A Brief History Of My Having Hair Extensions In Los Angeles
Immediately after I get hair extensions, I begin to apologize for them. And then, to them.
I explain to friends who compliment my newly very long hair that it is fake. If someone asks why I felt compelled to get someone else's hair braided into my head, or how much it cost, I often make up a crazy reason. A threatening hairdresser guilted me into it. It was a gift from a lovelorn oil baron. I lost a bet.
At home, I apologize to my hair. Shh, I tell it. You are beautiful.
I love you too, it whispers back, and then loops itself around my neck while I sleep.
Before this: my grandmother dies on the very day I get the news that I've been hired for a job in LA. I get to California a month before I turn 30, and between the new job and being a little sad, I do not do a lot of sleeping.
When my family visits for me for my birthday, I tell them I've made an important decision: I'm going to get hair extensions. My sister says no. My mother tells me to be sure to compare different prices and types.
A picture taken later in the night shows me in the hotel bathroom, where my sister and I have gone to fix our makeup. I am leaping out of a stall at her, doing an impression of a cheetah. My hair and I look insane.
At work, we have an actual wall of snacks. It's about as big as a standard grocery aisle and is replenished regularly. This is something that you are warned about when working on a television show -- that you will get very, very fat.
The rest of the staff are mostly careful eaters, and the ones who do eat the snacks offset them with morning runs and evening squat thrusts. I eat cashews all day from paper cups. At night, I eat buttery takeout curries and drink wine in front of hours and hours of HBO, developing unhealthy crushes on different inappropriate fictional characters.
On the weekends, I have fun brunches with new LA friends who still feel like new LA friends. I have lots of drinks with my ex-boyfriend. After a lot of them one night, I start asking questions you should probably never ask your ex-boyfriend after a lot of drinks.
"Do I breathe really heavily through my nose when I kiss?" I ask. I make a demonstrative heavy-breathing nose noise.
He rolls his eyes at me. "Maybe consider that you the reason you're alone is something a little bigger. Maybe you need to start behaving differently and/or looking for a different quality of person."
"Wait, but what if," I say, "I had twice the amount of hair that I have now?"
I go in for the consultation. I pick up different types of hair. I pet them. I pretend I'm at an animal shelter. I wish I could take you all home. Who's going home with me?
I tell the other female writer at work that I'm getting extensions. She's so ecstatic for me that she actually claps her hands.
"What's up?" asks one of the guy writers. "Who's pregnant?"
I go on a weird date, the kind that I know will play in endless microscopic loop in my head for the rest of my life in times when I am unable to sleep.
On the phone with my two best friends in New York, I say, "Am I weird? Or is Los Angeles?"
"Los Angeles!" They say. "DO NOT get hair extensions."
I am living in a subleased guest house with a beautiful sunny yard with a gurgling little fountain. On a day off, I drag a lawn chair out and a huge novel I've been meaning to finish since maybe high school. I wear a tank top and jean shorts, then promptly fall asleep in the sun.
My body is now shaded such that, with my clothes off, I appear to be wearing old-timey gentleman's bathing costume. I consider trying to fix this by laying out again, in a bikini, but in LA, there are always at least six helicopters flying around directly above you at any given time and I do not have that kind of body confidence.
Finally I decide to get a spray tan. The website says to take care of any waxing or shaving first, so I find a special deal and get a Brazilian and have my legs waxed. Bored, Skyping with my friend in New York, I paint my nails a juvenile shell pink that reminds me of malls and babysitters.
"What do you do if somebody runs their hands through your hair and they get stuck?" she asks.
"Nobody is currently running their hands through my hair," I say.
I get the extensions on a Tuesday evening. At work, nobody notices that my hair is a foot longer and twice as thick until I helpfully point it out to them.
The say stuff like, "Huh," and, "Well, OK."
It looks freaking amazing.
I am having hot make out time with a hot guy on his couch. Oh, thanks, hair. Hi, haters!
Then he goes to push his hands into my hair and I actually stop breathing. I wonder if he feels the beads there, I wonder if he thinks they are little cornrows, or little bugs. An hour later, in my car, I cry listening to someone dedicate a Rod Stewart song to his estranged wife.
I go in for a consult with a personal trainer.
"You're a little overweight for your height," he says, then asks about various people in my family died and if my parents have any illnesses. "Any history of depression?"
"Uh, yeah," I say. "About 30 seconds ago."
I'm in the grocery store and on the phone with my boss. He is the only person I ever actually talk to on my mobile phone, and I take his calls not only because my boss, but because he's very good at phone conversations, in the way everybody used to be when the only thing you could really do while talking was to mess with the cord.
"People keep saying that we should stop using or misusing the word 'awesome,' but I refuse," he says. "I am not going to be any less enthusiastic about things. Who wants that?"
In my cart are pouches of tuna packed in water, grapefruit flavored sparkling water, lemons. Things I have decided I will limit myself to until I feel okay about helicopter pilots seeing me nude.
"Nobody is going to dim MY enthusiasm," I say, a person in a grocery store with hair extensions and a spray tan, standing in front of a wall of diet soup.
A woman wearing a camouflage-patterned sweatsuit tries to pass me as I try to pass her and we ram carts.
"Sorry," she says
"Sorry!" I say.
"Don't be sorry," says my boss.
I get my hair blown out before a premiere by a man in Studio City. He and I talk about how weird it is that people in LA feel an almost moral obligation to hike. We discuss the strangeness of the river ("glorified ditch") and how most people here seem to be either married, or insane.
I think we're having a great time but then he tells me that he does not like "weaves" and thinks they are tacky as he combs my hair out. I feel as though someone has insulted one of my children.
