Tag: self portrait



As of today I’ve been alive for one billion seconds and counting. You get a birthday every year, but how often do you turn a gigasecond older? Since a gigasecond is about 31.7 years, three times in your life if you’re lucky. That’s an event worth celebrating. Here I am, having drinks with some friends, toasting 109 ticks on my personal clock. Here’s to a few billion more.

Leaving the Party Early

One of the more freeing realizations I’ve come to in adulthood is that I’m allowed to go home when I’m not having fun anymore. I lean introverted, and while I enjoy being around people there comes a point where enjoyment gives way to effort. That’s the very point, now, where I start to make my goodbyes. After years of sticking around for fear of missing out, I’ve become a habitual party leaver. Rather than persist in the hope that external forces will turn my mood around, I take ownership of my experience and call it quits as soon as I run out of social energy. My life has been much improved by this practice.

This past week I decided it was time to leave the hair party.

When I was young my hair was my favorite physical feature. It was dense and soft and I had a lot of it. In those early High School years of awkward longing and crippling anxiety, conspiring to have peers touch and marvel over my excellent hair was an important step towards having actual human contact in my life. But in my early twenties my hairline began a gradual retreat up my scalp, and by my mid twenties the crown of my head began to thin, noticeable if you were looking for it. I dealt with this by getting shorter and more sculpted haircuts and by not thinking about it too much, which carried me a good few years. But as my hairline receded from the corners of my forehead, the erosion fronts curled in to meet each other, leaving a poodle-puff island of bang hair it was increasingly impossible to make look non-ridiculous. Then, a stark Facebook vision: a picture from the most recent International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts in which I appear in the background, on the far side of a decorative lamp, facing away from the camera. Lit from above my bald spot glowed, alien as part of someone else’s body. I looked at that photograph and thought, “I’m not having fun anymore.”

I went in to my local Bird’s Babershop, sat in Susi’s chair, and told her she had free reign to experiment. She tried a few options, taking my hair off in layers, before finally deciding, “I think you’ll look best if we just go for a buzz cut.” Thus:


Response from everyone else has been fairly positive so far. Everyone, that is, save for my parents. My mother hates it, though loves me enough that she is trying gamely to pretend she doesn’t. And for my part, I’m still shocking myself whenever I see a reflection and trying to reconcile myself to a differently shaped head on top of my shadow, but am overall excited. A whole new look means whole new vectors for self expression and presentation. I get to experiment with different beard lengths to go with my cropped top. I’m learning my wardrobe anew–what works now, what doesn’t. And, since head sunburn is now a thing I have to concern myself with, my newest wardrobe addition is my first grownup hat.


I think this new party’s going to work out okay.

Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015)

His last tweet:


New Haircut

Recording it here for reference, since I’m about to move away from Angela at G-Spot Hair Design in Iowa City and begin the task of developing a relationship with a new stylist in Austin.


Also, the first online evidence of my goatee. And introducing my shoulder tribble, Gumball.

The Planet Money T-Shirt Project


Photo by Alice Gribbin

Here’s me, sitting in the Frank Conroy Reading Room in my NPR Planet Money t-shirt. I started listening to the Planet Money podcast, an economics podcast started by some of the producers of This American Life, right when it started in 2008. For years they’ve wanted to produce a t-shirt and track how it moves through the global economy, from cotton to yarn to cloth to clothes to consumers. Now, people who backed their Kickstarter are starting to get their shirts, and everyone can learn the details about how these objects came to be on a page where they’ve aggregated their reporting. It’s been a fascinating story to follow, with everything from large-scale investigations of the history of international trade to personal stories about individual factory workers.


Where I Write

Mostly in here:


This is my brain, age 20.  Is there a story out there somewhere in which a character pays extra to get his own copies of an MRI? That may have had a real world inspiration.  I got this because I was having weird twitching convulsion things that eventually just went away on their own.  No good diagnosis was ever provided, the best the neurologist came up with was sleep deprivation.

I ran across this while digging out my college ID picture for the previous post.  It occurred to me as I looked at it that if I were to post it online, and then at some future point society shifts to using brain geometry as a form of identification, I might be screwed.  But the fun of showing off my own brain eventually overpowered my fear that the future might turn out to be a work of science fiction from the 70s.

Because I Haven’t Posted Enough Pictures Today

My friend Megan has recently posted about her hair, and my friend Kat is taunting everyone by making bold claims which she declines to prove, but which I am inclined to believe all the same (don’t tell).  I am inspired by these events, especially Megan’s comment:

I love when you ignore it for a while and it becomes hopelessly uninspired and the only thing you can do with it is wear it in a ponytail or look like a tumbleweed.

So, to join the fun, I share with you my hair at its most tumbleweedy.  Some time during my senior year in high school I decided, having never let it get longer than two or three inches, to see how long I could go without getting a haircut. This experiment lasted well into my freshman year of college, long enough to be immortalized on my university ID.  Unless I am someday gripped by a burst of highly uncharacteristic impulsivity, this is likely the weirdest my hair will ever look.  (Also, I will probably only have my hair for a few more years, so there’s that too.  Maybe, a decade or more from now, I will sit alone late at night, stare at this photo, and sigh profoundly to myself.)


Portrait of a Scary Beardy Man

From The Jane Austen Book Club, by Karen Joy Fowler:

Bernadette was our oldest member, just rounding the bend of sixty-seven. She’d recently announced that she was, officially, letting herself go.  “I just don’t look in the mirror anymore,” she’d told us.  “I wish I’d thought of it years ago….

“Like a vampire,” she added, and when she put it that way, we wondered how it was that vampires always managed to look so dapper.  It seemed that more of them should look like Bernadette.

Prudie had once seen Bernadette in the supermarket in her bedroom slippers, her hair sticking up from her forehead as if she hadn’t even combed it.  She was buying frozen edamame and capers and other items that couldn’t have been immediately needed.

Lately I am sort of doing this.  Thanks to steroids, my face looks wrong to me in the mirror, so I have started more or less pretending it isn’t there.  After several weeks of this, I look less like the smiling figure at the top of this page, and more like, well, this:


Fortunately for both me and any children of delicate disposition who live on my street, I have just gotten permission from my gastroenterologist to begin the process of tapering down my dosage of steroids.  Within the next three months, assuming no medical setbacks, I should recognize my own face again.  Then will come celebratory shaving.