“I. Am so. Sorry.”
I can’t speak. I’m trying; my mouth is expelling air that might’ve been something between a scream and a howl of laughter, but no sound is actually coming out. My fingers rub my temple, crawl backward, explore with disbelief. All I feel is fuzz – not peach fuzz, I wanted peach fuzz. This is like the fuzz on a zucchini, the fuzz of a tomato vine.
I’m bald. I’m totally bald.
Okay, I’m not totally bald. I’m bald in one patch, directly above my right ear. I asked Emily to do it – okay, maybe I told Emily I wouldn’t be upset if she did it. At the time a little haircut seemed like a good idea. My undercut needed a trim. Lucas had a razor. Tonight was the night.
What Emily failed to mention was that she had never actually used a buzz razor herself. So instead of shaving with the flow of the hair, removing scraggly tufts of blonde while keeping the skin of my scalp hidden, she went full scorched earth and left me shiny and exposed. I look like a mix between Natalie Dormer and Charlize Theron in Monster.
With some creative self-shaving and a few deep breaths, I clean up the rest of my bald spot and let the untouched strands cover the damage. Honestly, I don’t mind how bald I look. What scares me is how much harder it is to hide.
An undercut is a coiffure where the head is shaved underneath the bulk of the hair on the cranium. The locks hang over the bald patch unless they’re flipped to the other side, exposing the buzzed section. In other words, no one needs to know my head is shaved – unless I want her to.
My undercut is my beacon. It’s my trimmed nails, my wide stance, my right ear piercing. It’s my way of signaling to other women like me.
I’m not out, exactly. I discovered I was attracted to women when I was eighteen, a freshman in college living on an all-girls floor (not the best idea, if we’re being honest). I told my parents the summer after my freshman year, came out to most of my friends (most of whom were far from surprised), let it slip on occasion at parties or meetings. They say you keep coming out for most of your life, but I always held on to my ultimate privilege – my ability to ‘pass.’
With time, that internalized homophobia started to break down. I became more comfortable holding hands with girls on the street. I felt confident (or, maybe not terrified) hitting on girls at parties. But I always had my security blanket – my skirts, my red lipstick, my high heels and most of all, my long blonde hair.
Of course I’m not the first femme queer woman on the planet. But I think any femme would tell you it’s a privilege to avoid the baggy pants and keep the locks. You’re still buying in to those normative gender roles, which keep your life fairly cushy (or at least without too many hate crimes). Sure, I get shunned by the queer community, but I still date men so I’m already on the outs.
So back to my hair. I kept my hair long because it made things easier: I didn’t have to explain myself to employers, could remain a classic example of heterosimplicity for my family, could avoid the torment so many of my fellow queer women experience every day.
When I decided to get an undercut, I did it because I felt like I was being dishonest, but also because I felt like I was being excluded. I’m written off as the straight girl time and time again, and I guess that’s fair – I want to have my cake and eat it too, find a place within the queer community without taking the punches of a straight society. I guess I just wanted a place somewhere.
I love my hair. It’s my favorite thing about me, save a heart-shaped birthmark on my bra line. I can show off my LGBT status when I’m in a safe space and hide when I need to protect myself. But now that more of me is out in the open, I feel like I might as well buzz it all off, so to speak.
I like my women like I like my hair: short and exposed.