Messy Buns

My daughter has beautiful hair. It is not like mine in any way. I have pretty hair, on occasion, but with effort. She has truly beautiful hair. She has “model hair”. It is thick and luxuriant, radiant and silky. Her hair has forty-five different shades in it; sultry brown, glistening gold, warm honey, subtle red, auburn, sienna, platinum blond. Her hair looks like strands of silk that got dipped into a 64 count box of melted Crayola crayons, in the earth tone and sunlight section. She has worn her hair long for many years, it is like a satin sheet of intricately woven, exotically dyed, silken threads. It is straight, but not without subtle curves and waves. It moves, if not like opulent fabric, then like the waves of the ocean. I have hair envy. Of my own daughter.

My daughter. Her hair.

My daughter. Her hair.

That she is folically gifted is one thing, but she is also freakishly adept at styling her tresses. There is one style she is particularly proficient at, and, in fact, if she wasn’t the inventor of this “do”, she was one of the very early adopters. The messy bun. With a quick flick of her hand and magical waving of her graceful fingers, she can deftly remove the hair tie from her slender wrist and simultaneously gather the abundant drape of a billion glimmering hairs into an appealingly tousled, outrageously alluring, suddenly sexy, “up do”, not just rivaling, but eclipsing the styles on the front of Vogue and Cosmo magazine. Casual yet coiffed. She was, like, twelve, when she developed this style.

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I tried again and again, in the privacy of my bathroom, the secrecy of my car, to twist my hair into a similar fashion. It always looked contrived; too symmetrical, too forced, too neat, so “on purpose”. I wanted the chaos, the disarray, the recklessness of the messy bun. I just couldn’t get it to work for me.

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My hair is fine but plentiful, so I have a whole bunch of really skinny hairs. It is naturally curly, and if the humidity is above about six percent, it frizzes. It is constantly and hopelessly tangled. Always. Ever. Combs are useless and any I’ve employed are missing more teeth than the meth addicts down by the bus station. Hair brushes are worse than humidity, if I walk into view of a hairbrush my hair frizzes and stands up on end with static like I’ve stepped out of the clothes dryer after an hour of tumbling without benefit of a dryer sheet. I’m at the tenuous age where I can still pull of long hair but am quickly closing in on the age where only old hippies have long hair. I “do” my hair thusly; wash, condition, towel dry, condition, blow dry, condition, straighten, condition, curl, condition, and it looks like lovely mermaid hair, Miss America hair. But not quite like my daughter’s hair. Ten minutes later it’s just a hank. My best styling medium lately consists driving at high speeds with all the windows open. This was born of necessity, as I presently have no air conditioning in my car. I need to get it fixed. And my hair, too.

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I have, though, happily, after a decade of intense practice, nearly mastered the messy bun and find it to be easy, convenient, and once in a while, worthy of being shown in public. I too, now, often sport a hair tie around my wrist. And, if not there, there is one nearby. I have acquired more elastic hair ties in the past five years than I’ve had beer. No. But I do usually have on hand, at any point in time, far more hair ties than I do beers! I keep them in every purse, every tote, every pack, every bag, several drawers, on the tops of hand soap dispensers in the bathroom, around the shower knob, around the gear shifter in my car. There is, in fact, one rogue hair tie just a few inches from my fingers in my computer keyboard drawer. I don’t remember placing it there. And that’s the thing with hair ties, and bobby pins, too, they have a way of liberating themselves and scattering haphazardly around the environment. I’ve “caught” many a cheating boyfriend by the discovery of an impressive accumulation of other colored hair ties and bobby pins amassed on the floor behind the headboard of the bed. I don’t monitor this area purposefully, but I do dust there from time to time. So, I haven’t often had to buy hair ties for myself, I seem to acquire them. And with my vast collection, I can now fashion my hair into a messy bun anywhere, any time.

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Lazy mornings, post sweaty workout, hot afternoons, high humidity and ensuing frizz, post-coital dishevelment, or just a bad hair day; all solved with a messy bun.

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Much like life in yoga pants, where you can pull on a sinfully comfortable, easily expanding, almost always fits and ever increasingly socially acceptable fashion and head out to the store, they gym, the outlet stores and even most restaurants, the messy bun has gained similar acclaim. Life in a messy bun.

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No longer available is the excuse of not having done your hair. Flip, flip, twist, and bind, a messy bun and you’re good to go. Stars wear them on the red carpet, certainly you can wear one to leave your abode on some errand or adventure. Pull on some yoga pants, pull your hair into a messy bun and go live your life. Society is fast eliminating the excuses of the vain.

I used to be that girl; not venturing out of the house, into the sight of the public, without perfectly done hair, carefully applied makeup and fashionably selected attire. And so much I missed out on for that reason. Life happens now. Life, at its best is carefree and spontaneous. Spur of the moment, unplanned, and delicious. I have the messy bun to thank, in part, along with a purposeful shift in thought, and values, for a life filled with spontaneity, fun, adventure and joy. A hairdo, not a hairdon’t.

