Stopped at a red light on Michigan Avenue, I dragged my middle finger from between my eyes down the bridge of my nose, bringing the bindi with it. Green and gold. Sparkly. I looked at it and deposited it in the cup holder.
I’ve been wearing a bindi faithfully since last spring – the result of self-sufficiency gone awry.
One of my first acts of independence, following my then-husband’s request for a divorce, was to pay someone to shave my head. He had done it for me for years, making sure all the tiny hairs stood uniformly erect – especially in back. It’s not as easy as it seems.
I went to Rudy’s – a chain of hip barber shops – in Seattle for a $10 shave. I asked for a one guard on the clippers – what my ex always used.
Rudy’s one guard must have been different from mine, because I walked out far more sheared than I had anticipated. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, hair grows – quickly. But I had my eyebrows tinted a little darker than usual, and the combination of the two was jarring, a little bit scary.
Afterwards, I stumbled into the boutique next door to Rudy’s. I’d been curious about it for a while. Inside, I eyed a basket of sticky bindis, next to an array of cuffs and bangles. $3 a package. I thought it might soften the look. Or at very least, act as a distraction. It did. And I began wearing one, every day.
Pink. Blue. Purple. Glittery. It became “my thing,” or “one of my things,” like the shaved head and the iridescent shadow I wear in the corners of my eyes. Another “accident” that stuck.
I wore a different one every day. On hikes. To dance class. Camping in North Dakota. All over Rwanda. I got a tip to use eyelash glue to hold it in place when the sticky wore out. When I moved back to Chicago in the fall, I went to the Indian shops on Devon Avenue to buy more.
People asked me about it all the time. Why? What does it mean? I’d explain that it brought attention to the third eye, the seat of hidden wisdom, and joke I needed all the help I could get to see clearly.
Sometimes I’d explain that in parts of India it designates that a woman is married and that ironically, I began wearing mine during my divorce.
But really, I just liked it. It was jazzy and fun. It spurred conversation with people I otherwise wouldn’t meet.
At least, that’s what I thought.
When I mentioned it to my friend Rachel in an email, she wrote, “I found your calling toward bindis to be a heartbreaking subconscious gesture by your soul to remain coupled, or at least connected with the sacred masculine.”
I questioned if I should continue wearing it after my Get, my Jewish divorce, as I was no longer married. When the ritual was complete, I stood in the mirror contemplating. I decided I wasn’t ready to let go of it yet, and told myself it was a symbol that I was “married to myself.”
Every once in a while, I would forget to put one on and I’d feel naked. Sometimes I would put a Weight Watchers BRAVO sticker in its place.
And yet when I lost my bindi at my massage therapist’s office last week, I didn’t put another one on when I got home. I forgot.
I considered “forgetting” it the following day. But it seemed that NOT wearing one would be a statement, one I might feel compelled to explain if asked. So I pasted one on.
I did the same the next day, but slid it off in the car in the afternoon sun. I haven’t worn one since. Just a few people have noticed and asked about it.
Why now? I’m not sure. I felt a shift, a change.
Perhaps I’m “getting ready.” Getting ready to meet someone. I’d like that.
And yet, in moments of quiet I’m not certain that I am ready. Not because it has been suggested that I don’t date right now. But because I continue to pick unavailable.
Mr. Thursday Night. My Divorce Buddy. The Southern Svengali. Most recently, the guy from Trader Joes.
I thought we were flirting so I gave him my card and said to call me if he’d like to have coffee. He never called. When I ran into him a week later he said things were “complicated.”
More than one person has suggested that I might be giving off signals that I’m not available – unconsciously. Like by wearing a bindi – the mark of a married woman. While most Westerners don’t know its significance, I do.
Is the glittery third-eye gone for good? I don’t know. But for now, there is a space between my eyes – an opening.