Gimme a head with hair
Long, beautiful hair…
—from Hair, title song of the musical (Rado/Ragni)
It was all because of a boy. I will call him Casey.
He sat behind me in eighth grade math class.
One day while working out some algebraic thing (that should give you an inkling of my math prowess), I felt a gentle tug on my hair.
“Don’t look back,” Casey whispered. “What did you get for number one?”
I shouldn’t do this. It is wrong.
But I leaned ever so slightly to the right, shifting my paper to the left…
I heard Casey’s pencil scraping away against the paper behind me.
He was cute. At least, I thought he was.
I had long straight hair and glasses. I was shy. A good student, mostly. Except for math.
I should probably tell him this.
As the papers were being collected, I turned around: “I’m not all that great at math.”
He leaned back in the desk. “I ain’t either. It’s my third time in this class!”
He smiled. He had curls.
My heart melted.
I worked a lot harder on my math and made sure my paper was aligned just so…
One day as the class was filing in, Casey took his seat behind me and said, “Your hair is really long.”
This was before I’d heard of Never state the obvious… I replied, “Yeah.”
“It’s like, almost touching the seat.”
Inside, I glowed.
Outside of math class, I only saw him from a distance. Wearing his jean jacket, standing quietly with a group of friends, mostly girls who smoked and wore makeup and large hoop earrings that peeped through their feathered hairstyles…
This must have been what gave me the idea.
I told my mom: “I want to cut my hair.”
“Really? All you ever wanted was long hair.”
True, due to years of horrible, life-scarring shags, Mom… “I am tired of it. I want to do something different.”
“Well, Rachel is going to cosmetology school. I bet she’d cut it for you.”
And so it was that Rachel from across the street came over to our kitchen one afternoon.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” she asked. She regarded me with wide green eyes full of apprehension.
“Yes. I am sure.”
“How short do you want to go? What sort of style do you have in mind?”
“Maybe to my shoulders and feathered back.”
She nodded. It was the current rage. Everybody was wearing it.
She sat me on a chair, draped me with a cape, brushed my long brown hair that fell past my waist. She put the brush down and picked up the scissors and the comb.
“Are you SURE you’re sure?” she asked.
“Yes. I am ready.”
She put a ponytail holder in my hair at my shoulders, and with a couple of grating slices, my long ponytail fell in the floor. She picked it up, placed it in my lap, and began to cry.
She cried the whole time she snipped, sliced, and created exactly what I’d envisioned.
“I love it!” said my mom. “You look like a different person!”
That was, after all, the point.
“Your hair!” gasped my friends at school. “It looks great! I can’t believe you cut it!”
I got to math class early and tried to make myself busy…
Here came Casey, ambling in, taking his seat…
It took a minute, but then:
“Whoa. You cut your hair.”
Warmth flooded my face; I dared not turn around. I bowed and let my newly-layered locks sweep over my cheeks.
Worth it, worth it, worth it!
At least, I thought so.
And that’s the end of the story.
I do not know what ever became of Casey. I can’t recall seeing him after that year, really. I presume he passed eighth grade math, finally. I somehow managed it. He must have been in dire straits, indeed, to copy off of me. For the record: the teacher knew. I saw her watching us one day, which terrified the life out of me, but she did nothing…did she figure there was just no point, or no hope, for Casey? Or for me? I wonder…just as I wonder about the outcomes of many decisions made for the most dubious of reasons, but the truth is, I never regretted cutting my long hair.
It still grows pretty fast.
The annual Slice of Life Story Challenge with Two Writing Teachers is underway, meaning that I am posting every day in the month of March. This marks my fifth consecutive year and I’m experimenting with an abecedarian approach: On Day 8, I am writing around a word beginning with letter h. I’ve often modeled Georgia Heard’s “first times” and “last times” Heart Maps with students and teachers as a means of brainstorming writing ideas. Sometimes I’d list “the last time I had really long hair” or “the first time I cut my long hair” as a possibility. Here’s one of my “last times” maps. I’ve written a few of these stories. I’ve finally gotten around to writing the hair one here, at last.