The other restroom sign at the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives
The restroom sign at the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives
A nap in the park.
I love this poem by Bob Flanagan.
Pelo: Un Cuento about how hair cuts have shaped my life..
As a child, mi mama was obsessed with my hair. Always combing it, braiding it, washing it. I cut my hair once when I was 7. Mi mama cried in horror when she found me sitting in front of the closet surrounded by strands of hair that were no longer attached to my scalp.
She took me to a salon at the strip mall near our home. The women talked amongst themselves and concluded that the only thing they could do was cut it to match the shortest of strands. Mi mama cried and cried.
All I could feel was mi mama. I could feel her grief—her verguenza. My brother and two sisters laughed and laughed at me. They teased me for looking like a boy.
That night, after everyone fell asleep, I snuck into the bathroom, climbed onto the sink, took my shirt off, and stared into the mirrored medicine cabinet. I tried to make the most serious of faces. I would stare, and stare, and stare myself into a reflective trance. My chest was flat at the time, well sort of , I had chubby breasts, but they didn’t quite look like breasts to me. And this was important because at that point in my life, I sincerely believed that I could still shape shift into any kind of body. I just had to concentrate and act quickly. I felt like I was running out of time…
I squinted my eyes, sucked in my belly, and stared into the mirror ….”If I was a boy I would look like this…” Or, “this is what I look like, I look like me…a boy.” I did this almost every night and would only go back to bed when I heard a noise signaling that someone might be awake. After a while, the trance of looking into the mirror became so profound, that the few times mi mama did catch me, she had to literally shake and shout me back into consciousness. In those moments, I was existing in multiple planes of reality. The mirror and my hair were the portals.
Fast forward 18 years later. I am in my senior year of college and starting to fall in love with this person-who stirs up all these childhood memories in me. The sound of their voice reminds me of the sound of my voice as a child.
Rewind-when I was a kid, I used to purposefully play with the sound of my voice. While all the girls I grew up with were obsessed with so cal valley girl/cheerleader speak—-I was interested in the sonic resonance of masculinity. I spoke low and slow, and from what I could hear inside my head— my voice was sexy. And yes, I was very much in touch with my sexuality as a child. Only back then, my sexuality wasn’t in relation to another —to their taste, touch, smell—the memory of their body-their gender. My childhood sexuality was in relation to me — to the dirt underneath my fingernails-the supple palpitations of my transforming body—the firm comfort of a tree trunk-or properly placed corner of a pillow or stuffed animal.
Fast forward- I was this 25 year old college student who was falling in love with this person who reminded me so much of me when I was a kid- the me I wish I would’ve grown up to be. I mean, this person wore the clothes of a man, a working man, a boy. He did not appear to carry the shame of his mama in his hair. In fact, he hardly had any hair- he shaved it on a regular basis. He dared to claim his shape as he. I desired him bodily and wholeheartedly…
So there I was- enamored by this new person-experiencing this deep awakening in my body and my soul. Yet, simultaneously holding onto another lover, a sweet all be it awkward/nerdy mathematician 90’s era dyke with longish hair. I asked her what she would think if I shaved my head. I don’t remember what her exact response was, but I’m sure it was supportive—she usually was. She was great, but I saw myself in him. So, I called him—first, to ask if I should do it—then again, to tell him I was about to do it…
It was a cold mid November night in western Washington. I stripped myself of clothes and stood outside on the porch next to my bedroom. I gathered a mound of my long luscious brown curly hair and looped it through a thin nondescript hair tie. My lover at my side. She handed me the scissors I’d given her to hold, and I began to scream, “I am beautiful, I am beautiful!” and started cutting my hair. The process was a lot slower than I hoped. There was so much hair—thick all of my life hair…
Ssssccccrrrraaa sssssccccrraaa the sound of scissors cutting into thick bountiful hair. And then silence. Instant relief. I let out an emotional uuuuyyyyy!! My head felt so light- indescribably light— unlike anything I had ever felt- not even the hair cutting 7 year old me, knew how I was feeling in that moment. I cried, sprinkled some of the hair out into the garden, and placed a manojo de mi pelo into a jar for a later ritual.
Then, I called him and we screamed together. Then, with a set of dog grooming clippers in hand, she sat me down onto a chair and began to buzz around my entire head. Chills ran down my body.
Ecstasy, Bliss,Buzz, and Clip. We made love that night—her hands stroking the velvet soft of my head. Her breath teasing every last newly sensitized follicle of freshly clipped hair….
And so began my 5 year tradition of lovers cutting my hair. First, it was her, and then it was him, and then it was me alternating between him and her. The act of cutting each other’s hair was like coming home. Each clip of hair— each time she/he/we tilted our heads to reach a better angle—each time they/we folded our ears over so as not to clip them—We Expanded—We Grew Open.
Strip, cut, wash, fuck. Strip,cut, wash, fuck, strip cut wash fuck….
Fast forward to now. We broke each other’s hearts—We Clenched—We Closed.
So, what do I do now that I have developed an ecstatic response to the sound of hair clippers—now that I have managed to avoid a hair salon or barber shop for nearly 7 years—now that I have known the intimate touch of lover wielding hair clippers—ahora que he saboreado lo que es cortarle el pelo a un amor de amores—ahora que he conocido el amor peluquero?
Simply put, I offer my hair to my friends-mi familia and to myself. I offer my hair for healing. Ask them and myself to cut my hair so that I may taste an intimacy of a different kind—So that I may be soothed and transformed in a different way. I offer my hair, so that I may not forget the feel of loving touch. I strip myself of shirt—receive the care of familiar hands. And wash away fallen hair and the fear that no one will ever love me.
—alejandra abreu-queer cultural-hybrid spanglish poet storyteller and sourceress of sorts
Story inspired by a Mangos With Chili performance in Olympia WA 2014
KITTY KAT LAKE
I took some gorgeous photos of my sweetheart. I’ve always loved the look of sunlight on her skin.
Medical fetishists have more fun being chronically ill.