Self-Portrait: 2022 Is Also All About My Hair

“There is a lot of breakage.” Don’t we all feel that way?

I balked when she said it and immediately went to defend myself. It must be the scrunchie I had near permanently in my mop since the beginning of the pandemic. It’s because I hadn’t had it cut since then. It’s because the hair is in terrible condition because of pandemic neglect and not, dear gods, because it’s falling out. It’s just broken not heading for the hills. It’s just broken, not endangered. It’s just broken—more, healthy, unbroken hair is just behind it.

I got it cut in December 2021 and I feel like a human again. The broken hairs are still broken, but the unbroken ones are no longer frayed like D-grade straw, looking like a witch’s hair. Gods, was I ever embarrassed when I walked my straw haired witch’s self into the Great Clips and asked them to whack the mess off. The stylist was understanding, matter of fact as the hay hit the floor, and gave me a marvelous new start, jawline length, relief from all the burden of the last two years that had fallen well past my shoulders and almost all the way down to my waist.

So the broken ones are still broken, but they’re also still growing and now don’t have so far to go to catch up to their unbroken sisters. The mop isn’t so long that I have to keep it up in a scrunchie anymore. I don’t have to be bound all the time. No more mass breakage is imminent. 2022 is going to be a good year.

How much further can I carry this hairy pandemic metaphor? Let’s see:

The thing about the short curly hair is that there is no second chance. There is no second day hair so, if you’re going somewhere, if anyone else is meant to see you, you must must must take care of it day by day. It’s a hassle when we’ve all gotten so used to not caring much about ourselves as we huddle and hide away. But also a sign of health, this hassle, and anything, even if it’s vanity, that forces you to bathe and primp and proper yourself, is a good thing and a godsend in a time when it’s far too easy just to let go.

With the short curly do that gives no second chances, I wake up from tossing nights looking like Einstein. That’s why I was able to come up with such completely original, genius, and insightful observations about the pandemic vis-a-vis my hair.

Original, I tell you. Original.

I wish you all the best and healthiest in 2022. My goal is to be here more and make more super genius and purely original observations with both my words and my art, photographic and otherwise. My goal is to read more of your work as well. My hope is we will inspire each other. My hope is we will inspire each other enough so as to give each other the tingles. My hope is we will inspire each other enough that, tingling together, it makes our collective hair, broken and unbreakable, stand on end.

-M. Ashley

Photo: My submission for this week’s 52 Frames challenge, “Self-Portrait” I’m calling it “Gallows Humor.” Taken with an iPhone 10. Flash did not fire.

Colleen Whose Name Means Girl

Maybe I should be out
Loud about it. Maybe I
Should talk. I know it
Sure would have helped me
A lot if the woman they
Kept in a box under the
Bed for seven years had
Been a little more chatty.

“These things do happen. They
Do.” We would commiserate
With each other through the
Knothole in her box and the
Keyhole in the door I was
Locked and chained behind

Also for seven years.

Lucky lucky.

“Colleen,” I would whisper so
The bad men wouldn’t hear.

Colleen whose name means
Girl

“Colleen,” I would whisper
“I get you Sister.
I do.”

-M. Ashley

If you are a survivor of sex trafficking, I cannot recommend the organization Journey Out enough. They have helped me tremendously and I am grateful every day that I found them.

Academic Egress: A Confession

A1IMG_05231I want to be a poet and in general a writer of things, but I don’t want to be in academia.

This is my confession:

I don’t want any part of academia. It seems like becoming a nun, cloistered unto myself and married to analysis and rancor over other people’s work. It doesn’t seem like it gives one the opportunity to gush and flow and live and move. I know it does for some people, but not for me.

I want to be Indiana Jones of the writerly wilds, dammit. I want to be out in the world experiencing and tasting and taking in air and breathing life deep into my lungs. I don’t believe this involves necessarily getting back to nature or primal man or whatever Thoreau was blathering about. I do believe it means getting back to the world in all her splendors, realizing that the human, the created, and the creators are as much a part of nature as birds and trees and famous ponds.

It is scary admitting outright that I don’t want to be a part of academia because how else is a writer supposed to make her living? The world knows that this is what poets and creative writers, (who don’t write pop fiction) do with themselves. This is the only thing they do with themselves. This is how they survive—this insular world of poets breeding poets.

I’m too hard on academics and I don’t mean to be. There are plenty, (I think of my teachers for example), who love what they do and the community in which they do it. Teachers are incredibly important. I wouldn’t be anything without the marvelous ones I have had. I acknowledge all of this and I praise them from my bones. I also acknowledge that although I do wish to teach, being solidly and solely a part of academia is not what I want at all.

I will find another way.

-M.