Split Personality

Splitting my ends was an inherited vice I blame on my sister. Four years older than me, she always had long, thick, brown hair. As a 13 year-old I would curse said hair when it clogged the communal shower or, like a tumbleweed, rolled into my room unannounced and unwelcome. When she was in high school, she had hair down to her butt crack and I was so jealous; my hair hadn’t passed my shoulders and I felt my tomboyish look was getting old, fast.

 

One day in the car, I looked up from my Game Boy Advance and saw my sister, hunched over the end of a long strand of hair. As she studied her hair, I studied her. What was she doing? How was she not carsick? After a deeper investigation (“Shut up, Sophie! Leave me alone!”) I learned she was “picking her split ends.”

My mother was not happy with this, for some reason she hated when my sister picked her hair. From the front of the car I’d hear “Alex, stop it!” or “You’re ruining your hair!” While my mother didn’t usually care about typical beauty standards, this really irked her. My sister’s vice didn’t just affect the women of the Matthews family, it had the potential to rip us apart.

Years later I would have hair that passed my shoulders and to my horror, started splitting my ends as well. I had techniques that I adopted on my own. Driving to work, the black interior of my car would be the perfect backsplash for finding lighter split ends. I’d carefully place my nail in between a split end, big or small, and slowly work them away from one another. Mission accomplished, one less split end. The best split ends require minimal shedding, instead, a quick tug on small piece that is ready to leave the hair. This technique might say more about the health of my hair than my vice, but that’s neither here nor there.

I know, I can feel you shutter.

I know it’s bad, but any good vice is strong enough to surpass reason and land on desire. I’ve been told it’s terrible for my hair; it seems to be bad for my vision, often times my picking marathons end in blurred eyesight and more often than not, splitting headaches.

I have plenty of split ends and I often dream about stripping my head of them one by one but like any great dream, it’s riddled with issues. While I have no plans to stop my vice, I do acknowledge that causing my own headaches is not healthy nor ideal. I recognize that as I’m pushing 30, I care more about my eyesight than I do my hair. I have finally buckled under the pressure of hair salons, I know I can (or should) get haircuts more frequently, shelling out $100 for a trim. But it’s a vice for a reason.

My sister and I aren’t especially close. It’s neither sad nor depressing, it is what it is and I’m very okay with it. But sharing this vice with her makes me laugh. For two very different women our split ends had magnetic powers, drawing us to them to fix, alter, and destroy.

My vice might not be killing me like smoking or drinking but it doesn’t make me feel good anymore. I’m happy to write that. I’ve stopped doing it in the car, as it has finally made me sick. I don’t do it at work, as I feel like it makes me seem ghoulish.

Or more ghoulish. Take that for what you will.

This was a rejected piece for a ManRepeller prompt about vices, and the ones we can’t let go.

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