Queens, NYC native Audrey T. Carroll is an MFA candidate whose obsessions include kittens, coffee, Supernatural, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and the Rooster Teeth community. Her work has been published in Fiction International, So to Speak, Feminine Inquiry, the A3 Review, and others. Her poetry collection, Queen of Pentacles, is forthcoming from Choose the Sword Press.
I did not hear you when you, a mother to them but a stranger to me, told your three sons that you couldn’t believe someone would hack a whole ponytail off like I was about to do. In my salon chair and black cape across the room I was too far away to hear you, and for that matter too wrapped up in excitement for the hair cut I’d been diligently planning for a month via Google image searches and long mirror staring sessions and showers that took so long they made me dizzy and I had to steady myself against the walls. I guess you didn’t think the man near you was my husband, or maybe it didn’t occur to you to check over your shoulder to see who was listening, or maybe it didn’t matter to you because you were so self-assured in your truth. Somehow, when my husband told me how I’d offended you after we’d left the salon with my ponytail in a plastic bag to send away for a free wig for some kid I’d never meet, I wasn’t shocked.
What message did your three boys hear beneath your words? Will they repeat them when their wives want to abandon the locks that reach halfway down their backs? Will they glare at girls like me for trading long tresses for curly bobs? How will your words echo years later?
I imagined a list of reasons that I might offer those boys, and this woman, to explain why I chopped eight inches off my hair:
I would tell them that I felt like cutting it and that while I love my hair, it is not the only thing that I’m proud of.
I’d tell the boys that I wanted to donate it to a wig for a kid who needs it more than I do.
I would explain to the woman that my fibromyalgia makes everyday tasks, like washing long, thick, curly hair, difficult.
I would also tell them that I am a 25-year-old woman proudly entering a PhD program and that I felt that it was time for a change.
I would point to the obvious fact that it is almost summertime and we live in central Arkansas where the temperature regularly climbs above 90 degrees.
I also happened to think that a short haircut would be cute, and now I have this whole Zelda Fitzgerald vintage flapper thing going on.
I would mention to this woman that dyeing hair takes up less of my time, effort, and money for me to dye it if it’s shorter, which means more time, effort, and money for things like buying books to lose myself in fantasy worlds with heroines kicking ass so I might escape a world where I need a cane, as well as more time, effort, and money for writing books about girls who like girls so real life girls who can relate feel less like freaks.
I want to tell them that it’s my hair to do with as I please. Full stop.
If I have boys, will they think I’m strange for my hundred-year-old hair cut? Will they not care? Will I grow it back out by then? Will they expect me to justify why my once naturally bright red curls no longer run princesslong all the way down my back?
What words will I offer them?
And why must I offer any at all?