February 26, 2016

WHITE KNUCKLES | Paprika and U-turns

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I dyed my hair today. For Christmas, I got one of those DIY hair dye packages, which contains dye that comes off after you wash your hair twice and provides the opportunity to change without the fear that comes with the sincere and courageous commitment to change. It’s called Paprika, but I was never really the paprika type myself.

My best friend dyed her hair red when we were in high school, and she had this long beautiful hair. One day we met – it was on a Sunday afternoon; it’s always been Sunday afternoon since 8th grade – and her head was blazing red.  She was always her but she had made a choice, and ever since, it seems like it’s been days and years of choices and crossroads. For college, she went to Switzerland to study architecture while I came to Cornell and today was the first Sunday of my winter break: it was morning, but we met anyway. We talked about our studies, my papers and her projects, long hours in the library and sleepless nights in the studio; we said that time has flown, and it seems like only yesterday we were squeaking with excitement at the thought of starting our high school career. We thought about our futures, unconsciously lowering our voices – maybe we were scared of jinxing the fantasy, or that it would actually come true.

I used to dye my hair. It all started in a rather serendipitous way: in the summer, the ends would get really light, and so would my eyebrows. I missed the brown eyebrows, but the blond hair seemed tremendously desirable, so I started using a chamomile shampoo that promised to make my hair blonde “in a natural way.”  Since the promise remained unfulfilled, I turned to oxygen water and the expertise of an hairdresser: it was the start of several years of long hours spent reading outdated magazines with dye on my hair, dry ends and dark eyebrows. I went back to my natural brown during my exchange year in Maine, when I realized it wasn’t so essential after all to commit to a change, or choices made when I was a different self. It goes without saying, but I posted a picture on Facebook; the caption said “Bye”. And little did I know that it would become such a leitmotiv in my college years of two homes, long flights and many goodbyes.

Change is as undefinable as it is ineluctable; it happens over time but is sometimes concentrated within a clump of seconds, a shining instant. Before and after, now and then, once and again. And yet, sometimes we charge these changes with drama to close a vacuum, to fill a void. The perception of a moment after which everything has changed – after which we have changed – is essential to the longed-for illusion that there is somewhere we are meant to go, a hair color we are meant to have, a path traced for us and for us only that has to be followed. Sometimes change is irreversible and many times we just want it to be. When we commit to a change, we risk missing all the paths that allow for a change of direction. We are not the future we dream for ourselves, not our hometown, not our major or our defining passion, not the hair color we were born with and not even the one we look best in. I like to think that I can be a U turn. My best friend went back to blond, and I was never the paprika person. And yet.

Emma is a junior Classics major in the College of Arts and Sciences. An Italian native, she loves Virginia Woolf and dreads Ithaca winters. She writes about her experience at Cornell as an international student, and has an uncontrollable passion for excessively long sentences and vivid metaphors. She can be usually found enjoying a soup in Temple of Zeus, and can be reached at [email protected]