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The accolades of the messy bun. Seen on the runway, in fashion magazines, on the red carpet, at gala events, restaurants, stores, the streets and, yes, in WalMart and the Greyhound bus station, too. The messy bun is likely to be the most socially acceptable and fashionably forgiving hairdo ever.

I have encountered only one messy bun that I found appalling and grotesque, a tale that is delicate and disturbing, that begs, though, to be told.

I share with you now, the appalling tale of messy buns.

Several weeks ago I ran in a ten-mile road running race. I wore my hair in a messy bun, these races begin at inhumane hour of the morning. I find it funny, personally, to call these events races, because I’m so not a part of “the race”. For that matter, I never even catch a glimpse of the people who are, in fact, “racing”. There is always that small, elite group of people who are, rightfully, positioned at the very front of the mob of runners. When the gun sounds, they take off, race through the course at lightning fast speeds, win, place, or show, collect their booty, celebrate, shoot their winning pictures, visit and chat and revel in their accomplishments, likely, eat something, visit some more, leave, go home, shower, nap, mow the lawn, and are relaxing on the porch with a beer by the time I’ve half completed the course.

I’m happy to finish, at all. I’m elated if I can manage to edge a few seconds off my last “PR” (personal record).

This particular race I did, in fact, run at a faster overall pace than any other previous race I’ve run. Yay for me. In these races, as we all have our comfortable paces, or the pace we are striving to maintain throughout, we often find ourselves amidst a group of people with similar abilities. I have a competitive spirit, though I am a bit secretive about it. In other words, the people I’m competing against aren’t actually aware that I’m competing against them. As there is no actual, tangible prize, in these little duals I invent, other than my own self-pride, I don’t think it really matters. To them.

In these races there is also a set of unspoken rules, runners’ etiquette. Some running publications will journal about them, on occasion, but, truthfully, I don’t think the running etiquette offenders frequent those publications. One of the running faux-pas is blaring your running playlist audibly enough for other runners to hear, to have to hear, to endure, to tolerate, or, yes, even to hate. In this race, at precisely my pace, was one such runner. She was a curiosity from the moment I caught up to her and for the several miles I tried to outpace her, if for no other reason, than to distance myself from her playlist. It wasn’t that it was bad music, but it wasn’t music I’d chosen to listen to. I, in fact, don’t run with music. I’m rare in that, but I much prefer hearing the birds and the bees and the cursing of oncoming cyclists and the swooshing of the motorists as they pass within inches of me, while texting or applying makeup or belting the child in the back seat, or the talented multi-tasker managing all three activities, simultaneously, whilst motoring (I’ve seen it all).

The musical runner, a curiosity, as I mentioned, was, to be politically incorrect, I’m sure, not built at all like a runner. Runners do come in all shapes and sizes, but this gal, really, looked like she just stepped out of McDonalds, for the 365th time in the past year. Super-sized, you might say. But, when presented with fitness enthusiasts with similar, physical characteristics, I can’t help but applaud them for their present efforts and actions and endeavors to move, to improve. Hopefully that admission will temper my gross political incorrectness.

To add to her unusual shape and her blatant audibility, she was dressed rather flamboyantly. Now, if you’ve ever observed runners, we tend to dress brightly, often in neon colors and wild patterns, usually mismatched. Our shoes glow, our shorts and tights scream, our tanks and jerseys blind, our hats and socks and other accessories throb in colorful splendor, all of which is done in an attempt to be seen, and not flattened, by cyclists and motorists and those other runners destined to actually win a race. A running race looks like a sea of neon fabric, flapping in the breeze for miles and miles along the shoulder of a roadway. Akin to those strands of colorful, triangular flags strung around used car lots. Somehow, this gal stood out as flamboyant even among the flamboyant.

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With her unusual shape stuffed into threateningly tight and unusually bright tights and her unusually loud musical selection, her unusual running form begged even more notice. She was, shall we say, “all about the bass”, but had lots of “treble”, too, so, large protrusions front and rear, squeezed into Lycra so too very small that it was stretched to an uncomfortable degree of opacity, that is, a near absence of opacity. Nothing was left to imagination; every lump, every jiggly bit, every crease, every fold. She leaned forward, perhaps as a result of the undeniable force of gravity caused by her treacherously endowed chest. Her derriere jutted out and sort of upward in juxtaposition to her chest which sought to become closer to the earth. The angle of her tush reminded me of the rake of a 1970’s Chevelle on the cover of Car Craft magazine, back in the day. Her legs moved at a constant and tireless pace in spite of the fact that her thighs not only touched, didn’t just rub, but were smashed together to the point, pardon my rudeness, but I think a lump of coal wedged between them may have been a diamond by the finish line.

