The Naked Head

The other day the boy asked me to shave his head. When was the last time that I picked up a set of clippers? It was to my own head. Before that there were a few vital strokes before my eldest brother marched off into the military, and permanently beyond my understanding. I was terrified. Not now, but back then. I had never experienced someone leaving home. He was the first in our family to go. Looking back I cannot even remember a time when he seemed to be there. I distinctly remember my other brother. Our resources crossed often and there was constant bickering between us. I just can’t remember my older brother living with us, even when his room was just across the upstairs landing from mine. That is my brother, a ghost, the eternally absent figure. I have no proof that he hasn’t changed, and yet isn’t that proof enough? Still, even though he wasn’t actually there, I was terrified to see him go. I remember the sound of the clippers when we plugged them in, and how important I felt as I took the first stroke from his hair. The lessons I learned that night were deep and passed on to every generation. I learned about submission and pride. There is a proper way to submit. Submission needs to be accompanied by an act of defiance. There is always a line. Always burn something so that they can’t take it. Always submit first to yourself. Surrender. Take the spoils, and let your captor have the leftovers. It was a stupid lesson. Surrender and pride. It always is.

But the other day there was no surrender and no pride. There was a certain level of trust and the giggles that accompany it. I was still nervous, but the thrill that I got from removing his head was much more fulfilling than the terrible thrill that I had on that night so many years ago. The buzzing of the clippers was intoxicating. I liked the feel of them in my hand, despite their weak current. I remembered the way it felt, for so many years, to trim up the sides of my head. I loved having my mohawk. In san francisco there was no political or social statement surrounding it. It was not about being different or fitting in. People barely noticed the geen wired pigtails. No, it was about loving my body and listening to how it wanted to be represented, and I missed it. By the time I had finished shaving the boy’s head I had made a decision. My hair had to go.

After we finished his hair there was a moment of pinning, referencing pictures on the internet and a reorganization of the pins. Then there was a deep breath and staring into the mirror as the man that I love took away a small patch of my hair. Comparatively it wasn’t much, just the tiniest hint at freedom. Freedom. Really, that is what it feels like. The freedom of wind on my scalp. The freedom on his fingers petting the tiniest patches of fur. The freedom to look how I want. Yes- what was once pride and surrender has transformed magically into a treatise on freedom. And, how free have I found myself over the years? Through the slavery of state and society I have burned a slight hole, burrowed myself in, and can safely say- I have tasted freedom. 

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