Wednesday, October 09, 2013

bangers and mash

The one thing I didn’t expect about going part-time was how much it was going to enhance the degree to which I enjoy my career. Don’t get me wrong, it's still a stressful job, but not having to do it all the time does change the experience significantly. Now that I have regular days away from the hospital (and just as an aside on other thing that I’m learning is how short the day is between school dropoff and pickup—it seems on paper like you should have all day to do things but in all honesty we drop off, I take the baby to the playground for an hour or two, come home, put her down for nap, clean up, give her lunch, clean up again, play a little bit more, and then it’s time to collect the boys and the rest of the day is lost to cat herding), work seems like a respite from some of the more Sisyphusean elements of household management more so than the other way around. It’s not so much of a physical respite, because obviously I have to wake up earlier and am generally running around more at the hospital; but it’s definitely a psychological respite, and a surprisingly pleasant one. One that reminds me that hey, I get to be a doctor now! I get to do smart-people stuff! I get to wear scrubs and run around and have intelligent conversations about grown-up things, and when I ask people to do stuff, 95% of the time they actually do it instead of arguing with me about the logic of eating vegetables or wearing underwear! Gorgeous.

I think the kids are enjoying having me around more (though I honestly think that they’re so young and their grasp of time is so imperfect that I think another month or two of the new status quo and they’ll forget that it hasn’t always been like this—Mack in particular refers to things as having happened “years ago” when in actuality they happened, like, last week) and in a number of ways both concrete and intangible, things at home are just easier. For example, Cal has parent-teacher conferences this week, and I actually just...signed up for them. Just like that. No elaborate swapping of my call schedule. No canceling clinic appointments for Joe. No picking the latest possible meeting spot and then watching the clock tick down at work, hoping that I wouldn’t get held up by an emergency add-on. Things are much more straightforward now, and that desperate “survival mode” feeling has faded—the one where I counted the end of every single day as a success purely because it ended. Life has ceased feeling so binary, split between the absolutely necessary things I needed to do in order to keep everything functioning; and all the other things. Now life has space. Nuance. Color. I actually ask the kids now in the evening: "So...what do you guys want to do?"

Small changes. Big results.

*          *          *

I've been getting my hair cut at a Supercuts equivalent for the past few years, mostly for convenience (well, scratch "mostly" and substitute "totally") because when time was the tightest, even the act of taking time to get my hair trimmed seemed hopelessly self-indulgent.  So, basically I would just wait as long as possible between trims, and when it started getting to true Yoko Ono circa 1974 territory I would wander into a Supercuts, demand that they cut off some of the bottom hair parts, wander out 10 minutes and some half-hearted snips later, immediately put my hair in a ponytail and forget about the existence of hair until the next time I got Yoko-ed.  

Anyway. I decided today that it was finally time to have an actual hairstyle again (my hair for the last five years has been less a "style" than variations on the theme of "Hair, comma, Lots") and made an appointment at an actual salon. I explained to the stylist the particular challenges of my hair: namely, it is coarse, tends towards frizzy, spends a lot of time squashed under a scrub cap, and I wanted it to at least be long enough to still put up in a ponytail but otherwise wanted to spend little to no time styling it. I also said (and perhaps this was inadvisable) that I didn't really care what she did to it--well, I cared, but that I would defer to her best judgement, since my only request was that she make my head look better and had no further suggestions beyond that. The stylist nodded and fingered and mm-hmmed attentively. Then she asked me: "Have you ever had bangs?"

I said that of course I had had bangs when I was much younger (Asian Lady Law, look in the handbook), but that I'd grown them out in college and hadn't had them since. 

"Do you want to try them again?" She asked.

I considered. On one hand, I think bangs are probably a pain in the ass. The upkeep. The frequent trims. The hair in the face. The inevitable scrub hat mashing. But then on the other hand, if I had bangs, maybe it would bring me one step closer to my spirit animal, April Ludgate.

