The first time I got a real haircut – more than a centimeter trim – was when I was thirteen years old. I had the barber cut off eighteen inches of hair and asked my mom’s permission to dye it bright blonde. I wanted to look drastically different as a way of physically separating these two phases of my life – childhood from adolescence. I didn’t want to be seen as a child anymore.
I’ve always used my hair to mark transitions in my life. When I entered high school, I dyed it vampire red with Manic Panic and really stuck out. When I broke up with my boyfriend at the end of high school – a boyfriend who’d begged me for two years not to cut my hair – I chopped it off and gave it to him in an envelope. Told him if he loved it so much, he could have it. When I finally started transitioning into a mental and emotional phase of confidence and self-worth in my mid-twenties, I dyed it hair-color red to match all the red clothes I couldn’t stop buying that replaced the black ones. I felt alive. Renewed. Bursting at the seams with erotic energy. Around thirty, I stopped dying it completely after seventeen years of having done so because I started deeply and unapologetically loving my natural self. When I leave Korea, I will once again cut it all off – repatriating is a scary and exciting and overwhelming prospect, and I want to go into it unencumbered – at least by long hair.
I’ve used my hair for titillation – nothing like pulling a hair band out and letting it tumble down into the middle of my back on a first date or changing the style for a particular play scene. I’ve had it cut intentionally short as an identity marker for other women to recognize me as a woman who’s attracted to women after being scoffed at for years walking into lesbian bars with my super long hair. I’ve used it for pleasure, asking partner after partner to sink their fingers in, grab tight, and pull. When someone snakes their fingers up the back of my head into my hair it sends tingles throughout my entire body and almost always makes me instantly wet. I’ve used it to help deal with a broken heart and transition… and I’ve used it to entice partners to cuddle up close to me just to press their faces into my long locks and inhale (the shampoo I use, introduced to me by an ex-girlfriend, smells amazing).
My hair is intertwined with my identity. Sometimes I get really fancy and spend twenty minutes putting it up or all day curling it; most days I’m lazy and throw it back in a loose bun. It reflects my mood, my energy, phases I’m going through in life. It’s a part of my emotional and sexual selves, and I’m very grateful for the choices I get to make regarding how I wish to change it.