When I was young my hair reached the back of my knee. I wore it in a bun at the back of my neck nearly every day. It was shaped like a doughnut within a doughnut, my hair was so long. From when I was very young I desired to have long hair. I thought it was beautiful. That and my mom wanted me to have long hair. In the old Chinese movies the female lead often had very long hair and flowing dresses. Although I could not understand a word they were saying, I felt that these characters were the epitome of femininity.
My hairstyle did not change from the age of 10 to 23. Every day I wore it up because the seats in school had fasteners on the chair where my hair would wound around and be stuck. It was quite painful. I also remember the natural movement of my head leaning forward or to right as I sat down so that I would have enough room to turn. As I twisted the hair around one could hear it whipping at the very ends and if one was unfortunate enough to be near me, it likely felt like a loose whip. Maybe a sting. I also remember running the brush through my hair, untangling the very ends and slowly moving up, as this was the best way to avoid a very painful nest at the tip. I wish I could have seen how it flowed from behind as I walked or when the wind picked it up. Or how my head would have looked with my hair all pulled back. Maybe the best scenario should have been me wearing those flowing dresses and in the moment, with my hair all adorned like the movies. But instead, it was mostly ignored for over a decade of my life. I still have trouble figuring out how to deal with my not so long hair. Even as I wonder at its quiet nature in my life, it felt like a chain holding me down to expectations that I could never fulfill. Those expectations of the good Hmong girl, of the perfect woman, of the perfect girlfriend. And now to see myself and to decide on what I should do with my hair, I feel liberated at the choice to cut or not to cut, the choice to change myself just slightly as my hair also changes, and with the move to throw out all those things which I needn’t hold.