Reflection of the woman with the hair roller on her forehead


It’s late afternoon, and I am heading home on the subway. In the window opposite me, I see the reflection of a young woman, two seats away from me. I notice that she has a giant pink roller stuck to her forehead, held in place by a lock of hair curled around it.

One possibility, it shoots through my mind, is that she’s a fashion slave. A year ago, walking around with a gigantic pink roller stuck to your forehead was considered ridiculous by most of society, including fashion junkies. Then, out of the blue, an authority figure in the fashion world pitched up at a fashion show with one stuck to her forehead, and since then every disciple of the authority figure worth his or her salt has been slavishly following the trend.

If that is the case, if the young woman is indeed a slave to everything that is fashionable, my opinion of her cannot rise above zero because she is clearly not someone who thinks for herself.

(I also wonder who determines what is ridiculous and what is not. I squeeze a piece of cloth over my bare scalp every day and call it a cap. Is that not ridiculous?)

The second possibility, I imagine, is that she is the one who has started the fashion trend – or is in the process of doing so. This means she does not look at the arbitrary, ridiculous things other people do and then follow them to a tee because the person is seen as a figure of authority.

If so, my view of her would rise significantly. She would then clearly be manifesting that she is someone who thinks for herself and who makes her own decisions, and then appears in public in a way she believes in and that she finds good – even if others see it as ridiculous, for now.

As we are nearing Formosa station, I take one last look in the direction of my potentially interesting fellow passenger. I see the hair roller is gone. Apparently, it merely served a practical purpose.

Half a minute later, she moves closer to the door, and I get my first decent look at her – just for a moment, because when the doors open, she pushes slightly past another passenger. Within seconds, she has disappeared into the stream of people, with her fringe now cheekily arching away from her forehead.

Note to myself: Making assumptions about people before you know the whole story may not be terribly smart, but at least it’s better than staring at your own reflection in the subway train’s window.