content warning: homophobia, mention of sexual violence
as the clock counts down to me sitting in a hairstylist’s chair to get my hair chopped off—a clock that started its countdown years ago in my head, but has only recently been given a definitive calendar date of May 18th, 2019—i’ve on-and-off made an effort to help my mom ‘get over it.’
not that i give a damn what she thinks of my hair, mind you, but i’ve got a point to hammer home with her and i’m a persistent fuck. this same woman, who was set against me locing my hair, to begin with, has in recent years been vocally against me doing away with it in favor of very short natural hair. in spite of my lack of fucks to give, her hair insecurity—in the present and throughout my childhood—does piss me off.
but i digress; that is a topic to delve into another time.
[but] you[‘ll] look like a boy.– my mom, since forever
in my eagerness to be free of my locs, i’ve been accumulating photos of hairstyles that i like for years now. it’s only recently that i gave into the pressure put upon me via Google image searches & Pinterest to create an account on the latter site and start a ‘board’ or collection of inspirational hair photos. it’s been really helpful for me both in terms of organization and visualization, but this past weekend it came in handy as a functional link to give to my mom as clarification, visualization of what i had in mind when i said that i was going to go “short”.
time to push the envelope a step further.
twenty minutes of hair banter later, so far, so good! over a year of repeatedly throwing the idea of me having short natural hair at her had successfully afforded me our longest discussion of hair without a conversation killers yet!
pointing out specific photos of styles that i’m currently leaning towards, but still undecided on, i decided to solicit her opinion on them specifically. one thing lead to another and we ended up navigating away from my Pinterest board to the Instagram of the specialist salon that i have an appointment with, Mr. Naturalz. it’s when i brought her attention to this photo, in particular, is when the inspiration for this post—yet another in an ongoing series of awkward conversations—took place.
“what do you think of this one?”, i asked before verbally describing the picture to her, effectively directing her attention away from a hairstyle that she liked, but that i had zero interest in. once she’d found the picture in question, it took her all of a second to respond.
“i don’t like that one.”
“wha, why?” i asked, genuinely confused. we’d looked at so many short hairstyles in the past twenty minutes that i saw no particular reason for her to straight up reject this one, which wasn’t all that different from the others in my mind. “it’s super simple and na—”
“it’s too butch.”
“too ‘butch’??” i repeated, incredulously, although she didn’t seem to notice. she had already moved on, suggesting a different photo for me to look at, but i couldn’t move on without knowing.
“wait, wait, hold up—you said ‘butch’. how do you, of all people, know that word?” i mean, seriously. how the hell did my Christian minister of mom know that word while being seemingly oblivious to everything else LGBT??
she scoffed at my surprise. “college. i was young too once, you know.”
yeah, but that didn’t really answer my question. “but why? how did you come in contact with that word in college? in what situation? under what circumstances??” GIVE ME DETAILS, WOMAN!
she seemed to brush off my questions, randomly commenting on other things, until she finally answered, knowing that i wasn’t going to let up until she did.”
“the warned us about the dykes and the butches—”
“warned you??” ogod.
“—yes, warned us. in the dorms.”
“seriously??” i said in disbelief, except… not really.
“what? it was the 70’s. that’s the kind of language that people used back then.” she added defensively.
“i’m not offended by the language, just the context. why did anyone feel the need to warn students about dykes and butches in dorms??” i could venture a guess, but i don’t want to assume. i need to hear you say it. i need to know your internalized context for this word.
“what? you think girls didn’t get raped in the dorm showers??” she said all too matter of factly. ogod.
“showers then weren’t like showers now. they were six stalls to a room—”
“we still have changing rooms & locker room these days, mom, and that’s beside the point—”
“—there weren’t any curtains! anyone could see you, there was no privacy,” she said, again defensively.
but as far as i was concerned, that conversation was over and i let her know as much. knowing my mom and knowing me, if we delved into it any further than that, i’d get pissed off, which means that i’d get snappy with her, which wouldn’t have helped anyone or anything, so The End.
to me, the photo that started the conversation was simply another photo of someone with a short hair cut; one that had warranted no cause for pause before drawing my knowingly homophobic mom’s attention to it.
to my mom, there was something about the photo—or rather, the person in the photo—that distinguished what she saw in it from what she saw in others. the person’s attire? their face? the absence of “female-coded” accents in their self-expression?
i don’t especially care.
as reluctant as i am to admit it, knowing that something about that particular hairstyle—in addition to whatever else—read “BUTCH” to my mom… adds to the style’s appeal for me?
you’d think i was a teenager rebelling against a parent rather than a decades-past-teenager rebelling against The World…
…simply by doing whatever the fuck i want with the hair that grows naturally out of my head– fucking anti-black, binarist beauty standards.