Should I Get Bangs
Greetings from a plane, another plane, only four more trips left this year. I will miss this hectic schedule when it’s over, just like I miss the New Orleans deep humid heat when it’s gone for the winter. When you’re in the middle of it, it’s tough, but you find yourself adjusting and claiming certain specific pleasures from it. I like what the travel does to my brain, how I am exposed to new ideas and conversations. I like the way my skin glows in the summer sun, and the way the city empties out and the conversations between those who stayed behind are different. There’s always something to appreciate if you dig deep enough.
One of the things I’ve noticed during this year of events, this year of my first memoir (as opposed to fiction), is that when I do events or signings, I get asked more personal questions than usual. It's fine, it's what I set myself up for: I wrote about my life. And why choose to go on tour if you don't want to talk to anyone? Why sign with a speaking agent if you don't want to connect with the world? Obviously it's important to figure out what your limits and boundaries are — I have no problem saying I don’t feel like answering a particular question — but why put yourself out there if you don't want to be there?
So I'm pretty amenable to anything that comes my way but have begun to note the questions people are asking over and over again, which are not the traditional process and craft questions for the most part. In fact one of the questions I get a lot is not about anything related to writing but in fact about my…bangs. 'When did you get bangs? Why did you get bangs? Should I get bangs? I'm afraid to get bangs but I've always wanted them, but do you think I should just go for it? I don’t know if I have the right face or the right hair. For bangs."
OK, stay with me here, but I don't actually think this question is about hair. I think this is a bigger question than that.
First of all, hair is not a trivial question. It’s a billion-dollar industry for a reason. It frames our face and our eyes and we look at it every single day and we mess around with it and we hide behind it and we dye it and we cut it and we shave it and sometimes we lose it and sometimes we wear wigs and we use it to express who we are and we fight with it and we mourn it not being exactly what we want and we celebrate when it looks perfect. Hair is super fucking important. Hair is deep.
Secondly, I think this is a question about taking risks. People may want to change either their appearance or their image but are afraid because it’s a time commitment to grow it out and also possibly they might learn that this thing they have always desired is not what they expected it to be. And sometimes people hesitate making big (or little) changes because it requires time and effort and a certain tussling with one’s self or identity and hair is something you have to face every single day.
I think that translates to committing to a creative project that is just for yourself. Deciding that you’re the kind of person who sits down every day and writes, even if it’s just to keep track of your daily life or to check in with yourself. Am I bang person? Sure, why not? Am I the kind of person who is dedicated to writing, communicating, creating? Again, why not?
As for me, my forehead hasn’t seen sunlight since my mid-30s, when I noticed those first lines across my forehead. I’m vain as hell about my hair and spend a small fortune on it but I’m also someone who has to stand in front of audiences and I think being comfortable about my appearance makes my job easier on me, and I am all about facilitating my professional comfort. It’s not just bangs to me. It’s not just hair. It’s about being able to stand tall and like what I see in the mirror, so I have one less thing to worry about as I face the world.
I’ll leave you with this today: What little changes have you considered making but have walked away from because of this or that fear? Is there a vision of a new version of yourself — the writer version perhaps? — that might feel too risky? Are you sure that it is? Have you talked yourself out of making a significant move in your life or an investment in your creative self because of old, worn-out arguments? Check in with yourself. It’s your life! It’s your art! It’s your hair.
You are reading Craft Talk, the home of #1000wordsofsummer and also a weekly newsletter about writing from Jami Attenberg. I’m also on twitter and instagram. I try to answer comments as best I can, which are open to paid subscribers. You can subscribe here or give a gift subscription here. (If you are a teacher let me know, and I will give you a free subscription.) Fifty percent of the proceeds will go to various cultural, educational, and social justice organizations in New Orleans (and sometimes elsewhere). This week’s donation went to Central Florida Mutual Aid.