What personal grooming is really about
Hint: It's not about looking good.
A few years ago, whenever I'd go back home to my parents, the first thing my mom reacted to was the length of my hair. Baal kitne lambe hain. She'd keep repeating it, day after day, till I got tired of hearing it and went for a haircut.
It was always a mystery to me - what's the obsession with my hair? Why do you care how long my hair is? Live and let live.
This week, my brother came to visit me with his hair down to his eyes. I found myself saying 'baal kata le bhai,' and that was a very strange thing to have done. I had become mom.
I think it was a real adulting moment, and I'm trying to track down what changed and how. As always, I'm happy to have you come along in the journey.
In college, I had a mad scientist vibe: as long as I am intellectually engaged, who cares how I look? Everything from personal hygiene to diet and nutrition went out the window. I used to believe that this was a rebellious stance, but have now realised it's not so complicated: I was just a child.
As a child, you're only responsible for doing the things in front of you: playing with toys, studying for exams, eating your food. You're not responsible for maintaining yourself so you can do those things. That your parents' responsibility.
As we become adults, there's this transitory period where no-one is maintaining us. So I'd sleep at 7 am and wake up at 2 PM. I'd eat irregularly, and let my hair grow long out of negligence.
I looked like a Nishant that was uncared for. So of course, when I'd go home and my mother would see that I'm asleep at the wheel, she'd want to take over. Baal kata lo, beta.
The art of self maintenance
I now reach for my trimmer each time I want to snap out of a low phase. I book a haircut at the first sign that my hair is growing untidy. I feel like at-least partially, I do these things to tell myself: hey, I've got you.
So much of adulting is caring for myself in the ways my parents once did: eating more fruits, drinking more water, washing not just clothes but bedsheets and towels, cutting my nails, and yes, getting a haircut.
Personal grooming for me is not about looking good to the world. It's about proving to myself, through daily practice, that I can be responsible for myself. Because once that's done, I can go out into the world and say with some confidence, "I'm ready to take on more."
📖 What I'm reading this week
If you follow Philosophy twitter at all, this profile of philosopher Agnes Callard, is all the rage this week. You might remember her from her article 'Why am I being hurt?' which I had shared in this newsletter last year.
Some questions to think about while reading this piece: Can a marriage ever survive if we are uncompromising about our aspirations? Callard raises a different question, perhaps, which is: In what sense does a marriage that exists without deep love survive? Can a marriage that does not survive still be a success? If these questions interest you, this profile will too.