I need a haircut. At the end of my hairs it’s Split-End Village, and no one wants to live THERE.

When I say haircut, I’m not talking dramatic shearing. Maybe an inch or so, max. Some nice layers, to make curling not a nightmare. My hair is pretty long right now, bordering on wild. I went to bed with it slightly damp last night, and woke up with a modern art sculpture on my head. But it kills me to pay money to get my hair cut. It’s easy to spend quite a bit of money. I usually leave feeling both ebullient from my new ‘do and also like I’ve just been punched in the stomach.

Years and years and years ago, right before I left home for college, I chopped off all my hair. Well, someone else chopped it off. See, I had this fantasy that I could have a gamine hair cut. You know, the one that looks really good on people like Natalie Portman, Michelle Williams, Audrey Tautou. Yeah, that. Fringy, little shaggy, softly curling wisps, feminine and oh yeah, almost impossible with Asian hair.

Sidenote: Most of the time, Asian hair is straight. Very, freaking, straight. I’ve met a few of us who have naturally curly (yup, it happens) strands, but for the most part, straight as an arrow-board-christian-right-republican. Which wouldn’t be straight at all, actually. Anyhoo.

Upon consulting the hair artist (loosely, I use this term), he decided that to achieve the desired gamine effect, we would need to perm my hair first. Texturizing, was the word he used, I believe. Awesome. Texturize the shit out of it, I said. I’m going to the Midwest. Let’s do this bitch. I’d already been subjected to several at-home spiral perms, so what was an actual professional job going to be, but much much better?

Sidenote #2: Just because you pay money for something doesn’t give it inherent value.

Two hours later, I had an Asian ‘fro. Like, WOW. Big hair. Giant follicles. Cloud of darkness. Wait, I said, in awe. Look at that. Look at how BIG –

But he’d already started to cut, and I remember seeing this sort of gleam come into his eye. Clearly, it had become Hairdresser Vs. Wild Mane of Madness, and he attempted to tame it for the next two hours.

I came into the salon with a bunch of magazine pages in my hand. They featured slender, tall girls with pixie styles. I came into the salon wearing baggy cargos and an oversized flowered shirt. I came into the salon with long, straight hair and a keen desire to shed my dependence on it for

a) attention
b) approval
c) appeal
d) identity
e) all of the above

I’d always had long hair, and for some reason, I was sick of it. Also, I wanted to be tall and skinny. Clearly, this haircut was going to achieve that.

However. HOWEVER.

At the end of the taming attempt, the hairdresser flung aside his shears and leaned against the wall, panting. He regarded me with the kind of intense scrutiny reserved for microscopic entities on the receiving end of a high-powered lens. Inwardly, I flinched. Outwardly, I just sat there.

“Oh my god,” he murmured.

“Oh my god?” I said.

“Jessica! Come in here! Look!”  he called, yanking the cape from my neck and flourishing it like a bullfighter. “It may be my best work!”

Jessica trotted in obediently, and he whirled the chair around so we could all gaze at his masterpiece in the mirror.

You know, long hair is fun. Long hair can be twirled into an almost endless variety of styles. Braids, coils, tails, curls, buns, festoons. Men dig it. Women dig it. Babies like to pull on it. Some cats use it to play with. When I saw myself in the mirror, all of those facts came flying at me like rabid bats. Oh god. Oh dear god. What is that. What is that terrible, horrible, UGLY thing.

I got up from the chair in a daze. I paid in a stupor. I walked out to the car to meet my mom who took one look at my face and began clucking. I put on my seatbelt and began to cry.

It wasn’t until well into my freshman year that I returned to being on speaking terms with my hair. Until then, I ignored it as much as I could, and kept it jammed under a variety of hats. Surely, the Midwest didn’t need another Asian with a head shaped like a Q-tip. Come to think of it, that really isn’t needed anywhere.

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