As someone who lives for summer, it's quite amazing that I managed to spend as much time in London as I did, the city that has no concept of seasons. This has become frighteningly clear to me over these last few weeks as I've settled into New York, a city that does extreme summer (and extreme winter, so I hear - a fact I've put in the 'cross that bridge' pile) and really does summer extremely well.
Every day is hot and sunny and long, and I've quickly adjusted. Life is certainly a lot easier when the sun shines - it makes everything ok. It has actually been weeks since I threw a cardigan in my bag, just in case. So it was a bit of a shock when a few days ago it started raining. More than raining, whatever more than rain may be. Usually, working from home would mean I could just ignore the rain until it gave up and retreated, and I would be no more the worse for wear, but coincidentally I had a few important appointments to keep, including one with a governmental division. I had to be way downtown on the west side at 10am sharp, or, as the official letter sternly reminded me, I would have to make a new appointment and pay another $340 fee. There are much better things that $340 can be spent on, I'm sure, so I left the house promptly at 9, umbrella in my hand and over my head, pride at having finally grown up and bought an umbrella in my heart.
Usually I'm not very good at handling the rain - it doesn't go hand in hand with lazy summer days - but it didn't seem like a big deal, even though I quickly realised my umbrella was no match for this rain, which somehow came down from the sky and up from the ground all at once. I was soaked. My feet were wet, my t-shirt was wet, my jeans were really wet (when a bus goes round a corner in the rain, you really don't want to be anywhere near it). I was ok. I made it to Penn Station, went underground, and waited for the 1 train.
It didn't show. I was ok. I waited. It still didn't show, and I started to fret a little, aware that time was passing. I kept waiting. I figured it had to show soon, and I still had half an hour before I had to arrive. It didn't show, and I thought about heading back above ground, but rejected the plan, well aware that there were no taxis up there, and even if there were, the trip downtown would be a nightmare on those morning roads. Besides, the second I left, the train would arrive. I waited, confident that it would all be ok.
Ten minutes later, I was about to admit defeat, and pulled out my important letter, all ready to ring and try desperately to sort it out over the phone. Amazingly, I had reception, but when I rang, nobody picked up. I looked at my watch. Sixteen minutes to ten. If the train turned up right then, I might still make it. I was ok.
It showed. The stuff of fairytales. It was an express train, so we whizzed past station after station, my unfamiliarity with the 1 train meaning I had no idea whether we would stop where I needed to or not. It slowed, and...we did. I fell off the train with a couple of minutes to spare, and made it, full of disbelief at my luck. The rest of the day was uneventful, and easy, just the way it shouldn't be in that much rain. I was ok. As ok as if it had been sunny, even.
The next day dawned bright and sunny again, the aberration of the rain having been just that, and it was with a light heart that I stepped out towards the doctors for a routine introduction, figuring nothing could go wrong. The doctor decided I had both a heart murmur and mild scoliosis, but assured me it was no big deal, and I agreed - the fact that nobody had ever suggested I had either of those things in my 26 years of being made me feel that if they did exist, it was in a very half-hearted, highly uncommitted sort of way. I was ok.
I made my way down to Soho, my first time there during the day, and delighted in the general amazingness of it all, slowly eating a delicious lunch by myself in a lovely little restaurant and watching the world go by, before going to my hair appointment. I was really looking forward to this appointment. I'm not saying I'm not a natural blonde, but if I were to dye my hair, it would have been looking quite the worse for wear, having not been touched since about four weeks before I left London. So if that were the case, this hair appointment would have been really good news, not just for me, but for all those around me.
It took a while, but I had thought it might, as I have what is popularly known as 'difficult' hair. Popularly known in that hairdressers, certainly, having been pronounced so not only by my hairdresser, but by several others who came over just for a look and a giggle. I wasn't offended, though. There's every chance that not one of the other eight million people in New York has hair like mine. I was ok.
We discussed what I wanted, he started, my colour may or may not have been done, my hair was washed, and the scissors came out. Here I relaxed, having made it very clear that I liked my hair long and boring. I have zero interest in edgy, particularly on my head. I had been very specific, perhaps a little precious, but that was ok. I was ok.
Until 20 minutes later, when I wasn't ok, not at all. The concern that had begun as I watched the scissors remove larger amounts of my hair than I am accustomed to grew as I watched my hair take shape under the heat of the hairdryer, but I breathed deeply and calmed myself, refusing to freak out until it was finished. After all, I had spoken up when the cut was taking place, and had been told it was fine. We had talked about it a lot. It was all going to be ok.
And I kept telling myself that, even as I was spun to face the mirror and the truth revealed itself in the dodgy hairstyle on my head. Remember 1994 (or 1996 if you are from New Zealand)? Remember the Rachel? The Rachel was on my head. Nobody wants Rachel on their head. I was horrified. I expressed myself as best I could.
Reader, I cried. I'm ashamed to admit that, for so many reasons, not the least of which being the fact that of the many terrible, dreadful, awful things to happen in the world that day, my haircut wasn't even close to being on the scale. Also, it was really embarrassing. Nobody wants to be the person crying in the hairdressers. The person crying in the hairdressers is a bad, bad person to be.
I was ok with being rained on, with being splashed by a bus, with the train not arriving, with nearly being late for an important meeting with a government division, with learning that apparently my body was actually made by the same people who create the oil rigs for BP, but faced with that haircut, I was decidedly not ok. The problem wasn't just that I didn't have the haircut I wanted. The problem was that I had the haircut I wanted 14 years ago, the haircut I got 14 years ago, the haircut that didn't suit me 14 years ago. And now, 14 years later, it didn't suit me any better.
You see, back in 1996, I, like the rest of the world, became enamoured of the Rachel haircut (I know the Rachel was actually a 1994 phenomenon, but trends take a little while longer to work their way to the bottom of the world) and so, armed with a picture, my mother took me along to have my hair formed into a homage. I was excited. It was the first time I had realised that hair could actually be styled, as opposed to just being there. Unfortunately, it also ended up being the first time I realised hairstyles suited some people and not others, and once it's been cut, there's no going back.
And so is the case, 14 years later, and just like I did when I was 12, I cried. It was humiliating. It was painful, probably for the hairdresser as much as me. It was ridiculous. I went home, full of intentions to never leave again, where H1 greeted me with surprise. "Wow, that's shorter," he said. I cried again. And again the next morning, as I washed it and felt the short, mutilated strands slipping through my fingers.
Now, two days later, I've calmed down enough to see that it's not such a big deal. Thankfully, I have considerably more skill with a hairdryer and a can of mousse than I used to, and while it's not the greatest thing ever to happen to my head, it's ok. I'm ok. Just as I was and just as I always will be, no matter what city I'm in, no matter how hard it rains, no matter how many mild-yet-quite-ridiculous medical 'problems' I'm diagnosed with. I know I'm one of the lucky ones, and that knowledge enables me to hold my head high. Except when a strong wind blows and threatens to reveal those dodgy short layers, when it ducks in a manner one could only describe as frantic.