Cut short


photo illustration by Yasmin Haq

My hair shuffles off in chunks as the scissors slide through it with utmost precision for what feels like hours. The barber finally turns my chair around. I fumble for my glasses and peer into the mirror. I purse my lips together, holding back a grin from consuming my face. I feel free — all that hair weighing me down is gone. Staring back at me is someone new. Someone happy. As I shrug off the remaining strands of hair from my neck and shoulders, I lock eyes with my mother standing in the doorway of Supercuts. My excitement is extinguished by an impending sense of dread as I see the fire in her eyes and the scream about to leave her lips. 

The car door closes, and my mother’s fury is unleashed. What was I trying to do? Become a boy? According to her, I have resisted her when it came to appearances my entire life . I try to purposefully look bad just to make her upset. How could I have done this? Did I even see myself? My eyes fill with tears. 

Cutting my hair was an experiment. It was about expression and finding comfort in my appearance. It always seemed how I was supposed to look was something society had predetermined, and then decided to micromanage for me in the form of my mother. My childhood was a constant back and forth between what I wanted to wear and what my mother wanted me to wear. I didn’t really even understand what I was fighting for when I was a child. I just felt wrong and wanted to do something about it. 

It’ll grow back. That’s the consolation I received from my friends and family. But what if I didn’t want it to grow back? Initially I loved how I felt and looked, but after months of quiet disapproval, I felt I made a mistake. I was wrong. I was stupid. Having a boy cut seems so small in the grand scheme of things, and it is. But the sadness and doubt that I felt was real, and to me that is what mattered. 

The next six months went by with brisk remarks and disgusted glares directed at the mop on my head from someone I love dearly. The world had moved on, yet my mom could not, and instead she would narrow her eyes and glare in my direction. My mom is a wonderful person who is strong, talented and beautiful, but she couldn’t let go of her closed mind. 

I’ve eventually grown to fit some gender stereotypes or constructs, and I don’t have any qualms about that. I’m not trying to defy gender stereotypes for the sake of it, and I’m not looking to fight anyone. Things like makeup and long hair are what I’m satisfied with for now, but that may change in the next six months. 

I shouldn’t have to feel guilty about wanting to express myself. This ordeal regarding appearances since childhood wasn’t about defying my mom; it was about contentment. I don’t regret cutting my hair, even with the onslaught of negative feedback because it was an experience, though, it could have been an experience I enjoyed more. 

My mom still doesn’t allow me to cut my hair, and it frustrates me. Even if I don’t want to change my appearance currently, I want to be allowed to control something as basic as my appearance. The feeling goes deeper than a surface level power struggle over a haircut. My mom and her opinion matters to me, but the way she reacted was not OK. There’s a fine line between preference and forcing viewpoints on other individuals. It’s not acceptable to allow outside opinions determine how I look and feel.