The recent spate of political fear-mongering and police violence in this country has left me such in an angry stupor (and I live in L.A., where there are beaches!), that I almost forgot that it’s about to be the Olympics. And I love the Olympics, even these Rio games with all of its specters: the rise of Zika in Rio, the corruption and poverty being swept under the rug, the semi-banning of Russian athletes from the games for doping. (And honestly, this time next year, when we’ve been annexed by Putin after he’s proclaimed himself Tsar of the World, this will be a moot point.)
I’m especially excited about our delightful, unbeatable (did I just jinx it?), and fabulously diverse U.S. women’s gymnastic team, which includes: the incredible Simone Biles, who, short of catastrophic injury, will almost certainly win the gold in the all-around; returning champion Gabby Douglas; newcomers Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian; and of course, Tablet’s own golden girl who captured American’s heart—and Olympic gold—with her peppy “Hava Nagilah”-set floor routine in the 2012 London games, as her hilariously anxious Jewish parents watched from the stands.
At 22, Raisman is the oldest member of the U.S. team (the other girls call her “Grandma”). As such, she’s the most experienced—not just in competition, but in the other minute rituals a female gymnast must master, like putting one’s hair in a perfect and immovable bun that’s able to withstand speeding headfirst and upside-down through the air.
As someone who can—ahem—identify with Raisman’s hair situation (thick, long, wavy, add-your-own-adjective-here) and who has developed her own methods to contain such over the years, I was interested to read these articles that describe Raisman’s own hair-wrangling methods. Apparently, Raisman’s routine involves hairspray, detangler, a post-competition oil mask, and what has to be a record-breaking eight hair elastics. “You have to be so clean in gymnastics,” she said. “If your hair is loose, your body feels loose.”
Why am I telling you this? Well, remember that famous Onion article that ran shortly after 9/11, entitled “A Shattered Nation Longs to Care About Stupid Bullshit Again,” in which said “bullshit” were things like “watching old, taped episodes of Friends, browsing the new issue of Cosmopolitan…[and] half-heartedly flip through the new Pottery Barn catalog”? Well, it’s been 15 years since that satirical but hard-hitting masterpiece came out, and frankly, I feel like I’m still waiting. Especially given this climate of Trump, whose rhetorical and frightening messaging continues to rage on.
So yes: Aly Raisman’s hair—and the Rio Olympics—may be an imperfect distraction, but it’s a distraction nonetheless, and that’s just what we need in these dark times. Now, I’m off to try to dig up eight functioning hair ties.
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Rachel Shukert is the author of the memoirs Have You No Shame? and Everything Is Going To Be Great,and the novel Starstruck. She is the creator of the Netflix show The Baby-Sitters Club, and a writer on such series as GLOW and Supergirl. Her Twitter feed is @rachelshukert.