Tuesday, 19 January 2016

New Hair // Diary

I've been meaning to post this last year around July when this was actually written but I was feeling too self conscious about it all. Now that the effects (refer to below) have really mulled down somewhat or perhaps naturalised, I found the unposted draft.

I’ve had my hair cut. It’s the shortest it’s ever been – not unless you include the time I took a pair of

kitchen scissors to it behind the lounge age five. Besides my mother’s initial mortification and dread

of the next three months having to confirm her daughter’s gender, there was no harm done. I’m a

lot older now and I’ve been meaning to have it this short for a long time, and mum’s grateful I’ve

given her more notice. However my age seems to connote a problem, along with the fact that I’m

also Asian.

Having Asian hair is both a blessing and a curse. I’ve been stuck with these “luscious,” “silky,”

“knotless,” “envious” locks for my whole life. It was something that began to define me in highschool

and it wasn’t something I hated or loved. I think my hair meant more to people than it did for me. At

age sixteen I had chopped my spine length hair to my shoulders, intending to have a wig made of it

for my grandmother undergoing cemo. When I walked into her bedroom with the wardrobe mirror

covered in floral wrapping paper, found her under the sheets, I gently brushed her nose with my

new short hair. She woke up and cried. Mourning my tresses. That was the day I realised Asian

presupposes that you keep your hair long, inconvenient and in your way to maintain a sort of

femininity. And I swear I’ve been cursed with seriously fast growing hair ever since.

Customary to having any hair cut (not trim) people will ask you why you did it. Your garden variety

answer would be “You know, just wanted a change...” Sometimes I say that it was a lesson I wanted

to teach my cousin that was adamant that to distinguish a boy from a girl is to simply look at their

hair. Both of these and whatever else I’ve told anyone is correct. But after recycling the same

answers I felt like it was no longer enough, as people would pressed on and ask if I had any regrets.

To which I said no. It use to take me ten minutes to shower and now I get bored by the third, having

finished in two minutes. Damn straight no ragrets. On a serious note, regret for me seems to refer to

recklessness or brashness, both of which was not felt. I began to think people thought I had an

ulterior motive something on the lines of my psyche and reminiscent of Britney.

Seeing my uncle who is a health practioner at a family gathering over the weekend, I was confronted

with a proposition I had not entertained. He mentioned that “Usually women will go for an extreme

hair cut as a result of trauma like a bad break up or death of a loved one as a means of coping.” I

laughed and said without thought “Then maybe I’m repressing!” The rest of the day I felt his gaze on

me as I reached for the cheese knife. Lightly put, society has been relatively civil to me and so I don’t

think of myself as a hard-core feminist or going through any phase that stereotypically engenders

short hair cuts, even my motives behind my hair is not even clear for me - some may read that in

itself as the motive. Moreover, what I know to be true is that this encounter had made me self-
conscious and probed me to seek out my reasoning. I’ve observed that I have tended towards skirts

more often than jeans or trousers, a little more lip stick and mascara.

I also want to emphasise that I didn’t have a Britney moment, everything was planned and even

researched. Back a few months a found an article on the lines of “Something to consider before

going all pixie.” It included a list of instructions to measure your jaw from (1) the edge to the point of

your chin and (2) your ear to the edge again. Those two measurements are to be subtracted and if

they fell between 0-2 cm, you share the same dimensions as Audrey Hepburn so pass go and chop. It

failed to mention what to do next if you didn’t. With that anxiety, I didn’t measure myself and

moved on. A few weeks ago I hitched a ride with my mum’s weekly grocery shop and left my mum in

the front of Woolworths with a cryptic “love you,” and found a barber. No questions, he doesn’t let

me go back on my request so after swapping from shears to shaver and taking a moment half way to

alleviate a cramp in his wrist, he hands me my pony tail. I hold it in front of me palms up as he

continues to fuss about my remaining hair, it felt like a dead animal, a sort of painless amputation,

an expendable limb with blonde highlights from three years ago. I knew I should have felt immense

liberation or utter dismay but all I felt was a physical weight off my head. I looked into the mirror

and of course I’m no Audrey Hepburn, but I was content.

Give it a month and I’ll be more like a bob and the question will be whether I should cut it again. I

still can’t seem to pinpoint my moment of trauma or whatever catalyst caused my slow spiral into

cultural rebellion this late in my teenhood. Then again I might just be repressing.


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