I am usually a very kind person. I am accepting and tolerant, outwardly, and try very hard to be as accepting and tolerant on the inside, too. With this, I do sometimes struggle, I am a work in progress. I usually temper those judgmental voices in my mind with a positive thought and acknowledgment. Rarely do I express these dark and demonic thoughts of others. But, here I am. As I said, this is a story that just begged to be told and I couldn’t hold it in any longer. It gets worse. Better. More unfathomable.

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Runners, especially on race day, are, shall we say, somewhat effervescent. Races are exciting, there is a degree of anxiety, of nervousness, and, well, it often results in a nervous belly. Therein lies the reason why any running race will have nearly as many porta-potties lined up at the start line as runners. Runners runs. We do crazy dietary things in the days leading up to the race and this, I’m sure, adds to the upset. We try to eat in a manner to provide the appropriate ratio of carbs and proteins and nutrients we’ll require to perform well at the precise moment the gun fires at the start of the race. The gun is not the only thing firing at the beginning of the race, I guarantee it.

So, I’m running along. I’m running along in my usual manner; run six minutes, walk one. Wondergirl is running continually, thus far, with no walk breaks. This means, in six minutes, I manage to pass her, and to get just past the point where I can hear her music and it’s time for me to walk. For the next minute I hear the music approach, get ever louder, catch up to me, then pass me. Then I run and get beyond it all, then I walk and it all catches up to me again. I’m going mad. After a few run/walk cycles, as I’m approaching her from behind, I catch a whiff of, well, shit. My immediate thought is that I’ve let a sneaky fart slip out, you know, one of those little farts so sneaky that you don’t even feel it slip. I’m mortified. But then I glance up, and like the car accident on the side of the road you can’t help but look at, my eyes are drawn to Wondergirl. She has been the entire focus of my race so far. To my horror, I can’t help but notice that the Lycra encasing her generous thighs has finally given way to the strain and friction. It appears her tights have ripped at the crotch and that the tear is spreading up the crack of her butt and down the inner seam of the thigh. I try to look away. I can’t. This is disastrous. I can’t imagine anything worse happening. I’d die if it were me.  I quicken my pace, I really just want past this, once and for all.

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With my quickened pace I am fast approaching Wondergirl from behind, the music grows louder, the tear in her fabric is looming larger in my field of vision. I really can’t tear my eyes away from that tear. It’s maddening that I can’t control what my brain focuses on; the sight, the sound. The smell. The shit smell. It, too, seems to be growing stronger. It can’t be me, unless that sneaky fart wasn’t at all a fart. This happens. Shit happens. I once heard someone tell a story, explaining why they’d never, ever, be a runner. This storyteller had occasion to observe the finish line of a marathon and saw a woman triumphantly cross, triumphant in spite of the fact she had diarrhea stains running down her bare legs. I’ve never been able to remove that visual from my mind. Shit happens and we hope it never happens to us as we run, run, run, and run. There are porta-potties erected at regular intervals throughout these road races, too. In case of the running runs, I suppose. But for the real racers, running and winning matters more than the convenience of an enclosure for necessary though unplanned bodily functions. There are porta-potties at the finish line, too. And the faster you get there, the faster you can use them, unless it is no longer necessary.

I passed Wondergirl and ran at a slightly faster pace, attempting to put a little more distance between us, enough, hopefully, that with my next walk break she wouldn’t catch all the way up to me. But, such was not the case. She approached, then passed, and there it was again; sound, sight, and smell. In that order.  I tried, in vain, not to focus on the ever growing tear in the fabric of her tights, but it was odd, unusual, and didn’t really look like a tear in the fabric. I think my mind just wanted to explain it away as a tear in the fabric, but as I stared, helplessly, my mind fessed up and told me the truth. Shit. It was shit. It was a smelly, juicy, shitty, fart gone awry. And that was it. I’d had it. Shit was it. I mean, I felt bad for her, but, butt. She had messy buns. I’d have died and hid in a porta-pottie. I admired her for continuing on and, yet, was appalled at the fact that she did. I considered hiding myself in a porta-pottie to not have to run with her any more. But, she was my adversary, I’d identified her as my secret race nemesis, my unlikely opponent, miles and miles ago. So, I ended my walk break early, not walking the full minute I unfailingly allowed myself, even in a heated competition. I upped my pace a bit more and started my next walk break thirty seconds into the scheduled minute. I ran at my new, elevated pace for the next interval and took another abbreviated walk break. The distance between me and Miss Messy Buns grew, her music grew fainter and fainter in the distance behind me and eventually faded completely away. As did the smell of shit.

I ran and ran and ran. The course was an “out and back”. This means we’d run to the half way point, turn and run back the same route. So, at a point, as I hurtled towards the half way point, the “racers” would be whistling by in the opposite direction, closing in on the finish line, literally, miles ahead of me. I find this somewhat demoralizing, but I try not to let it mess with my head too much. I don’t race to win, I’m here to improve, to better my own time, and, today, I’m giving it my all with some newfound motivation. I found within myself, the energy, the physical endurance, and emotional stamina, to finish this race at a pace faster than any race I’ve run before. And since.

All thanks to messy buns.

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