I returned from Paris two weeks before Dudface and Hayden, and set about finding a new place to live. A room opened up at Marvin Gardens, a brick Victorian building. It was a vegetarian co-op with thirteen other people.
I had to cook dinner for us all every two weeks, which I thought would be easy. I chose to make spinach lasagne from the Moosewood Cookbook, and spent a long time washing each piece of spinach, so that dinner was served at 10 p.m. amidst loud complaints.
In my mind, I was still together with Hayden, although people assumed we had broken up.
It wasn’t until I told my friend Isabella, who had yellow blonde hair and a turned up nose and was very beautiful and plump, that Hayden wouldn’t sleep with me, that I heard myself admit this for the first time and realized how crazy it sounded. Isabella advised me to break up right away.
I saw Hayden coming out of the doorway of the theatre building. “Karen!” he yelled excitedly, and held out his arms. “‘We’re done. You won’t sleep with me!” I said with determination.
Soon Hayden and Dudface became lovers in a master/slave relationship, whereas I had no one.
The first rule of a breakup: do a complete makeover.
Isabella insisted that my long thick blonde hair was pulling my face down and that I needed a haircut that lifted my hair up, as she put it.
“I know just the place to go. The Wilhelmina student salon.” So, on break, I went to the student salon by myself in New York City. I repeated what Isabella said to the student.
First she did a perm, that didn’t come out very well, and then…she started chopping, everywhere, with no rhyme or reason to it. I looked in the mirror and was so horrified that I couldn’t react at all. My best feature, my crowning mantle, horribly chopped up and ruined. It was too much to think about. I wore a cap and hoped my mother wouldn’t notice.
I called my other friend, Rachel, who despised Isabella and all my “flaky” bohemian friends, said, “I knew this would happen,” and got me an appointment with a famous hairdresser the next day.
“What is this?” The hairdresser said, looking at my hair, “This makes no sense.”
He had to shave the back of my head and make the front pieces longer, so it looked like a short bob in front, with the tips of my hair curled on my cheek. It was sort of 80’s chic, sort of flapper hair, but it wasn’t my style.
When I got back to school I told a friend I was depressed, and he said, “About your hair?” That was cruel. It took a year to grow out, and two years to hit my shoulder again.
Isabella got me involved in the divestment protests, demanding that Cornell divest its holdings in South Africa because of apartheid. We had sit ins, the quad was turned into a campground, we wore armbands. Some announced they would go on a hunger strike. I figured I needed to lose weight anyway, so I joined the hunger strike and lived on juice. The extra weight fell off me quickly (only to return just as quickly).
All the while Hayden and I were wrecked without each other. Hayden stopped going to classes, afraid to run into me. I sent him letters I shouldn’t have, and heard that he said I was kicking him when he was down.
One night I got drunk on a bottle of wine and went over to Hayden’s house. I stormed in and started yelling that he was impotent. Dudface and Hayden physically pushed me out the door, onto the concrete steps. I could have fallen on my head, they pushed me so forcefully. “No one would ever want to fuck you,” Hayden yelled at me.
Another night I got drunk and thought of overdosing on my asthma pills. Luckily I knocked on the door next door and told the couple I was thinking of killing myself. They talked me down. The woman said she was a witch, and had an extra nipple to prove it, which she showed me. I asked her to put a spell on Hayden.
“You don’t want me to do that. If I release negative energy, it will eventually come back to you, like karma,” she warned.