My whole plan of talking to her first, going over my hair—the style, the number of inches and layers—all of it washed right down that sink of hers. I completely shut down. To make matters worse, I also couldn't see, because I had made the mistake of wearing my glasses instead of my contacts that day. Gina had taken my glasses and set them on top of one of her scary gargoyles. I was having a total out- of- body experience. I watched her cut my hair, was engaged in conversation, yet I don't remember anything I said. What I do remember is her saying things like, "I totally get it. I so know what to do with you. Oh, I just love giving people new looks. You're gonna love it!"—and then another Mary J. Blige song. "Ohhhhh, sweet thing. Don't you know you're my everything. Woe oh, hooooh, sweet thing."
Fast- forward twenty minutes. My smock came off, and I was staring at myself in the mirror. All I could see was a blurry cloud of incense smoke. I frantically grabbed my glasses, almost knocking the gargoyle off the table (which I suspect was actually a coffi n). "Well, what do you think, rock goddess?" asked Gina. Staring back at me in the mirror was a complete stranger. I was speechless. I blinked my eyes fi ve times to make sure it was me. It was me alright; me wearing a mullet. That's right, a mullet—I couldn't get away from that mirror fast enough.
I ran down Prince Street at lightning speed, pushing people out of my way in order to get home as quickly as possible. It's a bird, it's a plane, it's—a mullet? As I sprinted past a crowd of people planted in front of Dean and Deluca, someone shouted, "Hey, Joan Jett!" And I'm pretty sure I also heard someone say, "Look, it's Andrew Ridgeley!" For those who don't know Andrew Ridgeley, he was one- half of the musical group Wham, along with George Michael. He also sported a mullet.
For the next week, I refused to go outside. I covered all the mirrors in my apartment and sat shiva. My friends stopped by and offered their condolences. They suggested that I go back to Gina to have her fi x my hair before graduation. But how could I?
That woman was not my Gina; something had happened to her in India. I called my parents and told them not to come to graduation. That phone call didn't go so well. My father pointed out that when parents fund their children's ridiculously expensive educations, it automatically gives them the right to attend their graduation ceremonies. They were coming, like it or not.
The day of graduation, Gina left a message on my cell, wishing me luck and hoping to hear how I liked the new me. I never called her back. More calls followed. I erased each message unheard.
Apparently, the new me was a coward. My graduation was saved by my fashionable mother, who brought with her an assortment of scarves left over from her '70s Rhoda days. I had never been a scarf girl, but these were really something: all vintage, all fabulous. Luckily, the scarf was a huge hit at graduation. People not only asked where I had bought it, but wanted to take a picture of me. For the next six months, which was as long as it took for me to grow out my hair, I was a fashion icon of downtown New York. And Gina? I never saw her again, but I think of her every time I hear a Mary J. Blige song or see someone with a mullet.
What I Learned