Well, I burst at the first hurdle, didn’t I? After ending my last diary entry with the optimistic ‘I think I’ll write again tomorrow ?’, I did not write a word for a full week.
I did not do it because I did not feel like doing it, and instead of being productive I got drunk for three days in a row. It was a choice that made sense at the time.
So: the lockdown continues, and today marks the beginning of my forth week inside. It’s fine, to be honest. I’ve got a hell of a lot of free time. I’ve been furloughed, so I’m not allowed to work legally until the 1st of June. Even then I’ll be returning at only 3.5 days a week, and 70% of my salary, because I work for a Asian tour company and – yeah – business is not exactly booming right now. But it could be worse – furlough and 3.5 days means I have plenty of time for the million other projects I’m always saying I could be doing if only I had the time. Soon we will know for sure whether it is truly time I lack, or simply discipline.
(Absolutely 1000% the answer is discipline)
I’m great at starting things and bad at finishing them; projects, hobbies, relationships. I like to do things because they are fun and novel and make me feel good. Once I feel compelled to do something, once I feel I need to do a task, it becomes work, and my passion for it dies away. For example, I recently started drawing again. I drew Joe Strummer and Che Guevara, and took hours and hours perfecting my sketches. Upon their completion I felt incredibly happy and accomplished, and sent all my friends and family photographs of my portraits. I revelled in the positive feedback. Over the course of the following week, I told anybody who would listen about my intention to continue practising until I was fantastic.
And then, of course, when the next weekend came and I had some free time, I didn’t feel like drawing at all. I had turned it into a chore. So much time is spent in my workplace trying to perfect and improve that the thought of doing it at home as well makes me nauseous. While those initial portraits were a pleasant revelation – hehey, I still got it! – the following routine I immediately attempted to build – I must draw every weekend and become extremely talented – just depressed me into a sighing inertia.
This is a gigantic flaw in my personality, and I’m still trying to figure out how to combat it. In ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’, Mark Twain addresses this issue in the fence-painting scene. In order to get out of whitewashing a fence, Tom pretends to be so engrossed-in and enjoying the task at hand that the neighbourhood kids decide they want in on the fun. Before long, he has them queuing up, begging for a turn at painting, while he lounges in the shade:
‘Tom said to himself that it was not such a hollow world, after all. He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it — namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain. If he had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. And this would help him to understand why constructing artificial flowers or performing on a tread-mill is work, while rolling ten-pins or climbing Mont Blanc is only amusement. There are wealthy gentlemen in England who drive four-horse passenger-coaches twenty or thirty miles on a daily line, in the summer, because the privilege costs them considerable money; but if they were offered wages for the service, that would turn it into work and then they would resign.’
I think that’s about the long and short of my problem. I turn things from play to work so quickly in my head that I get bored and grumpy before I have a chance to produce anything worthwhile. ‘Could I?’ becomes ‘I must!’, and I am left feeling blue and confused.
These dairies are the only thing I’ve stuck to, ever. I suppose it’s because I refuse to let them become a chore – I only write when I want to. I can’t force it; believe me I’ve tried, and it makes me miserable. When the feeling isn’t right, each sentence must be heaved out like a string of gigantic anal beads. I write 1000 words at great length and in great pain, read them back, howl in despair, thump my desk, delete everything, scream curses at God, and go for a nap. No – I cannot force it.
But away from God and anal beads.
In other explosive and exciting news, I shaved my head two or three weeks ago. People have taken great pleasure in telling me I am balding since I was 16 years old (I’ll be 27 next month). Although a good few of my hecklers have, to my enormous satisfaction, lost their own hair in the meantime, it finally looks that they were right about my barnet. My hair is thinning at the temples and on my crown, and it’s now reaching the point where I can’t really ignore it or hide it anymore. It’s painful to watch, and over the last decade has caused me untold amounts of sorrow and shame. It’s hard not to watch one’s own follicular exodus and feel your youth and looks are abandoning you.
I have always defined myself with my bright blonde hair. That’s who I am – ‘that blonde guy’. I know it’s dumb, but it’s true. I don’t have a skincare routine, I don’t understand fashion – the only act of physical vanity I indulge in is putting wax in my hair every morning. I actively look forward to it, in fact. There’s something wonderful about seeing my hair all flat and dull, then whipping it into exciting waves and curls with a little bit of wax. But there are fewer and fewer curls every year. The sense of loss is quite enormous.
So I shaved it off. Fuck it. I didn’t want to draw it out anymore, anxiously measuring the distance from eyebrow to hairline and discovering, with horror, that I do not own a forehead, but a six-head. No. Off with you, sweet hair o’ mine.
Lockdown was the chance I needed to test drive a shaved head. I’ve never tried it before, lest I fuck it up and be forced to skulk into the office one Monday morn resembling Elmer Fudd. In a rare positive outcome, however, I actually love it. It looks smart at all times of the day, it makes my facial features look prominent and defined, and it matches anything I wear. I look clean, even when I’m not. It’s low maintenance, it never gets greasy, and there’s no need for styling wax. I feel confident in my looks in a way I’ve not done since… well, since I was 16. So if you’re reading this and you’re thinning a little – fuck it, amigo. Hair is for armpits and arse cracks; get rid.
Balds have more fun.