Humans are bound together by many things (being human, for one). But there is a litany of things that people say are intrinsic to being human and, therefore, we share. If you read my blog before, you can imagine my eyes rolling at lofty connections. But I came upon one tie that caught me quite by accident.
A person’s relationship with his/her hair stylist. Most people don’t think about that relationship. It is the only one where if you “step out”, you can’t hide it. If you are unfaithful, you have to break up because your hair stylist will know you went to someone else. Don’t even think that skipping a few “trim cycles” will protect your indiscretion. The very fact that you avoid your hair stylist is evidence of your guilt and your infidelity. Fooling a spouse or a lover, piece of cake. Hair stylist? All I can say is that I am glad that those open razors (a la Sweeney Todd) are not in fashion anymore.
I always thought of my relationship with Miwa as “oy, she will look at how I let her beautiful cut go to hell, like an overgrown garden.” And always wondered if she would break up with me because I was so unreliable about getting my hair cut. Yet, ours was a different relationship. Miwa talked to me as much as I talked to her. So, I knew about her mother’s death and her difficult and conflict-ridden relationships with her mother and her daughter. I knew she felt guilty that her daughter was her surrogate in caring for her dying mother in their native Japan. I knew that she left her family for a career in the US, which was so radical in so many ways, even more so in the decade in which she did it. In her youth, it seemed, she did what she wanted and then figured out how to pick up the pieces.
I knew that, while Japanese and not Jewish, she knew how to cook for a seder since her male companion was Jewish. I knew that his mother and his sister and sister’s family never (it seemed to her) showed any respect or appreciation for her efforts.
I also knew that she recently had a bruising fight with cancer and that she won rounds 1 and 2. I also figured she was anywhere from mid-50s to mid-60s.
Miwa was too tired in round 3 to cut hair. She wouldn’t schedule appointments. That was a bad sign because it was her art and her passion. In a 45-minute flurry of hair flying out of her scissors, she could make me look vital (and less like a graying middle-aged person) and yet I didn’t look like the proverbial 50 year-old trying to pull off a mini-skirt.
Finally, I had to have someone else cut my hair. I held out as long as I could until I started looking like a hippy. I felt like I was betraying a dying friend but Miwa had said during each of my last two haircuts that, if she were unavailable, I should have Mary cut my hair. Mary is very good, but Miwa was an artist.
Miwa lost the fight in Round 3. She was actually in her mid-70s. And I bet she took the death blow rather than stay alive and be helpless.
Miwa, I toast your life lived on your terms. I know you had regrets. I hope you healed as many of them as you could before the end.