No Clothes and a Monkey in My Hair — by Lydian Shipp
Asia India South Asia

No Clothes and a Monkey in My Hair — by Lydian Shipp

So tonight we’re in Denver. As we prepare for our flight to L.A. tomorrow, I feel like I’m actually going to board the flight to India in the morning… But I won’t be boarding the flight to India. I’m going to L.A. first. In a way, I’m kind of glad about it… Even though I have to get up at before the crack of dawn to get to the airport, and I’ve taken my shower the night before and put my hair up in the dorkiest way possible in a valiant effort to look “good” in the morning. “Good” in quotes since I never look good on plane days (at least not by the end of them, the seats make my hair statick-y and flat). But, I’m trying at least. And that’s what really counts, right?

As a teenage girl, I find myself caring more about my appearance than I’d like to. My Pintrest is filled with different hairstyles, hair dos, ways to make hair fixing easier, clothing ideas (that I’ll never follow up on), fashion tips, etc, etc. When I’m at home, I rarely even do anything style-wise all that out of the ordinary. I’ll stick to my Green Day shirt and my ripped jeans, thank you very much. But… I’d like to wear the 50s style stuff and own it. Or the Bohemian stuff. Or just to fix my hair in some elaborate way every time I go out. But, I’m just not that kind of girl.

When we travel, I stress about clothes and appearance. I bicker with my mom every time we pack clothes, and makeup, and hair supplies. I want more than we can take, which obviously doesn’t work out in my favor. In all reality though, I don’t fix my hair much differently when I’m overseas than I do when I’m at home (regardless of the supplies I have), and I don’t wear anything all that different from what I wear when I’m at home. I think it’s the lack of options that bugs me. The knowing that I’ll have exactly 3 t-shirts, 1 jacket, and 2 pairs of ready-for-anything pants to work with, plus a scarf and whatever else my mom decides to bring (usually socks, a long-sleeved shirt or two, and maybe, if I’m lucky, an extra t-shirt). And I share every item with my mom.

I’m very particular when it comes to my clothing choices, especially when traveling, and I’m honestly rather stressed about what we’ll be wearing in India this time. I like to wear my ready-for-anything pants. They’re comfy, stylin’, black, and, well… ready for anything. But on this trip, I’ll be wearing more traditional Indian clothing that we purchased the last time we went to India. And this stresses me out. The pants are thinner (easier to rip), I’ll be wearing scarves (they’re a hassle when crossing streets, which is scary in India), and I don’t know how easy the clothes will be to run in (one of my criteria for picking out an outfit). It’s amazing how I can talk so much JUST about my clothes, right?

At least this time I get to take my own makeup. And I have a supercool, multifunctional headband. And clippies. These things make me feel more okay with everything.

Whenever I write things down, I always wonder what I’ll think when I read them after we return from our trip. It’s inevitable; I always go back and read what I wrote. It’s like taking a trip back in time. Not to a different place (like India), but to a different time in my life. For instance, when I read my posts from when I was 13 in Peru, I remember exactly what it felt like to be 13, and to be in Peru as a 13 year old. It’s like I’m traveling to the Land of 13-Year-Old Lydian in Peru.

Maybe, when I travel back to the Land of 16-Year-Old Lydian in India, I’ll think that I was silly and naïve for thinking that Indian clothes were going to be frustrating (silly Lydian, they’re actually easier than wearing the other clothing! It’s a shame you can’t wear them all the time!). Or maybe I’ll agree with my past self (Lydian, you were totally right, those Indian clothes were a big pain in the ass. Good call. Nice job on making it through.) Or maybe I’ll just laugh.

Anyway. As it’s getting close to bedtime, I’m getting more and more concerned about my hair. Will it look okay in the morning? What’s the game plan if it doesn’t? I realized when I was 13, and we were in the Amazon, that when I’m traveling my hair is the one thing that I always have control over. Always. I can do what I want with it. It’s my decision. Nothing really inhibits my control over my hair except lack of hairspray or clippies (the latter of which I’ve solved in the past by stuffing clippies into my guitar bag or purse).

When we were in the Amazon, we went to this sort of interactive zoo. Or at least that’s how I remember it. It was sort of like a more out-of-control-no-boundaries-between-me-and-the-exotic-animal-petting-zoo…

In the AMAZON.

While we were there, my parents and I all had the opportunity to hold these really cute little monkeys. I was excited about the prospect, before I watched what they did to my mom’s hair (they messed with it in a insane-asylum-for-primates kind of way). Then I got concerned. That morning, I’d pulled my hair back into a tight bun for the purpose of keeping it out of my way, and therefore less of an issue. But I still wanted to hold the monkey. So, I thought maybe if I reasoned with the monkey (the way you’d reason with a cat or a dog by cooing, kicking, or a good, firm finger-wagging) it wouldn’t disturb my hair.

No. That didn’t work.

I held the monkey like a baby at first, and looked deep into it’s eyes. “Don’t touch my hair,” I thought, “Please, please don’t mess with my hair.” The monkey seemed to take this as an invitation. It swiftly moved from its place in my arms up onto my shoulders, and proceeded to play with my bangs, and then dig its fingers into my tightly wound bun. I could feel my hair starting to stick out all over the place. If the monkey was allowed to do what it wanted for much longer, I would lose my control of the one thing I had control over. Suddenly, the monkey was less cute. It had broached my boundaries in an irrevocable way. I wanted it off. NOW.

I tried to be nice about removing the monkey from my shoulder, there were people watching, after all. I felt kind of bad about rejecting the poor little capuchin later, but I still tend to abide by the same principles in terms of things that could mess up my hair. My hair must work for me. I don’t work for it. And anything that tries to mess it up must be avoided at all costs.

I have exceptions, of course. I don’t pass up cool opportunities because of my hair all the time. In fact, as I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten more lenient about hair (and clothes). I appreciate the experiences, and I know that if my pig tails get messed up I can always fix them later. I’ve adapted to the world (the big, wide world). It hasn’t adapted to me (yet), but the self-centered teenager I am still hopes that someday, somehow, that might happen.

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