Baby Dyke, New Hair

by Anna Mills <AnnaRMills@aol.com>

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.


Copyright 2000 Moxie Magazine All Rights Reserved