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 couldnâ€™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. Itâ€™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