I spent this winter break like I spend every other — lying on the couch watching the MTV “Cribs” marathon, occasionally going over to a friend’s house to watch a movie or take turns naming obscure people from high school. And, as on every break, there were two scheduled events: the Vacation Haircut and the Vacation Dental Cleaning.
Normally I look forward to these appointments — they give me a reason to shower before two in the afternoon. But my pleasant afternoon spent reading back issues of Redbook in the salon waiting area and then nodding obediently through the dental hygienist’s “Floss every day or die” lecture was forever ruined by a disturbing realization — this would probably be my last haircut and last dental cleaning at home, on my parents’ dollar.
I guess I have no choice but to stop getting my hair cut. I can’t afford to pay some dyed and coiffed tart with scissors $40 to snip an inch off my hair and tell me I should really consider buying some “product” — an opaque wax-like substance similar to craft paste, except it costs $35 per ounce and will transform me into Catherine Zeta-Jones. Hairdressers swear by it. If I wore “product,” I would take it seriously too, since it must contain ground diamonds, or at least a quarter of an ounce of pure heroin, judging by the price.
But honestly, money is not the real issue. The scary truth is, finding a hair stylist — or a dentist or doctor — in New Haven forces you to admit this place has become your home. With that first snip of Phil’s scissors, you are forever severed from your hometown and your carefree, cared-for youth.
The Freudian interpretation would be that we all subconsciously think of our hair as thin, multi-stranded umbilical cords reaching back to our mothers, into whose wombs we want to crawl again right after we graduate. Also, each hair represents a tiny phallus. So do the stylist’s scissors, and the comb, and the curling iron.
The realistic interpretation is that — despite the many miracles of modern science — Mom’s womb is definitely off-limits. But that fact is only just now beginning to sink in.
I have occasionally broken down and gotten a haircut in New Haven, but I know many seniors who have remained loyal to their stylists at home all four years. If I suggest they go to Phil’s or Panache for a trim, they act like I’ve recommended having major cardiac surgery at one of those combination hospital-delicatessens in eastern Europe.
My friends are missing out. You may not know this, but New Haven is the hairdresser capital of southern Connecticut. According to the yellow pages, the Elm City is home to a whopping 294 beauty salons — that’s more than all the salons in Milford, Stamford, Meriden and Hamden combined! Perhaps a few of New Haven’s salons are beyond walking distance from Yale, but luckily last summer New Haven rekindled its love affair with the trolley — so you can travel to your haircut at a breezy 25 miles per hour.
Post-graduation dental care is a more serious concern. A bad haircut will always grow back, but if that stranger sticking half a half dozen sharp objects in your mouth while asking what your major is doesn’t know what he’s doing, you may end up drinking your meals through a straw for the rest of your life.
Besides, dental care is expensive — and when you graduate from college, you’re no longer covered by your parents’ dental insurance. So you have two choices — find yourself a job with benefits, or volunteer for an episode of “Operations from Hell,” that investigative reality TV show on The Learning Channel where the producers send you and a camera crew on a corrective mouth surgery/Black Sea cruise combination vacation package they found on the Internet, usually run by a chain-smoking woman named Svetlana who charges only $75 for the whole week and agrees to appear on camera only if they blur her face.
I hear Odessa is beautiful this time of year. And who needed those molars anyway — borscht is really quite easy to drink through a straw.
Over winter break, I thought of a third solution — if I got five or six cleanings during the three weeks I was home on break, I’d be covered for a few years. And I could sell my extra complimentary toothbrushes on the Oral B black market! But it turns out BlueCross BlueShield doesn’t like people to do that.
Of course I’ve seen graduation coming for a long time now, and I knew about the big things, like finding my own place to live and a way to support myself. But nowhere in my copy of “So You Say You’re Graduating: the College Senior’s Handbook of Impending Doom” does it say anything about these little details of adult life I suddenly have to worry about.
Yes, hair cuts and dental appointments are relatively petty concerns. But that’s my point — in your last semester of college, suddenly the smallest things become legitimate reasons to freak out and brood about your future. This last haircut and dental cleaning at home were just one more sign that my world is crumbling around me.
I want to look chic among the ruins. Maybe I’ll give in and buy some “product.”
Molly Worthen is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College. This is her last regular column.