1. 1994, Record store in suburban mall, Southeastern Pennsylvania
Green barn jacket, jeans, t-shirt, and a limp little bra, more of a band-aid than anything architectural. Sneakers. I’m looking for Toad the Wet Sprocket’s album Dulcinea. On cassette tape.
“Can I help you, sir?”
The sales guy has long frizzy hair, the kind that acts of its own accord, independent of gravity or conditioner.
“MISS. I am a GIRL.”
He blinks. Mild perturbation flits across a pockmarked face.
The same could serve as a metaphor for the industry employing him.
This might be the moment I decide not to let my mom cut my hair anymore.
2. 2012, Ex-boyfriend’s apartment, Midtown Manhattan
Blew the fuck out of my hair with the hairdryer he keeps on hand. (He’s older.) My hair is almost the sleek mid-length bob it is supposed to be.
“You should pull it up,” says Ex.
Five hours later, my scalp is throbbing.
My hair remains this way for the duration of our relationship.
3. 2001, Residential neighborhood, Southeastern Pennsylvania
“Run for my dick, bitch!” the guy screams out of his car.
My ponytail swishing over my shoulders, I keep jogging. I do not even want to look directly at a dick, let alone run for one. But my teenage brain is prone to over-analysis. Perhaps this is a case of synecdoche? Do I run for male attention, not the male member per se?
Do I even enjoy running?
I quit the track team.
4. 2013, International airport, Somewhere in Europe
“Fantastic haircut,” the airport lady says.
She points to my passport photo. I smile and thank her.
Ex and I walk towards the bathrooms.
“Maybe you should cut your hair again,” says Ex.
We look at the passport photo: me in college. Saucy English major who’d seen Breathless a few too many times.
“Maybe not,” he decides.
5. 2005, Hair salon, College Town
I have seen Breathless a few too many times. My pixie needs a trim.
My best friend and I have been going, somewhat obsessively, to a salon with a cute, heterosexual male hairdresser. He sits me in the chair, starts trimming, and says something funny.
“Oops,” says Hot Hairdresser.
The look on the receptionist’s face still haunts me.
“Are you trying to tell us something about your sexuality?” asks everyone.
“Why would I wait until senior year?” I ask them back.
6. 2014, Driving from one graduate program to another, East Coast
My mother and my grandmother can’t get over Ex, even though my grandmother claims to have seen it coming. (“He wasn’t an artist.”)
My grandmother is an artist, a textile artist of some more-than-moderate fame in the quilting world. People at quilting shows ask her for photos and signatures. The subject of artistry is one of her favorites.
We have been in the car for four hours. She has not been driving.
“It’s time you cut your hair,” my mother says to me.
“But—” I begin. How to explain? “Guys will think I’ve been through a crazy break-up.”
“That’s ridiculous,” says my grandmother.
She and my mother shake their short-haired heads.
7. 2011, Greenwich, Connecticut
I am a high school English teacher.
Not a single one of my female students has hair that doesn’t reach her bra line.
Not a single one has hair other than sleek and shiny.
In my yearbook photo, now ten years old, my long hair makes me look like a muppet.
My car is worth $4,000.
If I sold it, I could have hair like theirs. Death to all muppets.
Aiming to be a good role model, I opt for a bob.
I buy a high-end hairdryer, loud as my car in the mornings.
8. 1998, My bedroom, Southeastern Pennsylvania
My parents have forbidden me to see Lawrence, my summer orchestra-camp love.
Not because he plays the violin.
Because he can drive.
I cut off all my hair, inaugurating a look my brothers will dub “Rocky the Rodent.”
“Short hair is really brave,” says the guy who introduces me to Belle & Sebastian. He happens to have a car.
9. 2014, MFA program, Manhattan
“Didn’t I see you at that reading?” asks a classmate. A woman.
“That was the other woman with short hair,” I explain.
10. 1994, Reading class, Southeastern Pennsylvania
“I wish I had your hairstyle,” says the teacher.
I look around. She means me.
“Where do you get it cut?” she asks.
“My mom cuts it,” I tell her.
She smiles, shakes her head.
“It’d be perfect for tennis.”
11. 2015, Coffee shop, Manhattan
“When I first started out as an architect, my boss told me to always have younger friends,” says one of my older acquaintances.
“I tried to get in touch with the former director of our alumni organization,” I tell him. “No one had told me he’d died.”
The architect shakes his head.
“Didn’t you used to be blonde?”
12. Last night, Walking, Central Park
“I like your hair,” says my Poet, running his fingers through the inch or so over my scalp.
We both do.
Olivia Ciacci writes fiction in Columbia University's MFA program. Her writing can be found on Reductress, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, The Conium Review, and The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review. Before coming to New York, Ciacci taught high school English and did improv comedy. Follow her online @PartTimeLady.