Headway

About two weeks ago, I shaved my head.

Like dropping a pebble into a pond, I have to deal with the ripples – but, thankfully, not all of them have been negative.

Like the incident of a few days ago: I was sitting in the Science building of my university, waiting for my partner to finish an appointment with an adviser.  Left with nothing to do, I whipped out my iTouch and tapped at the screen with bored indifference. My attention was eventually distracted by a small scuffling noise and the appearance of legs in my peripheral vision.

It was a girl I had encountered a year or two prior. She had made a brief cameo in one of my sociology courses, where, after listening to the professor calmly explain the main project on the syllabus, she interjected briefly of the values and skills possessed by drag kings. I was fascinated – and, later on, crushed when she vanished from the class.

I had seen her on campus a handful of times since then, and barring a few exceptions almost all of them ended with us quietly skirting each other without a word. (One such exception was bumping into her at the career counseling office, where I congratulated her on getting a job there and she showed off her new sleeve tattoos.) But she approached me with the type of easy confidence that implied none of these awkward moments had ever happened.

“Hey,” she said. I probably blushed a little in response. Her face cracked into a huge grin, and though her gaze never technically left my face, I could feel her absorbing my new look. She noticed – and she liked it.

The next five minutes were composed of idle chit chat, but internally, I was walking on air. I’ve had quite a few compliments thrown in my direction before and since, and they’ve all helped me feel positive about my decision.

However, any time a woman does anything this drastic there’s going to be naysayers. The main detractor is, course, my mother. (Cue the groans – yep, come on, get them all out. Silly rebellious college student taking about her mother, blah blah blah. Old hat.)

Some highlights of her responses from the initial, terse phone call in which I told her what I had done:

  • “The world functions on first impressions, whether you like it or not.”
  • “Don’t act like you’re some daredevil or crazy rebel.”
  • “Do you know any straight girls who shave their heads? Do you?”
  • “I thought you were over all this… experimenting with your hair.”
  • “You can’t tell me it’s not a mannish, dyke-y kind of look.”

In some ways, I really can’t blame her for being upset. My brother is transgendered and sports a similar look, and so she can’t help but associate the loss of hair with her own personal sense of loss as a parent. She’s still wounded over my brother’s perceived injury, and it doesn’t help to have her younger daughter showing up looking like a smaller, more fragile clone.

Some people may be inclined to ask what kind of asshole would do this to her mother.

I don’t really have a defense. At certain points in the conversation, hearing the tears in her voice, I asked myself, “Why am I doing this? I really am a horrible, horrible child.”

Then, I flash back in my mind to the moment when my hair was falling all around my ears – the sense of exhilaration humming in my body, and the resulting child-like fascination when I saw my bare scalp for the first time. I felt truly and completely happy.

If you were to ask me what I would like to look like, I would say I would like to have either a shaved head or a freedom fighter haircut, several piercings, and a pair of bright sleeve tattoos, to start with. When I look into the mirror and I do not see these things, I am unhappy. I don’t mean casually unhappy, like when you have to wait in rush hour traffic or you spill your beverage in your own lap. I mean deeply discontent, like my body is made of too many angles and the wrong shade and everything is just wrong – a dully angry, unjust type wrong.

I’m not sure what this says about me.

Ah, this is getting long, isn’t it? Until next time, my friends…

[Edit:] I cut out a passage because it just sounded too maudlin to me. Maybe those thoughts will wind up in another entry.

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