The Scalp Says: This is Not Normal
So, hi again. How are we all doing on this far side of reality?
I haven’t blogged about the United States of America’s recent Presidential election; I haven’t been able to find the words for it. I’ve been throwing myself into activism and self-care and partner care in equal measure, trying my damnedest to find some magical balance that will fix this world — if not mystically undo the election results, then make them safer, make them make sense. So I haven’t been writing in this space, preferring places where I write about comics and geeky stuff, or my own fiction where I control all the tuning knobs on reality. Until today, when I accidentally shaved my head.
That’s incongruous on purpose; bear with me here.
So, no big shame or secret: I’ve got male pattern baldness. The hair on the top of my head is very thin, with a noticeable “bald spot” taking up, oh, most of my skull. So my “haircut” is really more of an every-month-or-so going over with a hair and beard trimmer, trying to make sure the whole thing looks somewhat serviceable. Well, today was the day, I decided, as I woke up and felt that “standing straight up on end” was synonymous with “too long.” So I confirmed S. could help me clean it up when I was done trimming, got the trimmer ready, and started in — and forgot to put on the guard before I started. You know, the guard that lets you set how short you want to trim your hair? Yeah, that one.
I shaved a portion of the hair on my right temple down to stubble before I realized what I had done. I put the guard on, set it a bit lower than my normal setting, and went over the rest of my dome, seeing if maybe it wouldn’t stand out. But, no such luck; even that low setting still looked like a lush carpet of head-covering compared to the site of the incident. So I explained what happened to S., and after she tried a still-lower setting, we agreed there were no two ways about it, the best option was to buzz the whole mess down with no guard and let it grow back while we’re on Thanksgiving vacation next week.
“No problem,” I said, “I’ll just wear a hat for a week. You know, so people don’t think I’m a neo-Nazi.” That’s when this blog post hit.
Looking like I wear the trappings of racism is something I worry about a lot when it comes to my haircuts and clothing choices. I’m blonde and blue-eyed, and on top of it I’m tall and (these days) fairly well-toned, and so inherently might come off as threatening from that. I worry about days when my hair is freshly trimmed and how I might present. But today, the reality of what I might be projecting with this too-close shave really smacked me in the face: I might not just be mistaken for a racist. I might be mistaken for someone who voted for the new President of the United States.
Not because everyone who voted for him is a neo-Nazi. But we know the neo-Nazi “alt” “right” definitely went in big for him, and we know that hate crimes are on the rise, and we know that both of these things are because of the horrific things he said on the campaign trail. Whatever is lurking in his policy that got him the necessary votes (sorta…), we know that a tide of hate was a major factor. We don’t know exactly what to expect, but in the communities I am a part of, we are expecting — and speaking out against — the worst. It looks bleak out there right now, like we’re in for a four-year marathon against a Hydra that wants to put the rights of people and the planet where they live on a political chopping block, and I don’t know if my legs can carry me that far without stumbling. Self-care leaves me feeling numb a lot of the time — sometimes I manage to truly distract myself, but then all of a sudden I’ll plummet back down into the horror of what might be coming in 2017, 2018, 2019…
And I’m relatively insulated. If it is just about me, I’ll more or less be fine — I’m white, I’m male, I’m heterosexual, and I identify with the gender I was assigned at birth. My wife, the most important person in my life, is in a similar spot, though as a woman there’s a lot to worry about there. But this is not true of all my friends, not by a long shot, and even if it were, I would still fear for the millions of Americans who the extreme policy proposals of this administration would affect, even if I never met them one on one. And even if the policies never pass, the normalization of disgusting, racist behavior is a wound that will take a long time to heal and may never properly scar over. But somehow — and this is such a White Dude thing for me to say — sitting here and realizing what I am worried my hair says to people I pass on the street has made it all real for me in a way it hasn’t been before.
I plan to resist. I plan to dissent, as is my Constitutional right. I’m calling my elected officials to voice my stances, I’m making sure we do not normalize the troubling and outright disturbing things we are hearing in the news, I’m donating to civil rights and poverty outreach groups, and I am doing everything I can to help others feel safe and like we’re here for them. And I’m making art. Inclusive art. Kind art. Art that brings hope and shines a light in the darkness. Art that I hope will prop up someone besides me as we move forward. I’m sure I’ll find more I can do, for them and for myself.
But in the meantime, I am wearing the cap my wife knit me while my hair grows out, and I am trying to figure out what I’ll do for the 200+ weeks we’re going to have to walk down this path, and hoping that the worries I have on a day like today do not have to get too much more real. This is not normal, and I never want it to be.