hipster girl for my hair cut and I tell her what I want, and she says that cut would look awful with my body size. She says size and not type, and I notice. I look at our bodies in the mirror, her much slimmer one next to mine, and I feel a lump in my throat and a knot in my stomach. She says the cut I want is so out of style and that I don’t strike her as the kind of girl who visits the hair dresser often. I hate that her comments get to me. When she asks me what I do and how old I am, I lie. I hate that, too.

The cut is 36 euros and I walk away with almost the exact same hair and an awful feeling. Thanks for nothing, hipster girl.

***

The roommate and I go to the mall. She needs new bras, I need a reason to leave the house. Some Christmas decorations are already up but they’re not lit yet and just look sad. There are seven different shoe stores and we go to them all. I remember why I hate shopping with others. I’m too impatient. We browse Christmas stuff and buy lights for our hallway and a reindeer for our kitchen window. It feels nice: to invest in the coziness of our home. We stop to sit down for some coffee and look out at Köln-Kalk in the dark. Head lights in one direction, break lights in the other. People in between; pushing strollers, riding bikes, dragging suitcases. And the moonlit clouds above it all. The roommate orders a Belgian waffle which turns out to be huge so I have a few bites. I don’t enjoy it.

I don’t enjoy much of anything these days, and it worries me. I’m not myself. Everything is sad and lonely and complicated and serious.

***

I buy a train ticket home for next Tuesday. They have a special offer for a high speed train on my connection; I can’t pass that up. Home in an hour and forty-seven minutes. 215 kilometers in less than an album’s worth of music. My mom is hosting a fancy seafood dinner and I want to be there for that. “You’re always welcome”, she emphasizes. “Come home.”

Yes. I think I need to.

Stream of consciousness

I wake up at 4am, start my laptop and wait. Most polls have closed in the U.S. by now. Despite the 6-hour time difference to the American East coast, there must be some semblance of a projection out there, I think. There isn’t. Romney is ahead but not by much. None of the swing states have been called. I find livestreams of CNN and C-SPAN and NBC News online, mute them, and watch and wait. For a terrible 15 minutes I entertain the possibility that Americans may actually vote Romney into office, and I’m surprised that this turn of events never seriously occurred to me before. From over here in central Europe – from almost anywhere else in the world – the choice seems so devastatingly clear.

“Don’t forget”, my mom likes to say, “This is the same country who voted Bush in for a second term.” But it’s not the same country at all, is it. Too much has happened, and a younger generation is making their voices heard. It wasn’t that America in 2008 and it sure isn’t now. It’s past 7am when they announce that Obama has been re-elected. The First Family looks beautiful; his speech is disappointing, recycled, same old same old. Maybe I’ve just been watching too many rallies over the past few months. I close my eyes for another half an hour. I breathe a sigh of relief.

***

I sip my cappuccino and put on some mascara. I have yet another appointment at the social services agency. These are check-up meetings, usually, but this time I’m also finally turning in the paperwork of my welfare application. It’s not the happiest feeling. But it’s cold and windy and rainy outside – that fine November rain that seems to go on for weeks and creep into every crevice – and it’s 9am and rush hour no longer crowds the subways, and I’m just happy to be out in the real world. I love this weather. I love this city. In all its gray and dirty autumn sadness, I love it.

I hate Lana Del Rey’s dumb face plastered all over everything. It’s an H&M campaign. She needs to GTFO of town. Give us David Beckham back. Or, you know, someone who’s actually naturally beautiful and normal.

The guy at social services grins as our appointment is over. “I hope to never have to see you here again”, he says. He says that every time.

***

I dread having to come up with ideas for food. I sit at home for two hours, growing hungrier, Googling ideas, avoiding the issue. I finally walk to the grocery store across the street and roam the isles, and my stomach needs something but nothing looks good because everything has too much fat and too much sugar. No taste is good enough to justify its calories. I’m in this rut again, and I can’t get out. It makes me wish I would never have to deal with food at all. I end up buying a ready-made pasta thing; small portion, just 99 cents. Add hot water, stir, enjoy. I stand in my kitchen and I look at it, the plastic-y sheen on the sauce, and I can’t eat it. My body won’t benefit from processed food. I can’t remember why I bought it.

I start from scratch, and my stomach protests. I find spaghetti in our pantry, left-over pizza cheese and left-over mini tomatoes. I steal an onion from my roommate. I boil the pasta, cut everything up, pre-heat the oven, add olive oil and spices. The tomatoes bake for 35 minutes; 10 more once the cheese is added. It’s delicious. It’s late now.

***

I stop at the hair dresser to make an appointment. My short do needs a trim. The girl behind the counter is all hipster: ironic tshirt, big glasses, asymmetrical bob of straight black hair, cherry red lipstick, immaculate make-up. She speaks with the thick dialect of the Cologne region. It makes me smile.

On feeling feminine, or: An ode to long hair

I’ve stated here and elsewhere at least a hundred thousand times that I don’t feel entirely comfortable in my body. But maybe that’s not quite accurate: I do feel healthy in my own skin, I just don’t think I look attractive in the eyes of others. And that bothers me. [Insert lengthy paragraph about why it shouldn’t.]

I love my hair, though. It’s a chestnutty brown with some natural blonde highlights and some layers; a mix of red, brown and blonde tones in the sunlight, it’s thick and healthy and reaches half-way down my back. It’s naturally straight – though it waves lightly if I don’t blow-dry or straighten it. I love the way it blows in the wind; how smooth it feels after a shower; how I can bunch it up in my neck and let it fall over my shoulders, cascading down with a gentle bounce; how you can grab fistfuls of it and then some; how it makes me feel feminine and sexy.

Long, thick hair also means endless showers – to the point where I’m seriously worried about my water consumption (running has me wash it almost daily) – and even more time spent wasted to get it dry. More often than not, it’s not so much a luxurious, beautiful mane but rather a tangled mess. Much like what you expect a 10-year-old’s hair to look like. For those reasons, and because I need a change to stay sane during this period of unemployment, I want to chop it all off. I’ve done this before and hated it two days later. I felt exposed. I thought I looked like a boy. Almost nothing left to grab, play around with, put up in a bun, curl or straighten, and admire in the mirror. Showers were much shorter, though, and with all that hair a big weight had literally been lifted off my shoulders and that also felt liberating.

I’ve had long hair since I was 12 years old. It suits the shape of my face, it doesn’t require regular visits to the hairdresser, and it has always given me the illusion that all my other physical faults can be hidden (quite literally) behind it. A shorter cut would be a step away from what in many ways has been a very soft and almost childish hair cut towards something more grown-up, fresher, and possibly even sexier – at the expense, I worry, of my feeling feminine. It’s a bit of a paradox, I suppose.

Hair grows back so this shouldn’t even warrant its own post. But cutting off 30 centimeters does change one’s look significantly, and I can’t make out whether I wrongly assume changing my hair will magically change my situation and improve my personality, or if I’m really just tired of 12 years of the same damn hair. In conclusion: stay tuned.