I got carried away with the scissors. My gaze stunned into the mirror at the buzz cut with the fades on the side of my perfectly oval head. There was no other remedy. The only place that could put those stranglers out of their misery was the barbershop. A delightful experience in which I got to glimpse into the alternate world in which men are free to be silly and childlike while still maintaining a most appealing sense of masculinity. I arrived there a bit sheepish but desperate to salvage the few hairs I had left poking off my scalp all at different lengths and some in curls and some bone straight. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised I thought, as I squeezed the last bit of gel out of the tube; that I would come out looking like a 16 year old boy; but the massaging elegance of the clippers, soothing relaxation of the old school RnB and the cathartic small talk of each others gripes left me numb to giving any female directives or questioning the artist with the array of different razor blades laid out on his proud station.
Its not the first time in my life that I had a ‘boy doo” but that was back when I was 11 years old and my matted afro; in which the round ball of frizz, was the bane of my existence but had a social life of it’s own. One to which every onlooker seemed to need to pet in order to see if their fingers would not get cut up and bloodied, “It’s so soft…., we just can’t believe it… how interesting??”. My “puffball” “burning bush” and “brillo” wouldn’t have stood out to anyone in a typical ethnic neighborhood especially during the mid eighties, before hair extensions and reverse perms were mandatory for a black girl and most importantly a light skin “mixed” senorita; Where I came from the closes to normal for an atypical girl was the unfortunate curly haired brunettes’. The ones embarrassed by the need to ask me for advice and who had to shop off the diversity shelf at the CVS. At that age I decided in order to survive and most importantly not draw attention to myself, I would need to take the high road and pretend that I wasn’t superficial and that I could care less that mine would never make a pony tail swing just by walking or that being mistaken for my twin-in-face- older brother, by adults, didn’t bother me.
My face is a bit older now and the grey’s can’t be hidden especially at first unrecognizable glance at my door reflection but true to form, the mind went right back to it’s defense response. Pretending to be not superficial and to maturely and boldly decide that a proud black lady refuses to hide who she is or wear a hat! So I choose to not leave the house for the next month as a fair trade off. The shame is not the same intensity as so long ago when I was under the microscope of unforgiving boys; when I wanted desperately to feel girly and participate within feminine attributes that came in the form of mom putting my hair into a French braid. Not the two sided one pressed neatly behind each ear, but the long mane one sitting perfectly down the back of the head. How I longed for those straight as an arrow white scalp lines, drawn with the little black comb along each plait and just a wisps of hair poking out the bottom of the elastic swooped up in a feathers whoosh. Today I could honestly say that I no longer wish for hair like a “white girl” and I am even appreciative of this wild bushy mess I used to have, but as I wait for to re-emerge and I sit in the boyish outlines from my other chromosome, I still long for the feminine essence of my middle aged body to let the 11 year old flashback know that it will all grow back and until then it is ok to wear a hat.