As I let down my hair, am I letting down my identity?
IT LOOKS LIKE an alien farm implement, even though it's curved to fit my hand. I'm not using it as a fake microphone, nor to spank a child on the bottom. I'm using the hairbrush to brush my hair each morning, because — for the first time in years — my hair needs it.
I've been a short-hair fanatic since I left my parents' house for college, but curiosity is tempering my zealotry. Would, perhaps, my husband find it appealing if I had longer hair? Would men at lectures and comedy shows make passes at me, and would women in bookstores stop assuming I'm a lesbian? Is longer hair as bothersome as I remember, or did I just hate it because my parents forced it upon me? Time to find out! And then get a half-inch buzzcut, probably, my old single self says.
Anyway, the stuff on my nightstand has been moving around to make room for the newcomer. The tiny idol of Ganesha constantly gets knocked over, and I always feel bad when I have to upright it. Why? Does God care? Just because a little statue helps me focus on the sacred, does that mean it's sacred? This is the fundamental problem with idolatry. But here I could spin into a really self-indulgent digression on whether idols in religious ritual are really that different from other routines in everyday life, and my editors have told me to cut it out with the Indian fairy tales, so on we go.
The hairbrush lies atop random paper. Some is shreddable/fileable nonsense (one (1) 1/4 pint egg salad: $2.59. Have a nice day.) I use those as bookmarks for the reading material that also stacks up by my 15-year-old nightlamp. (Why in the world did I ever stick a Google recruiting sticker on that thing?)
Before I started this master's program, I read Important Books in my offtime. Adam Hochschild's wonderful history of British abolition, "Bury the Chains," for example. Now, classes take up all of that particular sort of mental energy, so I'm reading the She-Hulk relaunch. It's an excellent comic, frothy and silly the way "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" was.
All these optional nightstand accessories have to compete with the crucial stuff. Glasses. Wallet. Cell phone. (You know it's time to get a new cell phone when you are working around the broken End, 5 and 0 keys.) Alarm clock. Things I can't talk about in a family newspaper.
The sound equivalent of deodorant is nose
accessories that help you not snore. I snore loudly enough to wake my husband if I don't wear BreatheRight strips. I can't speak to their effectiveness but Leonard offers warm testimonials in favor of the strips. I wear them to show my commitment to our love. It's like a wedding ring on my nose.
So maybe both the nose strips and the growing hair have something to do with the fact that I've been married a year. A year! And I am still learning how to be a wife. My feelings of wifeness come when I put on the BreatheRight strips, or get up right when my alarm goes off so I don't wake Leonard. They come when I put on a shirt I know he's especially fond of, or bookmark a Web page I know he'll enjoy. He likes the longer hair as a change of pace. Will growing my hair please him? Will the hairbrush be like the nose strips, a bother I stop noticing? Am I doing this because I want to, or because I think I should, because he likes it?
He moved across the country for my job, and does all the cooking, so should I feel oppressed that there's now a hairbrush cluttering up my nightstand?
I don't know how I'm changing as a wife, because all those changes happen inside where I can't see. But I can tell that new married Sumana has added these little idols to the nightstand, symbols of petty sacrifice.
There's no mirror in the bedroom. What I see as optional, and what I see as crucial, reflects my identity back to me, and the changing reflection feels a little alien.
Sumana Harihareswara writes for Bay Area Living each week. You can write to her at email@example.com.
So maybe both the nose strips and the growing hair have something to do with the fact that I've been married a year. A year! And I am still learning how to be a wife. My feelings of wifeness come when I put on the BreatheRight strips, or get up right when my alarm goes off so I don't wake Leonard.
They come when I put on a shirt that I know he's especially fond of, or bookmark a Web page I know he'll enjoy.