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In May, my mom cut my hair for the first time in five and a half years.

When I was young, my mom cut my hair in her bathroom: me in her seat, swaddled by her white salon cape decorated with red Chinese characters. She snipped the edges of my hair as I squirmed.

The shortest she ever cut it was to my chin. After realizing I was trans in high school, I wanted my hair cut shorter. My sophomore year, I got my hair cut at the same Korean salon my mom went to. It was short, and I felt awkward, laid bare.

“You look like a boy,” my mom told me disapprovingly. That’s kind of the point, I thought. I got my hair cut every few months after that, growing more confident each time.

In college I seldom get my hair cut during the semester, banking on visiting the Korean salon when I go home for breaks. But when I came back this time, Monica couldn’t cut my hair, but my mom could. She asked to cut it every week. It was growing longer and longer, and when my remote semester finally ended, I agreed.

I asked for “a slope in the back.” “Oh, like a boy,” she said. “Sure,” I replied. In the same seat and cape I sat in as a 15 year-old, I watched her comb and trim my hair in the mirror.

She told me her razor used to make me cry when I was little. Every few minutes she asked me if I liked my haircut, if it was short enough. By the end, my hair wasn’t perfect—the slope ended abruptly and the sides didn’t clear my ears how I liked—but I was finally comfortable again.

“It’s good,” I said. “Thanks.” “Things aren’t good yet so I had to give you a haircut,” she said. “But don’t worry, you can get another one when things are good again.”

She cut my hair twice after that, before I left for St. Louis for the semester. It’s September now, and every month my roommate Natalie shaves her head in the bathtub with a razor.

“We may have to start shaving each other’s heads,” Natalie tells me.

I wonder what my mom would think.

MILES “BREAD” LEE September 2020 Capstone: Form and Function Set in IBM Plex Sans

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