(You notice I did not say "Aubrey Plaza," because the point is that while I want to look good, I want to care approximately as much about my style as April Ludgate, which is to say: not at all.)

Anyway, I let her cut the bangs, along with the rest of my hair, and I think I'm not precisely sure how I feel about them yet. On one hand, I definitely have a hair style now (like, my hair is not just in the random fluffy shape that it takes when hair is allowed to roam independently on my scalp), but I'm not sure that I love the style, nor am I convinced that it doesn't look like a wig, and having bangs again is going to take getting used to. For one, the hairdresser said I had to "retrain my part," whatever that means. And also, the constant feeling of hair on my forehead is still pretty annoying. I didn't really want to include a photo (for vanity reasons of course: end of the day, no makeup, not dressed cute or ANYTHING) but I realize talking about getting a haircut and not including a photo is kind of a cocktease, so here you go. Please keep in mind all of the above and that this was taken under horrible fluorescent lighting in an elementary school hallway after Parent-Teacher conference and before pickup from Nerd Club...uh, Lego Robotics Team.

Of course, there are benefits. The last time I had bangs, my sophomore year of college, the bangs could hide my forehead acne. And now they can cover my forehead wrinkles. Maturity, you guys!


  1. I think it's really cute! I just went through the same thing last week. I get my hair cut about once a year. This year I went to Regis instead of Supercuts, and I asked for layers instead of a bob. I got talked into "side bangs" which are cute in theory but kept falling into my eyes. The next day I cut them into forehead bangs (like yours) ... have found that some mousse helps hold them down in a sort-of style so I don't look five. I bet your hair would do well with some smoothing cream to keep it sleek.

  2. Karen6:57 PM

    LOVE IT!!! LOVE THEM!!! You are looking great, ow!!!!

  3. You look great! The bangs really highlight your face.

  4. Work-life it!

    Nice hairstyle, by the way


  5. You're such a brilliant writer. Love the bangs :)

  6. Your hair looks really nice!!

    I gotta say I agree with a bunch of things you said. When work becomes a break from some of the drudgery of being at home, and then when home becomes a break from the drudgery of being at work, you can start to enjoy both a bit more. Glad things are working out so well!

  7. Your writing was setting me up for a "oh well, at least it will grow out" type of reaction, but when I got to the photo all I could think of was how great the new style looked!

  8. You look super cute!

  9. I love the bangs!! And I don't see ANY wrinkles there, young lady. I got my haircut, oops, styled, at a new, fancy salon yesterday as I won a gift card for $50. I still had to pay another $8 for the cut. The hair stylist talked A LOT and gave me A LOT of advice on daily living, whether I asked for it or not. I'm going back to Supercuts.

  10. Anonymous9:47 AM

    bangs and glasses work well together!! I like the natural look, it suits you!

  11. Asian Lady Law, Tee hee.

  12. Anonymous4:45 PM

    1. Very cute haircut! 2. April Ludgate, yes! 3. A challenging and meaningful career that allows you time to breathe and herd the cats, well that is a blessing and one you have fought for, and richly deserve. So happy for you all.

  13. Anonymous6:21 PM

    Looking lovely!

  14. Anonymous11:07 PM

    Wow! You look beautiful!

  15. As a patient, I can often tell when my doctor is stressed out, exhausted, burnt out, or otherwise has lost their passion to take care of each and every patient. Sometimes it's manifested as an impatient eye roll when I ask a question. Sometimes it's manifested as a weary blank look when I'm talking or answers that clearly indicate they didn't digest what I was saying. Sometimes it's manifested with abrupt attitudes toward not just me but to staff members. And sometimes it's manifested by mistakes, such as writing a prescription with my name but with a medication that was intended for another patient. (That happened last month.)

    My response is usually to clam up because I'm nervous they'll get upset at me, or because I feel guilty for increasing their workload.

    Doctors and nurses may not realize how much their own stress and exhaustion can inadvertently hurt patient care.

    So although you may not realize it, not only do your children probably think you're being a better mother, but your patients probably also think you're being a better doctor.

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