“Liz. I don’t know why you insist on making that drive every month. There’s gotta be plenty of good hairdressers down here.” . And so begins my husband’s and my monthly-I won’t call it an argument-more of a debate- about my refusal to give up my every-four-week cut and color appointment on Newbury Street in Boston even though we moved to the Southeastern Connecticut shoreline 3 years ago.
Yes, Gail, my stylist, is my friend and old neighbor. Yes, she’s been doing my hair for more than 30 years and gets me. And yes, my sister and I have back-to-back appointments so we get to see each other at least once a month which has been especially cherished during the pandemic. But it’s more than that. This past year of ‘together-at-home’ has maybe-at times- brought too much togetherness so I relish those two hours up and two hours back, by MYself, to listen to MY music, a Podcast of MY choice or MY latest audiobook.
There’s something different about being in the car alone. I’m 20 again, listening to the BeeGees thinking back to seeing Saturday Night Fever and going to ‘da club with my girlfriends, smoking cigs and drinking madrases. I’m 26, listening to Carly Simon’s, ‘You Belong to Me’ cassette on Madaket Beach smoking a joint with Layla and Josie. More Carly only this time it’s “Coming Around Again’ and I’m a new mother cheering on Meryl Streep after her final break from Jack Nicholson in ‘Heartburn.’
My appointment is at 10 but I’ve left the house early at 7:30 purposely so I can listen to Kiss 108, Matty in the Morning. Now I’m a mid-career teacher, fighting the notorious Boston traffic, but I’m laughing because Matty and Billy are still so damn funny even after 40 years. They got me through a lot of frustrating Southeast Expressway tie-ups and if in 2021 I only recognize one out of every four songs he plays now, well… I switch to my podcasts. So many podcasts. “Love Letters” is a favorite and I listen to Meredith Goldstein give advice on how to get over a break-up and, boom, I’m 21 again thinking I’ll never survive this broken heart that Mitchell ripped out and stomped on but I did stronger and smarter. Bitch Sesh makes me today years old because this podcast focuses on Bravo and Real Housewives, my guilty pleasure, which my husband still shakes his head over and says “Liz, for a smart girl…” Quick shift back to playlist shuffle and…
“Go Shawty, it’s your birthday..” and my sixteen year old is dancing in the kitchen, exhilarated by her lacrosse team’s win and when I try to dance with her she lets me, even teaching me some moves which I am woefully not good at. She’s 33 now and still amazingly tolerant of her mother’s poor dancing.
As I drive back home I listen to Michelle Obama narrating her own book, ‘Becoming’ and it’s 2008 and Barack Obama has just won the presidency and my teacher colleagues and I are cheering and crying and celebrating on Friday afternoon after school. And for a few minutes I miss teaching but then I remember there are no colleagues and no kids in front of anyone and even if there were I couldn’t high-five them or bring in a birthday cake for the homeless kid. For the last half hour I listen to NPR and reality hits me once again like a bucket of ice water so..
For the final five minutes Lizzo reminds me that I’m Good as Hell and I do my (freshly cut and colored) hair toss as I drive into the garage.