I don’t remember exactly why I decided to grow out my hair. I don’t remember how or when I started doing it, either. My best guess is that at some point, my hair got long enough to cut, and I decided not to. I imagine then that I just kept deciding not to until at some point I found myself consciously aiming for that most fickle and highly coveted of male style choices: the man bun. The decision was imitative to some extent – I’ll admit that. But there was a personal choice involved somewhere in there as well. At least, I think there was.
The first thought I do remember having about my hair is opportunistic: I wanted to make the most of it before my government took it away from me. I suppose this was sort of rebellious, though I never really specified exactly what I was rebelling against. Because actually saying that – actually declaring oneself to be in rebellion against the capital-G Government, is sort of like saying that books aren’t interesting: both statements stretch so broadly in scope, content, and possible interpretation that they turn out not to mean anything at all. It would be more accurate to call my decision a personal stylistic choice: something intended to set me apart from the crowd – to designate me as special in some way.
If that sounds repulsive, that’s probably because we as a society have an ingrained sense of normality–we naturally have a distaste for the different and the odd. But I think this actually makes the decision to grow hair even more noble. Because choice of hairstyle isn’t like other personal choices: clothes, hobbies, personality. Those things are in large part mercurial, and you can change them with relative ease. Deciding to grow your hair, on the other hand, constricts. It requires planning around. It’s hard. But that’s why it’s so valuable as a means of proclaiming selfhood: its very difficulty demonstrates that your choice of style has tested the inside of your head for a long time.
But time, as it turns out, is the problem. Because trying to take intellectual nourishment and pride in your hair, for God’s sake, for an extended period of time, is enormously difficult. Almost every day, you consider cutting it. Every time you wipe a stray strand out of your face, or wake up with it pricking you in the eyes, or when you go to the store to buy hair ties and in the process get judgmental looks from all the middle-aged ladies around you, who are always somehow sharper and more hawk-eyed than seems humanly possible, and also vaguely reminiscent of Susan Sarandon post-Thelma and Louise, you reconsider. Your willpower, if it ever really existed in the first place, becomes hazy and indistinct. And above all, you wonder if maybe during this process you’ve changed. If maybe you’re not even doing this for a reason anymore – even a flawed or indistinct one. That at this point the only reason you’re bothering to persist is that you’ve entered into a sort of mental game with yourself that you can’t ever win, because if you give in and cut your hair you’re letting them win (the thought of which is unbearable), and if you continue on like this you’re always irritated and self-conscious because, let’s face it, you really don’t find this that cool anymore. And talking to the family is getting annoying because you’re acutely aware of the fact that the only thing keeping them from straight-up mocking you and ordering you to cut your hair is a combined lifetime’s worth of accumulated wisdom and kindness, shining like a lighthouse flame in the dark socio-political night in which you’re utterly convinced the world roils. Even if it doesn’t, necessarily. Roil, I mean.