It was a frugal option, my parents’ decision to have the cosmetology students at the community college cut my hair.
So up Mom, my brother, and I went, past the greenhouse that held Dad’s office,
up to the 70s architecture of the admin building, and into a building that looked like an auto-shop.
I took my seat in the swivel chair, and the women – it was all women, as I recall – gathered round.
I was 13, and so of course, I cared not one jot about my appearance.
“Please leave the top a little long and just shave here, on the left side above my ear.” I had adopted the posture of a skater chic, and so this asymetrical hair cut and my ability to peg my pants perfectly over my multi-colored Chucks were essential aspects of my being.
Out came the scissors, trim, trim, trim. Then, the shears, buzz, buzz, buzz, and buzz, buzz, buzz. Before I could stop them – and at 13, I’m not sure I had the nerve to do so – half of my head was shaved. A full half. Down to stubble.
I just stared at myself in the mirror. Mom came over, “What’s done is done. Looks good.” Paid the women, and we left.
As an artist, it’s my job to push the boundaries, to make people squirm a little, to help people see what might challenge their beliefs – about hairstyles, or the “place” of women, or the myth that human trafficking is a problem only outside the United States. (Between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked in the United States each year.)
My job is not to maintain the status quo, or to try to figure out how to make my readers comfortable so they’ll keep coming back to read more. That job is reserved for the marketers – it’s the role of people who figure out the optimal balance of tart and sweet in Dr. Pepper.
The next day, at the tiny Christian school I attended – the one that required I wear white, oxford-cloth shirts, navy blue skirts that reached mid-calf, and panty hose every day – the head teacher said, “Oh, Andi. This is not acceptable. You will have to do something about it.”
With a night’s sleep and a growing rebellion against the tight physical and theological strictures of the school, I smiled and said, “Well, I could shave my whole head if you wish.”
She frowned and walked away.
My first lesson in what it meant to be countercultural. And I hadn’t even done so intentionally.
I’m still proud.
What do you do as a writer to push the boundaries? In what ways are you helping people see new? How are you countercultural?