There is a fury in the air, a fervor, energy seeping back into us all, one by one. Awake, alert, dressed, outside, and all before ten a.m. A bike ride to the grocery store for seitan-making and cake-baking supplies. Four kilos of flour, washed and sitting in the marinade. A lesson in splitting wood (not to be confused with chopping wood), people bustling around to cut and saw and measure and build and plant, others drinking coffee in the sun.
I had been thinking about it for a while, probably years. “Just cut it all off!” The words would creep into my mind and and shout before running back to hide in the shadows.
Except for that bob in fourth grade and that time when I was, well, a baby, I’ve always had long hair. Really, really long hair. At first it was just the way it was–too uninterested and lazy to do anything else, I just let it grow. Then, puberty, and I swear I must have had some self-confidence sometime, but it was quickly deflated, by the usual people, for the usual reasons. My hair became something to hide behind. “At least if my hair is pretty, people won’t notice that I’m not,” I thought. I wish it had never mattered to me at all, but that’s the thing with confidence deficeits, you seek out any kind of approval you can get your hands on, and some of it always ends up being superficial.
Fast forward ten more icky years of that. I moved to Germany, and–too poor for a salon and getting braver, just a little bit, each day–I bought some scissors, and I cut my hair myself for the first time in the bathroom. Snip snip snip! It felt good, strangely liberating, like taking off part of a mask. And the next time I cut it, I cut shorter, then shorter still. When I show friends pictures of me from three years ago, of me with long hair, they don’t even recognize me.
The whisper had been growing louder for days: “Cut it all off! Just do it!” So loud that I finally said something out loud. So I sat outside of the Kinowagen, and Scissors cut the front Real Short.
Now I have short hair. Short hair. You can see my face. There is nothing to hide behind anymore. I feel naked, exposed, panicked. “All because of a haircut?” I ask myself. “This is ridiculous,” I tell myself again, for the thousandth time in the last fifteen minutes. “It’s too soon!” my panic screams at me from the pit of my stomach.
I’d always imagined that just chopping off all my hair would be the perfect way to examine whatever confidence problems still cling to my consciousness, to fuck with gender norms, to really look myself in the face. Why I constantly insist on putting myself in uncomfortable situations in order to “learn something,” the me in the shock periods of my self-inflicted experiments will never understand. But it does seem to work, I can tell you that. My first thought when I looked in the mirror was, “I look like a boy!” “That’s the point, dumbass,” some other part of my brain retorted. “The only reason you care is because you’re too vain,” some other cerebral unit scoffed, “too hung up in mainstream standards of beauty.” “Your lover might not find you attractive anymore,” some crumb of the 17-year-old me whispered nervously. “Slide,” said Marla Singer’s voice in my head. Why Marla, seeing as I’m sitting at the top of the sliding board already, I think I will.