There is a side of me that no one will ever know: The me with thick hair that shoots straight up, like a mix between an overgrown bush and fireworks midway through going off.
My roommates occasionally catch glimpses of this as I stumble into the bathroom in the mornings. But by the time I walk out, this version of me has vanished into the wind, leaving them to wonder if they had just imagined it all along. “What are you talking about?” I say. “Stop spouting nonsense.”
I am Bighair.
Every day before I greet the public, I spend roughly a minute staring at my reflection, combing my hair down with my hands, walking the line between caring too much and not at all. As far as time spent goes, it’s not as much as some may think, but that’s kind of the point.
In high school, I kept my hair shorter than an inch. It never looked amazing but was always kind of good. It was a necessity for a period of my life during which I was always jumping out of bed and running late to things.
How I miss those simple days.
After going home this summer break, I saw my friends rebrand themselves with grown-out beards, fresh tattoos and newfound hobbies. I decided I wanted to rebrand myself as a more artistic and serious person in such a way that people who didn’t know me would see me and think, “Wow! That’s an artistic and serious person!” So I began to grow my hair out.
The simple truth is that there’s a higher ceiling for how good I can look with long hair. I can let it dangle freely for the absent-minded genius look or slick it back for the focused genius look. Or I can find a balance for the semi-present-minded genius. Damn, do I look good.
Growing my hair out was painful at first. “Time to get a haircut,” my friends and coworkers would say, as if they were the first person to say that to me or I gave an ounce of shit about what they thought. I powered through all the negativity, and after spending a lot of time in bulky-helmet realm of hair, I transformed like a butterfly from a cocoon into a wavy-haired hipster.
But as the saying goes, the higher you fly, the harder you fall. And if I don’t get my hair JUST right, it looks like absolute garbage, and I waste the entire day feeling insecure about myself. And that isn’t a feeling I’m used to experiencing.
As a kid, I was constantly making mistakes. I’d be too mean to a kid and they’d start crying, or I’d cheat on a test and get caught. So by a young age, I had learned the proper way to do everything and pretty much just coasted off that knowledge until now. Long hair gone wrong is the last thing I will ever have to deal with as an adult.
Put too much product, and my hair hardens into a plastic-like mold. Too little, and it fluffs endlessly towards the sun. Comb my hair too strong, and a douchebag looks back at me from the mirror. Let it dangle, and its tentacles latch onto my eyes. Lay down, and all hell breaks loose back there. Woe is me!
I am living in a self-imposed hair hell, and I need out.
And after basking in the glory of this monument I have built on my head, I have become tempted to light the torch and let it all burn it down. It has become a tiresome exercise of learning new lessons, constantly falling short and second-guessing myself.
How I wish I could leave it all behind — my worries, my effort, my products. I look back on those days, my short hair standing straight in the wind, not a care in the world. I was happy then. I knew what worked, I knew my limits, and I stuck within them. I didn’t have a “bad” hair day. I didn’t have to look in a mirror in the mornings before I left the house.
Maybe I will finally take that brave step and cut it all off. Maybe I will revert back to short hair. Maybe.
But I can’t go back now. Although I will continue to have my share of bad hair days, when the stars align, the clouds will part and reveal a glowing mane. And I fear if I give up now, I will curse my own cowardice for the rest of my life. So I will keep fighting this never-ending war. And I pray that when I see the gods in the halls of Valhalla, we shall rejoice over my flowing locks.
“Off the Beat” columns are written by Daily Cal staff members until the spring semester’s regular opinion columnists have been selected.