From a pair of boobs to a magazine, not all heartbreakers are humans
John McDermott: I will never love any home (not even my childhood home) as fondly as the first apartment I ever rented. Ever watch a TV show or movie about a gaggle of 20-somethings, and remark on how ridiculously extravagant their apartments are considering they’re all making $35,000 a year? This was the real-world equivalent. The place was enormous — a 1,600-square foot, three-bedroom duplex in Chicago’s tony Lincoln Park neighborhood, renting for a criminally low $2,400 per month. (That was for all three of us, not per person.) The pieces of hand-me-down furniture we cobbled together somehow matched and fit the apartment perfectly, to the point that a female guest once accused us of using an interior decorator. It had exposed brick, high ceilings and two skylights, one of which was in the main bathroom, which made for the most delightful showering experience I’ve ever had. (I almost fell through it one night trying to impress a girl on the roof.) We bought a handmade bar off a guy whose wife made him sell it (classic) and outfitted it with a kegerator so we always had beer on tap. We put a dart board against the exposed brick wall, and had floor-standing speakers so powerful they could be heard around the block (literally) when we cranked them to 11 (which was often). Naturally, we threw parties all the time, much to our neighbors’ chagrin.
I didn’t even get to enjoy that party palace for a full year, as I abruptly moved to New York before my lease was up. I remember thinking when I moved out, I’m never going to live in a place this nice again. The apartment was objectively great, but much of my love for it was not the place itself but how unencumbered I was when I lived there. My second thought before leaving: my life is never going to be this carefree again. Both have proven true.
Josh Schollmeyer: Recently, my wife caught me staring at myself in the mirror. She thought it was out of vanity. In her defense, I have been known to flash my own personal Blue Steel in most everything that provides my reflection — windows, screens, and of course, mirrors. But in this case, she was wrong. It was actually the exact opposite. Two thin strands of blond hair hung from the stubble on my chin, and I was attempting to remove them before anyone else saw them — me most of all.
They were from my head, a fact that has ruined the last several years of my life. Or at least, the last two, which is when I could first admit to myself that my gorgeous blond locks were indeed falling from my scalp and onto my chin, computer, towels and pretty much everywhere else I went (a trail of tears with them). There were probably another good two years of denial: My stylist cut my hair too short on top. My nephew was a misguided toddler when he said that my scalp felt like Grandpa’s. (My dad is bald.) The glare of the sun too powerful in photos and therefore capable of cutting through even the thickest mane, which no doubt whatsoever, mine was. THE SUN WAS JUST TOO GODDAMN STRONG.
Acceptance might be healthier, but it’s still a daily hellscape. I could give a fuck about getting older; my hair, however, was my thing. It was the physical attribute I loved most about myself, and the differentiator in what was otherwise a sea of regularness. Case in point: The woman who cut my hair for the better part of a decade would tell me every time I sat before her, without fail or prompting, that people paid her good money to reasonably approximate my hair color for them. Now, it’s gone. But in the most painful way possible — at the back of my head, meaning I only notice it in pictures (which, if I can, I never allow from certain angles) and when those stray strands dangle from my clothes or face. And that’s just fucking cruel — often out of sight, but never out of mind…