One balmy evening many years ago, my husband was writing a paper. It was late and the deadline was fast approaching. His dorm room, piled high with assorted laundry and schoolbooks was feeling more like a dirty sauna than a place to be responsible and finish homework. As he stared at the blank, jeering white page of his word document, an idea began to form in his overheated mind. It was more of a question, really.
On one precarious pile of textbooks sat our friend’s electric clippers. When my husband tells this story, he claims that the room must have been one hundred degrees; that his entire head was sweating.
Another question came to mind, then. Just how hard was it to cut hair anyway?
He reasoned that if he just shaved off the sides of his long, shaggy hair, the sweating would stop. So he did it. He shaved them off. And he knew that he had made a mistake.
Bad choices. It’s not something we like to talk about. Or if we do, they take on a light-hearted “it’s funny now” kind of tone. I could tell you about any number of bad decisions that I have made—befriending a rabid cat, moving to New Zealand without any lined up job or accommodation…deciding to go out for a late night walk in London, England by myself…bad choices are woven into the fabric of all of the best narratives that I tell.
But the thing is—the thing that makes bad choices so damn good to tell and re-tell in our own personal narratives—is that they make for some interesting stories.
When I think about all of my favourite books it always involves the hero or heroine making a cringe-worthy decision. If Harry had never snuck out of his dorm room, perhaps J.K. Rowling’s brilliant series of Harry Potter books would not have been so exciting to read. If Katniss had played it safe and let her sister go to The Hunger Games after all it would likely be a boring and succinct story.
I guess what I’m saying is this: bad decisions make good fiction.
Note: because my husband has destroyed all photographic evidence of his terrible hair cut, I present to you an image of a shaved poodle. From what I can remember, it looks about the same anyway.