Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Story Behind My Veil

“There’s no sense in spending eight hours a day doing something you’re not passionate about.”

Those words of wisdom came from Cat, the twentyish cosmetologist who cut my hair yesterday. She’s newly licensed, working her way through a six-month training with the Gene Juarez Salon.

I’ve spent a lot of time on Facebook lately, giving things away, and my hair fell to the floor by Cat’s feet because of it.

In my old life, I was a settled homeowner and pastor, the walls of my home office plastered with Christian symbols, especially cross plaques; my neck adorned with one of two dozen cross necklaces—many gifts from parishioners and family—outward proclamations of my inner convictions.

In my Washington life, I don’t display much, not knowing how many months until we move again and I’m spackling nail holes, touching up walls, packing knick-knacks. Other than my wedding ring, I rarely wear jewelry; it’s a hazard in remodeling, a nuisance when gardening.

So when I unpacked the Christian symbols that’d been boxed for nearly three years, I knew they belonged to my past, not my future. I wanted to give them away, but not to the Goodwill to be sorted, tagged, sold to strangers.

Wall plaque group shot for Facebook

Necklaces round 1, group shot for Facebook
Last winter I gave away furniture and clothing my grandmother made, the brass day bed my husband’s mother gave us, and many other major or sentimental items through the Buy Nothing community that flourished on Bainbridge Island. I chose the recipients, knew their names, and a little something about them.

While the Buy Nothing project has spread around the country and world, in my new locale, the component of community building and creative sharing is absent; it’s simply about unloading or asking for stuff, full of abbreviations: ISO (in search of) and INO (in need of), as if relationships are irrelevant.

I decided to turn to virtual community: Facebook—most of my friends are Christian, many clergy—to find homes for the plaques and necklaces. I kept a few necklaces: my first cross, the one my children bought me for my 40th birthday, the glass one I made myself, and one plaque my husband bought in Argentina.

This kind of giving is more time consuming than the drop-off donation. I photograph the items, transfer them to my computer, upload to Facebook with a short description. I respond to comments, ask for addresses, package the items with short notes, make a trip to the post office.
Giveaway items round 2 group shot for Facebook

Before I began my giveaway, I was listening to 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving can Change Your Life. Cami Walker began her project in the midst multiple sclerosis. Sick and broke, she embarked on a discipline of daily giving that changed her attitude and her health.

I thought about adopting her daily discipline, but unlike Walker, who lives in Los Angeles and is, I think an extrovert, there are days I never leave the house, and don’t encounter anyone other than my husband.

Giving usually engenders receiving—that was the Walker’s experience with her project, and mine with the Buy Nothing Project. I received two items being given away: Chanel #5 perfume I gifted to my mother-in-law, and a television. I made one (fulfilled) request: to borrow snowshoes for a trip with my family and dear friend visiting from Florida last December.

On the day I began my Facebook giveaway I stood in the bathroom photographing each necklace against my blue sweater, noticing my scruffy hair. I should do something about it I thought.

Necklace modeling with scruffy hair

Scruffy hair

There are local Facebook pages where people ask for recommendations for everything from car repair to Thai food. I got a referral to a dentist that way in June.  I recalled several asks about hair stylists, and thought I’d scroll through, make some calls, get prices, and then decide between a trim or a new style.

Before I did, a post showed up in my newsfeed from a page I don’t recall visiting after I liked it. A newly licensed cosmetologist needed two people willing to get a Veil cut. The salon was in the regional mall, and the cost only $5. I sent a message and Cat booked me for the following week.

I had the same stylist for 25 years in the Santa Cruz Mountains. She was with me in all my phases: spiral perm, bob, color. She could cut and carry on constant conversation. She didn’t need to concentrate.

Cat did. Yesterday she sketched my cut on paper using a ruler to draw angles for my Veil cut, and consulted before, during and after, with an experienced stylist. Most noticeably, as she held strands of my hair away from my head to cut, I could feel her hands tremble, the vibration making its way to my scalp.

Oddly, I was thankful. My hair had her complete attention. Each snip was considered and purposeful, not routine and automatic.

When I jumped at the $5 haircut, I knew I was receiving a gift. I didn’t realize until Cat held my hair in her nervous hands that I was offering a gift—90 minutes of my time, the opportunity for her to learn and experiment, to be offered affirmation by her instructor who said, “you did a great job,” and by me who said, “I love it.”

The Veil from the back

My snowshoeing Florida friend is an interfaith director on a college campus. Every day she’s shaping and being shaped by the students around her, companioning them as they discover their voices and passions. I might suggest to her, and others, that the mentoring process isn’t complete until you walk away with a bouncy new hairdo.

The Veil from the front

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