Depression: Survival Strategies (That Don’t Work)

June 23, 2008

(Clearly, I’ve not yet made up my mind whether titles should be in sentence case or title case. Does it even matter?)

Yeah, I’m still depressed. It seems to be getting worse, if anything, but it’s not yet reached the point where I stop communicating all together, which must be a good thing.

The weird thing about depression at this stage, is that even while I’m behaving in a unpredictable, emotional, unreasonable, mean and bitchy manner, a small part of me stands back and watches and says, “why are you reacting like this?” – but despite that, I can’t stop or change the way I behave/react.

So anyway, on the weekend I decided I would have to put some of my depression survival strategies to work.

Food, always first on the list, was ruled out because of my diet. If I fail to lose weight, it’s only going to make me more depressed. So I couldn’t indulge in binge eating involving chocolates, ice creams, pizzas and other unhealthy stuff. We had three-and-a-half dinners out (or ordered in) in succession, but if you don’t let yourself go all out and eat like there’s no tomorrow, it doesn’t work.

Shopping – I’m not much of a shopaholic, but it does help sometimes. It’s been ruled out since the advent of the twins, just because getting out of the house is so difficult. And going shopping with two toddlers AND a husband in tow, each with their own idea of what constitutes a good shopping experience, is completely impossible.

Spending money – You don’t have to actually go shopping to spend money. There are certain kinds of shopping which hardly even qualify as shopping, while they quite easily can require satisfactorily large sums of money to be spent. Such as, for example, buying a new refrigerator. Ours is very old and extraordinarily small for a family of four. Unfortunately, Amit is not being adequately supportive of this strategy. Sigh. Husbands…

Getting a haircut – this always works. It is one of the wonderful things about having short hair, that you can always make it shorter. You can change the length, the style, the shape, whatever, and come away looking almost like a different person. (People with long hair never really do benefit from haircuts – they just cut off an inch or two, and with 39 or whatever inches from root to tip, an inch or two is neither here nor there, is it? They never get to enjoy that wonderful feeling of shaking your head and finding that nothing moves about on top of it.)

As a stay-at-home mom, it is quite difficult to find time for a haircut, though, involving, as it does, a protracted stint away from home, preferrably during daytime hours. So when I found a small window of opportunity on Saturday evening, I grabbed it. I had only enough time to head for the nearest local beauty parlour, which I had never ventured into before, far less trusted my hair to. But I figured it wasn’t too much of a risk – how bad can a haircut be, after all?

On entering the beauty parlour, I found four women, sitting around and gossiping, one painting another’s nails. Apparently, none of them was a customer. This was not confidence-inspiring – do all local beauty parlours employ “beauticians” (note the double quotes around that word) to sit around and beautify each other?

Anyway, I took a chair, and had a sheet flung around me and fastened at the neck. They put what must have been the most inept of the four on to me. My hair was distinctly oily, but the hair dresser didn’t offer (far less insist on) a shampoo; in fact, she didn’t even comb it, just pinned it up and started cutting. I could tell by the way she handled the comb and scissors, that she was no expert, and the results soon showed just how inexpert she was.

In short, she butchered my hair. I came out of there looking like a serial axe-murderer. True, I had asked for a ‘boy cut’, but I hadn’t counted on getting a ‘mad-boy cut’ – that is, a haircut that looked like it had been executed by a mad boy. What’s worse, it was too short for any more experienced hairdresser to be able to rectify it.

Amit was most kind about it. He said it made me look younger. Then he drew some similarities between me and survivors of the Union Carbide gas tragedy, and followed that up with comments about how people look when recovering from protracted bouts of severe illnesses. In both cases, he concluded that they generally did not look as bad as I did. He was clearly reluctant to be seen in public with me, for which I could hardly blame him – I’m not sure I wanted to be seen in public with me, looking the way I did.

After I had showered and gotten about a million bits of hair off my neck and shoulders (the wrapping having been at least as ineffective as the haircut itself), Amit relented and took us all out to dinner. We chose a quiet restaurant where I attracted only half-a-dozen funny looks, and came home by 9 p.m., just as the Saturday evening crowds were beginning to build up.

Now, I’m only worried about the upcoming adoption hearing. What if the judge takes one look at me and decides that I must be an escaped convict who is not to be trusted with the health and welfare of two small kids? Maybe, if I wear my most terrible scowl, he will get really scared and decide not to get on my wrong side, and pass the order in double quick time.

The only consolation is that it’s hair – it will grow back eventually and then I can get it fixed. Meanwhile, I only have to stay indoors for the next three months or so. That should be easy enough – misery hates company anyway.

Hair Today, Shorn Tomorrow?

March 24, 2008

For the past several months, it has been a topic of discussion between Amit and me and whoever we happen to meet: should we, or should we not, shave the twins’ heads?

Most (about two-thirds) of those we’ve spoken to say that we should, because their hair will grow out thicker, straighter, and blacker after shaving. The remaining one-third argue vehemently against it, saying that it makes no difference, or that it makes it worse, brittle and wiry instead of soft and silky as it is now.

Looking on the internet didn’t provide many answers – surprisingly. Most of the comments were from people who’d never heard of this custom before and therefore were predisposed to be shocked or horrified by the idea and virulently opposed to it. Some went so far as to consider it cruel and inhuman and advocate that parents considering this be locked up. There were a few comments from people belonging to other societies where babies’ heads are customarily shaved, who were, like me, wondering about the pros and cons of this custom.

What I discovered were the religious/ritualistic reasons for shaving babies’ heads. What I didn’t find was a single rational and scientific voice either for or against it. Some people (apparently lay people, not experts in the field) argued that hair characteristics are genetic and cannot be changed by shaving. While that sounds logical, I’m not sure that it’s true – there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that hair characteristics do get altered by shaving, and not just on heads (or on babies) but also facial and body hair on men and women. It is also popularly believed here, that the quality of water used for drinking and washing, use or absence of hair oil, type of shampoo and many other such external factors (how about chemotherapy?) do affect hair growth and characteristics. (And that’s without considering perms, bleaches, dyes, gels, curlers and so on.) If so, then why not shaving?

So anyway, after discussing the matter for months, and vacillating and prevaricating as much as possible, Amit and I decided to go ahead and get the girls shaved. The addition of holi colour to their hair made us think, “If we’re going to do this, it might as well be tomorrow.”

So on Sunday morning, I picked up Tara and went off to the nearest children’s salon, determined to get her silken locks knocked off. I returned home a mere 20 minutes later, with a much neater Tara in my arms, her hair sweetly trimmed at the sides and back making her look a lot more boyish (and cute).

What happened? asked Amit, surveying with some surprise the hair still amply covering her skull.

A slight breeze riffled her hair, as we left home, I explained, and it looked so soft and silky and lovely that I just didn’t have the heart to get it all taken off, I confessed, abashed. I had been the one arguing most ardently in favour of getting them shaved, but all along I had had this little voice at the back of my head telling me I didn’t really want to be doing this. Now that I had come face-to-face with the act of getting their heads shaved, and had at last given in to that little voice, I felt so relieved. If my daughters didn’t have absolutely thick and flowing hair when they grew up, they could decide to shave it themselves. Perhaps, as a doting mother, I should have done this for them; but I just can’t bring myself to do it.

Anyway, I took Mrini to the hair-dresser next, and had the same trim done on her. While Tara had been only slightly discomfited by the process, Mrini wailed and screamed as though we were pulling her hair out strand by strand or doing some other terrible torture to her. If that’s what the merest trim does to her, what would she do if we had her head shaved, I wonder? Thankfully, it’s a question I’m not going to be getting an answer to anytime soon.

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