Hair cut

Jan. 1st, 2014 10:43 pm
violetcheetah: (Default)
Somehow, Finness — my usual partner at work — and I ended up on the topic of hair cuts, in particular in childhood. I think this started with him telling about his older brother playing barber when said older brother was about 7 and Finness was about three or four, and of course involved a bleeding ear. He said he was scared to death of barbers for months after that. I said I'd been afraid of getting my hair cut when I was a kid, but that was just because I was afraid of everything when I was a kid, anything new and unknown.

When I turned four, my mother decided to take me to have photos taken at a little shop in town. I don't know why; we didn't sit for professional portraits, and this wasn't the whole family, just me. But first, she wanted my hair trimmed. Up until then, I'd never had the back of my hair cut, just my bangs, and only by her. What I said to Finness was true, but only part of the story. Partly I was freaked out by the experience because when my bangs were cut, my mother was in front of me, and I could see everything that was going on. Partly, I was afraid that the hairdresser — my aunt, who I loved dearly but who had short hair — would cut my hair short like hers. What I didn't explain was that, when I was four, my hair was the one girly thing about me that I liked. Everybody talked about how pretty it was, and it was the one part of me that I believed was pretty. It was part of who I was, a part that everyone approved of. I was sure that if it was gone, there would be nothing about me left that wasn't ugly.

I didn't explain that part, so I was surprised by what he said. Something about, "Yeah, that's part of your body they're messing around with." And somewhere in there, he said, "That's some intimate shit." And that word, "intimate," caught me completely off guard, because it was the perfect word.

Touching my hair was more intimate than probably touching any part of my actual body. I didn't own my body. It was foreign, uncomfortable, unwilling to do most things I wanted it to do. I was unaware of it most of the time, and when I was aware of it, it was usually because something was unpleasant. It didn't feel like the temple my soul was housed in, but more like the metal lamp Aladdin lived in. It housed me, but it wasn't a part of me, was as much a prison as a home, and was something I was just as glad to leave when I could.

And then there's praise. Compliments. Compliments are intimate. Especially compliments of one's body. Even complimenting your clothes is not the same thing; perhaps they just like the pattern, the drape, the fabric. The beauty might be in the way it hides your body, masks your hideousness. It's hard enough for me when someone says they love my skirt, even more my shirt. But when they compliment my hair, I don't just want to hide, I want to run. Because I've been seen, and approved of, and now that they've seen me and approved, what will they do? Will they take the part of me they like, take it from me and make it theirs, twist it somehow into something I never intended? What are they thinking? What other parts of me do they see? What other pieces of myself are no longer mine?

But even as I think these things, I cherish the words, pull them to me and clutch them to my chest. My hair is me, and I want to be seen, I want someone to think I am beautiful, not even so much out of pride, I think, but just because they are so pleased. Joyful. I woman at work, not even someone I like very much, passed me in the hall and paused and said, "You just have the prettiest hair." There was no envy, no cattiness, just the earnestness that comes from surprise. It was as if she were walking down the street and passed a flowerbed and saw something unexpectedly beautiful. I brought her joy, and it felt good. and I didn't hesitate when I said, "Thank you." I wasn't thanking her for finding me pretty, but for... for having allowed me to cause joy. I had brought her joy because she'd taken time to notice. I'd made someone's day better. It was another couple of seconds before the desire to run set in, before my mind reminded me of the danger that always comes with being seen, being noticed. But this time, she was gone before I could run, or stand frozen in terror. She said her piece, moved down the hall, and left me to savor the memory of a compliment without (much) repercussion.

***

I wrote the above over three weeks ago. It was random chance that later that same week, I'd see blue hair dye at Walgreens, of all places, and wonder if this brand would actually "take" in my hair. I've wanted to dye my hair blue since I first saw a blue-haired girl my freshman year at MIT. I didn't know at the time that there were any connotations to blue hair, or pink, or green, didn't know it often advertised non-mainstream sexuality, or at least was believed to advertise something kinky to most people. I just thought it looked cool. It took a year before I got the courage to ask her where she got the dye, and went to Hubba Hubba on Mass. Ave. I was 19 and a virgin, and I had a vague notion of what some of the leather goods in the store were for, but I didn't even blush, I don't think. I bought the dye, and the bleaching kit the clerk said I'd need, and did a strand test, and: nothing. I'd have gotten more color with a magic marker.

I did not buy the dye three weeks ago. I gave it some thought, waffled, and the next week when I was there, it was on sale, which either meant it sucked and they couldn't sell it, or the universe was telling me to go for it. So I bought it. Bleached the ends of my pigtails Sunday night, and put the dye in Monday night. And it took. Not only took, but is exactly the shade I wanted. I know it will fade, maybe the next time I wash my hair, and in a month I may grow tired of touching it up and cut the ends off. I don't know. But half my life and more I've waited, and at least for now, at least that part of me is 19 going on 10, knowing I'll be looked at sideways and presumed about, but maybe that's the point. It's me doing the misleading, me controlling what they see, me hiding in plain sight.


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Violet Wilson

October 2016

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