When I was in junior high my hair used to be curly–I’m talking borderline jheri-curl stuff. Now I don’t know why it was that curly seeing as most of my family had wavy hair at best. I’d always get comments about it: from dudes (teasing) and girls (“I wish my hair could curl like that”). I was satisfied with neither perspective since the former was insulting and the latter annoyed the hell out of me. Try being a young curly haired choir boy in South Texas: what you end up with is heat, humidity, and (eventually) frizz. Yeah, I would’ve taken straight hair any day–Wake up, roll out of bed, pour water on my head and face, pat down…BAM. Ready to roll. As a result, throughout high school and most of college I kept my hair short.
Then one year (around 2005) I decided to grow my hair long. My dad and uncles all had long hair back in the day and those photos looked badass. My high school was fairly strict about dress code and hair: I distinctly remember the handbook saying that it couldn’t extend past the “fleshy part of the ear”, and to this day I have no fucking idea what that means. But I was a sophomore/junior in college at this point and in a band, so I figured it was a perfect time to get going. I grew it out and all was…ok. I experimented with it: sometimes my sister would straighten it for me, but if that happened before a show it’d get all wavy again by the time the band got off stage. I kept it that length for about a year or so before I decided to cut it. Years passed, I graduated, got a job, then made the decision to go to grad school.
For the first couple of years, I kept my hair short. At some point, friends of mine saw old pics of me with long hair and commented on how awesome it looked. It was “I wish my hair was curly” all over again. Nevertheless, the seed was planted and after two years in grad school I grew it out again. Curly had long since transformed to wavy, so sometimes it looked good.
But it was annoying: often it would get in my way when I was running or at the gym, it’d clog the drains in my sink and shower, and all of that shit. What was most bothersome was how it seemed to call attention to me: I was the Mexican dude with long hair. It felt as if there was an ever present fetishization of follicles and it kinda weirded me out. With my friends I tend to be a bit gregarious (some would say cavalier), but when I’m walking or out by myself somewhere my defense mechanism is to blend in. I couldn’t do that with my hair: it accentuated the fact that I was different and that rattled me. I told one of my best friends back home about how people kept pressuring me to keep it long and her response was, “sweetie, they’re white. Of course they think it’s exotic.” It’s not like this was an ever present thought, but when you’re already different sometimes that’s more than enough.
To be fair, no one forced me to grow my hair out. But peer pressure is a motherfucker at times. So one day I decided that enough was enough, and I chopped it off.