"I love it," I say. "I love my 'weave.'"
We don't talk for the rest of the process, but a few days later, I get a text on the number I used to book the appointment: "It was nice meeting you. I think you're cute."
I'm confused. I thought he was gay, or mean. Also: What?
A guy and I kiss in his car and he never ever calls me again. One night, my sublet is invaded by exactly four raccoons.
A friend pats my head and asks if it itches. I tell him no, my weave is part of me now.
"I don't think you can call it a weave," he says. "I think there might be 'racial implications' to that."
"Well, it's woven into my head," I say. "Also, a hair guy called it that. Does 'weave' have racial implications?"
He shrugs, and holds up his hands. "Hey, just don't want you to sound racist."
People in LA love to complain about driving, but it is basically the best thing that ever happened to me. In the morning I listen to public radio and get coffee from a drive through where a guy has memorized my order, which makes me feel like a real part of a community.
On the way home from work, I breeze past sex shops and check cashing depots and independently operated chicken restaurants, usually playing the same Janis Ian song on loop and singing at the top of my lungs. When I pass the house of the guy whose couch I made out on, I roll up the windows or slide down in my seat.
I'm getting lunch with one of my coworkers when I hear someone at the sandwich shop we like say, "I feel really healthy these days!" and it echoes in my head for several days, like the theme from "Doctor Zhivago."
I see The Man With the Couch in line at the movie theater where my actress friend has been bugging me to "Try the sausage sandwich!" I successfully hide from him, and decide that this is the day, my life will be different.
During the previews, I snap and send her a picture of my sausage sandwich.
She writes back, "I TOLD YOU."
My sister visits again. We rent a car and head to Las Vegas, to spend time with my dad.
"The thing about buying human hair," she says, on the drive through the desert, "is that nobody who sells theirs can possibly be in a good place, financially or emotionally."
I want to tell her that she doesn't KNOW that, and that it's a totally valid, choice-thing to do with your own body, but I sort of know she's right.
"Do you think my hair has racial implications?" I ask.
"Uh, absolutely," she says.
I'm taking a cab home from a birthday party when the cab driver starts lecturing me about women in LA. I get lectured by cab drivers a lot.
"Women here, they're all fake," he says. "Fake hair, fake nails, fake body. They trap you with sex until you marry them and give them your money." We pass a taco stand and he adds, "Oh, that place is delicious, if you like tacos."
Many people I meet here have insomnia. I've had it since I was a kid, and I've developed habit -- taking a mental inventory of all the great people and things in my life -- to prevent myself from compulsively buying audiobooks, fretting, or having revenge fantasies.
On nights when I can't sleep here, I tell myself that my job is great and I have nothing to worry about and that I am lucky enough to do stupid, entitled things like buy hair and have hair removed. Then I imagine elaborate scenarios of running into The Couch at a party where I look amazing. Usually, I am holding an award.
I have a professional drinks meeting. The person I'm meeting texts the whole time, while saying, "I'm sooooooo sorry for texting." We're at a weird themed bar and I accidentally have like four tropical cocktails just for something to do with my hands. I can't believe I have started boring people this aggressively.
I leave my car there and take a taxi home. The next morning the cab driver I get to take me back to my parking spot keeps asking for an exact address for his GPS.
"I don't have an exact address!" I say. "It is a parking meter outside of a Gelson's!"
I try never to sleep over at anybody's house because I snore. But I do like to imagine a guy reaching under his pillow and finding one of my extensions, like a ladies' glove.
It never rains, and I notice the same melted ice cream cone in its wrapper sitting in the parking garage where I work.
If this were New York, it would be gone, due to pigeons or rain or foot traffic. It makes me feel extremely passive aggressive and bad, so finally I throw it away, which makes me feel very beatific. I buy a package of exercise classes and sign up to volunteer at a food bank on the other side of town. I have dinner with a girl who was once a little mean to me.
I make an appointment with my hairdresser to tighten my extensions. She's pregnant and adorable and wants to quit doing hair to open an Italian sandwich shop. I think, if I had the money, I would give it to you.
My ex boyfriend and I drink beers and read some of the artsy coffee table books in my sublet. One of them has Warhol's guns in it, which my ex boyfriend loves, because he loves guns.
I tell him that guns are terrible and he says that he knows, but that they're really fun to play with and that's really why people don't want to give them up.
"Half of the stuff people pretend to be passionate about politically is just about fun," he says. "Guns. Meat. Their fake hair."
I take away his coffee table books.
I keep the two sections of my hair that have come loose on a shelf in my closet. When I come home from work one day, my landlord's housekeeper has folded them in half, like tea towels.
Some days, I sit in bed for hours and hours, reading, only getting up when I have to. Sometimes I think, "Hey, that was a great day!" and other times I think, "Uh oh."
I go on a hike with a friend I made at one of three hundred thousand brunches. The hike is terrible and we get really lost but it's still fun. Whenever I see him after that, we make plans to attend different events together in matching jackets. If everybody were as nice as him, I think I could live just about anywhere.
I finish a nonfiction book about having sex with musicians and I think how that must ruin a lot of music for you.
At Thanksgiving, in New York, I bake a little anarchy A into pie crust. I play Serge Gainsbourg while I swirl the gravy. I drink too much wine and read palms. I say to my friends, "I feel really healthy these days!" I tell them I bet I could now go a really long time, just eating fruit.
When everybody is sleeping, I painstakingly remove the remaining extensions, and put them in a box. I won't wear them again, but there's probably a good prank there.
The next day, there's a freezing rain, and as it pastes my hair to my head I think, "Well, this is ridiculous."