Baby Dyke, New Hair

by Anna Mills <>

From age 13 to age 21, I wore my hair in pretty much the same style. Shoulder length to mid-back, with bangs. Trying to be lovely - sometimes succeeding.

When I came out as a dyke, I wanted to say fuck you to lovely. Fuck trying to be feminine, when I didn't want to be. Fuck the guys I had written about for hours in my journal, trying to figure out what they wanted and what I had done wrong. Fuck the image of the perfect woman I had treasured, believing that someday I would be transformed. Chop off the sweet long hair that I hoped would help me always feel loved and worthy.

I was going to be visible. I was going to put up a sign saying, "This is a dyke - now deal!"

I marched into a beauty parlor. I laughed nervously as I told the cute young hair stylist, "I think I want it really short." The problem was, I couldn't imagine what I wanted it to look like. How would I translate all my feelings and ideas into hair? I couldn't imagine my face without long hair. I didn't know how to describe any short hairstyles, let alone one that would express my rebellion and my sexiness. I wanted a prophetess of hair to show me my style.

As the hair stylist asked me questions, I screwed up my face, thinking hard and drawing a blank. I answered every question with, "Um, yeah, I think so." I listened hopefully, and tentatively agreed with her suggestions. She didn't seem disturbed that I wanted my hair so short. Until one never-to-be-forgotten comment.

"How about if we shape it this way," she crooned, smoothing my remaining hair down around my ears. "That way it'll still be feminine," she reassured me.

I froze. She was soothing me -- telling me I would not be an outcast. I would still be attractive. I would still be recognizable as available and compliant. I heard the sympathy in her voice. I didn't want to hurt her. Besides, I was scared about people's reactions, in this small, rural college town. What was it safe to say, what fury would descend on me if I spoke plainly? So I just nodded grimly and said nothing. No matter how radical I tried to be, she was still going to make me into a sweet girl. Damn her!

I was silent, but as the locks of hair fell away, I relaxed a little. It was coming off. I felt lighter and freer. I had been waiting a long time.

Leaving that parlor, my hair was definitely short. I ran my fingers through it, dazed and smiling. I didn't regret one ounce of the hair she'd swept up from the floor. Unfortunately, my head looked like a helmet - the kind of style you see on a freaky, angular model, not on a down-to-earth crunchy dyke. My girlfriend was indulgent but skeptical.

The next time I got a haircut, I went to the barbershop. I figured they would get the message as soon as I walked in the door. I was determined to be friendly. But when I walked in, the mild middle-aged guy didn't seem surprised. He just motioned to a woman who was hovering at the back. She looked like a country singer, with red lipstick and frizzy blond hair. She was plump, apologetic and shy. For some reason, I liked her and felt sorry for her. She ran her comb through my hair, and kept asking exactly what I wanted.

I hesitated. "I just want it really short. Basic haircut."

She was eager to please, and started snipping away. But it wasn't long before the inevitable.

"How about a little longer right here - then it'll still be feminine!" she said in her high, soft voice.

Who was it who needed the reassurance? My heart sank again. I was silent that time too. I didn't want to hurt her feelings, and I still didn't have the words. But I did go back the next day to get a little more trimmed off.

I still don't have a clear picture of the cut I want, of the style that's going to be me. I'm still messing around to find it. But I did finally manage to get exactly as radical as I wanted. When I came home from my last haircut, my girlfriend declared that I looked like a military dyke. It was finally clear. The crowning moment was when I encountered my ex-boyfriend's mother, at a party. Her face went into a strange contortion as she recognized me. She could barely speak.

Next time a lovely young hairdresser reassures me that I'm going to stay feminine, I have some retorts in mind.

"Good thing -- my girlfriend's the butch, not me!"

"Oh, were you worried I might look like a dyke? Keep worrying."

"Actually, I'm starting hormones soon, so I'd rather have a man's cut to go with them."

Or, if I'm in a confident, nonviolent mood, perhaps the innocent, Socratic, "Hmm... why would I need to be feminine?"

I may rediscover my femininity one of these days. I'll learn to see the power and fiery beauty in a long-haired goddess. I'll wear skirts and necklaces again and feel sexy and assertive. I'll laugh at my former rebellion. Until then, let me and my hair rage.

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