|Honorable Mention: Best Pride
"Haircut: a personal release"
By Briana Valderrey - NC
2012 KarMel Scholarship Submission
Description of Submission:
"A light-hearted nonfiction take on the trials of maturing into confidence, happiness, and finally getting a lesbian
haircut." - Briana
Why Karen and Melody Liked It:
We liked the simplicity of this story about a girl wanting to get a lesbian haircut.
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My hair—straight, thick, sandy blonde—kept up a fairly credible pretense of docility until I was about
eleven years old. I’d blame its following transmogrification on puberty, but years of reflection have taught
better: it was retribution. At age eleven, self-assured and brash, I had fashioned myself bangs with a pair
of pink plastic arts and crafts scissors. Naturally, the results in the mirror were less Britney-era Britney
Spears than I had envisioned—but surely, I hyperventilated, nobody could make fun of my bangs if they
couldn’t see them. So at age eleven and a few minutes, fumbling and desperate, I sheared my new bangs
millimeters from my scalp, with results more recalling of Frankenstein’s monster than anyone knew how to
From that time onwards it was all-out war. My hair grew heavier, darker, and unruly. It remained wet six
hours after a shower; it snarled and frizzed the instant it lost contact with a brush; it resisted all irons; it
suffocated my ears and neck in a heat trap made worse by North Carolina humidity. My personality
retracted as my hair multiplied. Too embarrassed to demand a real change, for years I attempted only half-
hearted, unsatisfying grabs at regulation through a cycle of growing it down to my chest and cutting it
somewhere around my chin. When I was fourteen and traded my glasses for contacts I discovered a small
source of relief, so along with the occasional pigtail braids, each one as thick as my wrist, ponytails
became my go-to daily style of presentation—my name was almost synonymous with them. Formal events
called for vast resources: after my sister’s wedding I lost count pulling fifty-some bobby pins out of my up-
do (more fell out in the shower the next morning); after my senior prom a friend helped monkey-pick my
head to the tune of 89.
I can count on one hand the number of school days I wore my hair down, to the chagrin of just about
everybody I loved. More male than female friends seemed disgruntled, but with each passing day I cared
less about male opinions, a reality that grew steadier for me as I moved into the wilds of New York City.
There I began work at a Brooklyn elementary school, and while I otherwise matured tentatively into my
sexuality and a sense of self-sufficiency, my hair remained a constant point of aggravation, especially to
my students. “Why don’t you ever let your hair down?” they would ask as they unabashedly broke my
personal space bubble and ran their hands through the tangles. “It’s so soft.” Soft, sure, but hectic and
distressing and feral and quite possibly vindictive. I couldn’t stand much more of it.
In the November of my ensuing enrollment at Columbia University I decided it was time to end it all. Armed
with a salon coupon given to me by a sweaty promoter back in the August humidity, I marched to 20th
Street and demanded a change.
“How old are you?” asked the male stylist, with a light Portuguese accent.
“You look old and tired.” Pityingly. “I make you look sixteen.”
I didn’t want to look sixteen. “I want my hair short, off my neck and ears…” A dyke haircut, of course,
but my fledgling breaches into a lesbian friend circle couldn’t yet embolden me enough to say that.
“Are you sure? It is a big step.”
“But your hair is thick and beautiful. No, trust me, I make you look young and pretty.”
I walked into that salon with hair down to my chest, and walked out with it somewhere around my chin;
I’d caved in to the cycle again. And I looked fourteen, that bastard.
I was sad. I was panicked. I could barely hide the result in a ponytail, and the anti-frizz treatment I’d had
forced on to me for an extra $100 yielded no improvements whatsoever. Above all, I was angry. I was
really, really angry. My fury boiled until the necessity of an honest change could no longer be ignored, and a
few weeks later I marched back to the same salon, dead-set and much more convincing.
"But your hair is so thick and beautiful!" cried the cute Filipina stylist.
"It's excruciating, cut it off."
"Maybe you want to try some cute layers?”
"Holy cow, no, get rid of it."
"OH GOD JUST CUT IT OFF."
She gave in and I wound up with a sort of primordial-looking mullet that left some hair on my neck “so you
still look feminine.” That hadn’t been a priority and was frankly offensive, but I could handle that later,
because Oh God I finally did it. Any scared tears vanished in a freedom I had been afraid I would never
know. Showers got shorter; tangles and frizz disappeared; the heat trap evaporated; I could finally wear
hats. Mullet or not, it was better than I had dared dream. I unironically skipped around my apartment in a
victory dance to ‘Hair’ (“long, beautiful hair”) and giggled in front of the mirror as I combed personalities:
Douchebag! Newscaster! Early twentieth century American novelist! When I visited, I asked my old
students in Brooklyn their opinions: about an equal split of “I like it,” “Don’t ever cut your hair again,” and
“You look like Justin Bieber.” It was bliss.
Two months and 80 uptown blocks later, under styling scissors wielded coolly by a hairdressing lesbian
friend, the unnecessary hair on my neck was removed and I came away with a more harmonious and, of
course, quintessentially homosexual look. Free from frustration, bobby pins, and the fear of being scalped,
my hair and I are on great terms. To the chagrin of absolutely nobody I wear it down all of the time now, and
still enjoy the passing remarks from strangers in the street complimenting me or confusing me for a fifteen-
year-old boy and sometimes—best times—both.