Tuesday night was dreadful: Very upsetting and stomach-curdling in the emotional sense. I cannot give the details, other than to say that the conversation, its barbs ripping at my every nerve, has put a big question mark over the multiply-delayed move.
In its aftermath, I did something which – I realised afterwards – is a life-long habit when faced with this level of stress and powerlessness: I started worrying at, agitating actually, my scalp – scratching and ripping, making it bleed – and, in the process, tearing out the beautiful feathers which had adorned my locks since the Frost Fayre.
It could have been worse. In the bad old days, it would have been: I would have smoked to excess and got paralytic on alcohol. Or I would have held a knife over the trembling pale skin of my wrist and wished for the courage to slice until blood arced up in a fountain.
But there is something so sad and symbolic about my tiny localised act of self-destruction: Those lures shining in my locks seemed to be such a key to liberation; I felt stronger and more me with them in – and then, as Tuesday night wore on in its awful unstated aggression, the colours adorning my hair seemed to fade, their potency in doubt, their loveliness mere childish vanity.
There was nothing I could do about the situation – not at that point anyway – and so the hurt and anger and impotence turned inwards.
Afterwards, I held those pretty feathers in my hand, stroked them and wept. They represented every charge that has been lobbed at me – of being embarrassing and acting insanely and being destructively eccentric. But they also represent wings and flight and escape.
I did not burn them, or throw them away; I did not cut my long curls back down to the scalp (though all of these were fleeting temptations). No. I have placed my lovely lures carefully in a drawer and am studying them to find out how to put them back in my riotous and wild tresses.
Out of this horror, however, came a burning determination and certainty: This is the last time this particular kind of scenario will cause me to damage my own body or possessions. I will weave the pink, the purple and the black and white back in somehow – and I will move away from the bony and decaying fragments of this long-drawn-out stand-off.
My head, my hair, my desire for colourful decoration, the person I am should not have to be shocked and tamed into grey obedience or another’s inhibition and fear. The metaphorical chain round my neck – and the cruel jerks upon it – will snap; I am quite sure of that…
Liberation is a hard battle. Its most difficult barrier to overcome is the wall of habits which long-term bullying causes us to adopt as safety strategies.
This time, I am prepared to fight back – for my own liberation, for those around me and for those delightful feathers which, so briefly, allowed me to reclaim my true self.