By college, my hair began to have a mind of its own. There were days that it simply was stubborn, refusing to be managed or styled. The hair grew coarser, resembling a twisted nest of piano strings. I looked like I wore a black helmet on some days; and on others, it seemed like I propped a mat of dark wire on my head. Some friends even thought I looked like Astro Boy or that cranky cartoon ladybug. I fit the bug role to a tee as I had a lot of grouchy moments, especially defensive when it was about my sexuality.
An annoying period in college was undergoing the required military training. I hated having to sport the 3”x4” hair prerequisite. I hated how it made me look stupid. I hated how it reminded me of how much testosterone was shoved down my throat. I hated how raw my naked scalp felt, relentless in its itch under the cruel afternoon sun.
My hair did grow eventually. At this point, I got to go on trips to Europe. I have always loved taking showers no matter how cold it was. I enjoyed how the warm water stripped my skin fresh and new. It was interesting that every time I got back, gone for several months each time, friends would always ask me if I had cancer. Perhaps there was some truth to that myth of avoiding warm showers. It did not help either that my pallor was pale and sickly, telling of late nights studying and cramming papers. Yes, I did look like I had undergone several sessions of chemo.
My mother got concerned that I was starting to look like the man she married. With her and my sister’s help, I got to visit doctors and hair-restoration clinics. I took pills to help my hair grow; religious with the topical solution I had to apply on my scalp, morning and night. It’s interesting that the pill was supposed to suppress my libido, lessening my body’s production of testosterone. The doctors said that the hormone ate up my hair follicles. It’s even more interesting that my libido continued to soar. It’s funny to be considered emasculated but still overflow with manly hormones.
It was only when I was out of college did I begin to shave my hair. There was the cautious 1-inch length, testing the waters if I could pull off the “bad boy” look. I decided to have it shaved at a nearby salon. I knew it would be agonizing, so I looked forward to the good neck, shoulder, and back massage they offered after. I remember how my worry surged as I saw the hair fall frailly with each swipe of the electric razor. Now, I get why models in a certain reality show bawl at sudden makeovers. I would have done the same then.
Stepping out of the salon, I remember feeling a strange mix of worry and delight. I felt exposed and raw, just like a fish out of water. I expected gawking and jeering, even when people actually minded their own business. But there was that delicious freshness I couldn't deny, sensing the breeze glide across my near-naked scalp. Instantly, I felt lighter. It was as if a weight had been lifted. It was liberating to think that I was done with hour-long styling sessions, suitable shampoo shopping, and being consciousness about losing my tresses.
Shaving my hair proved to be a novelty to my friends too. Like a baby, I remember everybody “ooh-ing” and “ahh-ing” over the prickly stubble on my scalp; always touching and petting me, constantly asking what possessed me to shave my mane. Answers varied from the evasive, “I just felt like I needed a change,” to the blunt, “I’m losing hair; so this way, it’s not so obvious.” But nothing beats the time I likened it to a “hed-geh-hog”… But that’s another story.