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I should probably go in. It’s been thirty minutes. I feel ridiculous for being so anxious. My initial rationalization was that I would be more comfortable waiting for my turn in the car. The hair stylist finished with her last patron ten minutes ago. I am still outside, staring in, like a dork.
I text Nix (my partner) for back up. “Anxious as fuck. Still outside. Will you come?” He responded back immediately. “Stay where you are. I am on my way.”
I shouldn’t feel this wound tight. I know rationally that this response is what happens when I let my anxiety take the reigns and run. What’s a haircut anyway? right?
I have a contemptuous relationship with my hair. It has the grand distinction of being both thin and frizzy. I have cowlicks for days. I am also butch.
My hair, and it’s ‘personality’, has been a visual reminder that I fail to fit the “girl” standard. Flowing locks, I have not. For years I piled it on my head in a messy bun, covered it with the hood from my sweatshirt and tried to forget that it existed. I also have an impressive collection of beanies. I’ve attempted haircuts in the past that ended up making me look like a blonde soccer mom. Most of this is due to my mumbling communication about how short I want it. Let us not forget my inability to tell the stylist I hate what they did. I would like them to try again; this time like the picture I brought in. “I don’t want a “pixie-cut.” I want you to snag the clippers, pop on a #2 guard, and shave the sides of my head like I asked.” I just shrug, tip the stylist, and bitch all the way home about my matronly suburbanite hair cut.
It’s summertime. It’s hot and sticky. My hair is driving me crazy. Nix encouraged me to “pursue authenticity” and cut it the hell off. Here I sit, staring down the stylists rolly chair like a creature that is likely to eat me whole.
Nix rolls up and parks beside me. He grabs my hand and guides me firmly to the door. “J, you have been complaining about your hair for months. You have split ends. It keeps breaking off. I keep digging hair out of the drain, but most of all, it makes you feel bad about yourself. Get in the damn chair already.”
The stylist checked me in and swept me to the back for a shampoo. The washing station comes into view. I relax a little. Getting my hair washed is in my top five favorite activities, right behind sleeping. In between sudsing and the head massage, she asked me what I wanted to have done. I explain that I want super short hair that I could style quickly with a little product. She responds “You need to be careful not to cut it too short. You will regret it later. How will you catch a man with hair like that?”
Lordy. Lordy. Lordy.
What the actual hell? I am Queer as the day I was born. Regardless, even if I was hetero, what does my haircut have anything to do with my relationship status? Not a damn thing. Bullshit misogynistic rhetoric from a service provider while they have me trapped in a chair is my favorite *cue eye roll*.
She leads me back to the rolly chair. I show her the picture I brought with me. She clucks her tongue and starts to cut my hair. Nix watches with an amused look on his face for a short while before interjecting that I want it shorter. The stylist harrumphs and continues to work. Nix interjects, “I promise you, she wants it shorter.”
The stylist spins my chair around with much aplomb. I stare in the mirror and a middle-aged housewife stares back at me. Don’t get me wrong, she is a hot middle-aged house wife. My stomach drops. My hands are sweaty. I full-on panic. The stylist waits expectantly for my reaction. Nix nods his head knowingly.
I fucking hate this part. This moment right here is why more often then not I have someone cut my hair with clippers in my kitchen. It never fails. Damn it to hell.
I muster my courage and words stumble awkwardly out of my mouth. “Ummm.. *mumble mumble* Thanks… um…. I really like the hair cut in the picture… *mumble mumble* Could you cut the sides down with a clipper with a #2 guard and trim the top?”
“If I use the clipper you will look like a man. Do you want to look like a man?”
I move instantly from anxious to mad. “Apparently, I do. I don’t have a penis, I might as well get the haircut instead.” Nix piped up, “#2 clippers will totally make you a dude. I say embrace it, my love. Dudes are hot. I would totally do you as a dude.” The stylist forcefully spins my chair around, and breaks out the clippers. The vibration and hum of the clippers herald my freedom. My hair falls in piles of victory on the floor around me.
The clippers click off. I can feel the ceiling fan blowing on my head. She spins me back around. She stands there behind me with her hands on her hips. I can tell she is irritated. “I told you ma’am. I told you that if I clipped the sides, you would look like a man.” I want to rail at her. Shouldn’t women stick together? What about the bonds of sisterhood and all that crap? Gender stereotypes and misogyny be damned. It is all I can do to keep my emotions in check and get out the door. The door chimes announcing my escape to the rest of the shop.
As soon as I reach the cracked sidewalk outside I throw my arms around Nix’s neck. I softly kiss his face in way of thanks. He rubs his finger tips up and down the back of my head humming appreciatively. “I like this. You should do this more often. This is good…. hmmmm” I respond in kind, “I like you too.”
Sunlight bounces off the plate glass window. My reflection catches in my peripheral vision. A woman standing confident and tall with tattoos and a rad haircut smooching her boyfriend. She looks relaxed and happy. She is radiant.
For the first time in my life, the woman in my reflection is me.

Jerusha Gray

Jerusha Gray is insatiably curious. This curiosity, coupled with a brain that never shuts up, drives her to paint and draw, read prodigiously, make music, write, and sing in grocery stores.


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