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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cutting It All Off

In high school I got really obsessed with a Team Dresch song called Growing Up in Springfield. These are the lyrics:

when i was fourteen i fell in love with her in metal shop she said kaia come pray with me we sat on her bed and we held our hands together she told me i needed god i told her i just needed her when i was fifteen i liked to start fires and i drive my parents truck to the jasper store things were out of control i couldn't stop to see others the ones like me were not far from reach when i was sixteen she said to me you have a demon possession i said what the fuck does that mean she said she couldn't be my friend those were the worst days of my life and all the hick boys loved to harass me so i flaunted my hatred of the flag my mother cried when i shaved my head

Honest and unfiltered like most Team Dresch songs, I especially fixated on the last line about her mother. Instead of writing my first name and a boys last name all over my binders, I would write that lyric. But, no one cried when I shaved my head. There were critical reactions far and wide, but never tears.

My mom was not happy about the news that I was rejecting compulsive straightness, she was not happy that I was starting to dress more and more masculine, she was not happy about my hair being short on my head. Her unhappiness was unselfish and in regards to safety and family. But I was still offended and outraged at what I took to be fake liberal ideals and a lack of support in what was already a difficult and confusing situation. But parental disapproval of queerness is generally expected, so I complained to my friends a bit, listened to Team Dresch as if I could relate to religious indoctrination, and then hunkered down to wait out the likely evaporation of motherly disappointment.

I can't remember the first time I shaved my head. I think my friend Abbey may have done the dirty deed since her excitement and support for my changing self was eternal. I could always count on her for a mohawk or a tight buzzcut, but mostly for the encouraging words that went with such a dramatic haircut that asked for at least a little bullying and snickering. Her goodwill overshadowed what could have been pure mess.

There was a day when my hair was starting to grow back into a wavy blob of ugly and somehow it was decided with my mom that I would go to a hair salon for a professional cut. She was hoping I would get a haircut that promoted a less radical look and somehow I felt guilty enough to agree.

We went to a place called The Yellow Balloon that was definitely for children and for children only. I was 17 and way too old to be going to a place that had a Claw Crane game and literally handed out yellow balloons to their patrons for being well behaved during the haircut.

The hairstylist was talkative and dismissive. She sat me down, threw the cape over my body, and asked me what kind of cut I wanted. Just a trim, I said. And that was that. No further questioning, she just took out her shears and went to work while chatting with my mom. Minutes later, she unbuttoned the cape and I met my mother's eyes as we reviewed the haircut. Something was off. It was too short on the sides and too long on the top. My face was unflatteringly elongated.

Unfortunately, my mother and I both lack the natural instinct (backbone) to demand customer satisfaction. But after our shock dissipated, we briefly discussed the issue sitting on my head and concluded it was too bad not to try and fix. Shamefully walking back to the hairstylist, my mom told her that I looked too much like a boy. Which, wasn't exactly the issue, because I didn't mind looking like a boy. It's just, some haircuts for men don't suit my womanly facial features. And this was one of those haircuts.

Now it was the hairstylist's turn to be stunned. She stammered: Oh, I thought she was a boy. It was awkward. Everyone was embarrassed and all for different reasons. My mom came up with a solution: Shave it all off, she said. That was her idea and THAT was how bad this haircut was.

After this happened I couldn't even possibly conceive of re-telling this story to anyone, much less of having a blog to laugh over these types of incidents. But now, I know why this happens and I'm prepared for it. I give specific instructions to people who are going to cut my hair, buy me clothing, or point me in the direction of the restroom.

The hairstylist obliged, and for what Abbey could've done in five minutes and for free and with love and affection, my mom paid $20.

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