I still remember that night that everything fell apart. I remember the distinct sound of glass breaking. I remember the yelling and the crying and the sounds of the sirens outside. I remember seeing mom crying on the floor. Her eyes were all puffy and she was holding my baby brother in her arms. And it absolutely hurt me to see mom cry. She never cried. And when she does, it breaks my heart. She said to me that dad left and that he wasn’t ever coming back. She said that he’s been seeing someone else for years, even before I was born. He’d been lying to us about where he’s been. I remember Saturdays being my favorite because that was the one day a week he ever came home, the one day a week we were a complete family. It all shattered like the broken glass that day.
I think about how Joyce (Note: Joyce is the daughter of the woman my dad was cheating with) once told me the first time that he met my dad. He was introduced as just an “uncle” when she was very young. This was many many years before we found out. I think what it must’ve felt like when he met Joyce for the first time, how he had two little girls already waiting at home for him and a wife who would do anything in her power to please him, even to bear him a son.
I remember hearing from mom how he doesn’t want us because he wanted a son. She had a son. I think I began to connect the dots. He didn’t want me. I wasn’t the son that he wanted. I was the reason my mother was there on the floor crying.
I began to struggle with my femininity. I remembered liking the color blue, those spiderman flipflops and I jumped around a lot on the couches, something that mom said was “ladylike”
But after a while, I began to realize that I was being stupid. Acting like a boy wasn’t going to change anything. It’s not like I was ever going to bring him back. I then began to act hyper feminine. I grew my hair out, I began to wear makeup and and my favorite color changed from blue to pink. My entire room was filled with pink. I also began to really only befriend females for some reason because part of me felt more connected with them because of my feminine side. I didn’t have that many close guy friends. And I felt super uncomfortable and awkward when my puberty hit and I started growing boobs and my period began.
I think it’s mostly the hair was a sign of my femininity. I look at pictures dating to even my 10th grade and I see this ridiculous mass of hair. It’s tangled in knots, like have it ever seen a brush? It was probably oily because I rarely washed my hair. And I even remember crying when I got my hair cut. I tried to save a piece of it, claiming that my long hair was the reason that I felt pretty. I needed my long hair and hyper-femininity to feel good about myself because that was all I knew. But honestly, looking at the pictures, I wish someone had just told me how disgusting I looked.
After I cut my hair, I remembered washing my hair after swimming for the first time. My head felt soooo light I felt like I had no hair at all. All that water really weighed down on my head. I felt good about myself. I felt really good about myself. I began to think, why did I like long hair? Was it because society told me that to be pretty was to have long hair? Did it make me feel better about myself for having long hair?
I let it grow. I think that the reason why I cut my hair during covid, while drastic, was actually reminiscent of this idea. My hair already grew out since the last time I cut it. And I was incredibly growing anxious with every passing day. I was anxious about school and about myself and what the future holds for me. The more I looked in the mirror at the tangled and oily mess of long hair, I began to grow more irritated and frustrated. For a long time, I thought that long hair made me pretty, But as I looked into the mirror, all I saw was a mess. My eyes were puffy and red from crying, my hair was long, tangled in knots and oily. My acne was breaking out, my eyes were uneven and my eyebrows just would refuse to grow in the right place but instead grow where it shouldn’t grow. I just saw myself in the mirror and I couldn’t see myself as beautiful. All I saw was imperfection.
They always tell me that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. I shouldn’t let other people’s beauty standards dictate how I feel about myself. But as I look in that mirror and as I look at pictures taken on some of the happiest days of my life, all I see is a mess.
Part of me realized that I can try to change myself all I want. I can ignore what other people expect of me and I can even be happy. The truth of the matter is that I’m still ugly. And that’s not what other people tell me. I don’t need other people to tell me what I already know.
I grabbed the scissors and I began to hack away my long hair. I wanted to feel good about myself as I did that first time I cut my long hair. I wanted to believe that if I cut away my long hair I can finally stop being so ugly. I can stop being such a mess. I can finally stop hating my own appearance.
Of course, a little while later, my mom would take me to a salon to get it evened out. A lot of time has passed since then, a little over a year and my hair has grown out again and so I went to cut it again. Right now, it’s a little too short to be pulled back and every time I lean forward, a little bit falls in my face and that really annoys me. But I feel better about myself now at least. I’m broken and scarred but at least when I look in the mirror, I can finally see myself for who I really am.
I think about how far I’ve come since then, only a year ago. How far will I go from here? How will I think about myself many years from now? Will my battle with my femininity and standards change over time? I’m now just a little over a month shy of my 19th birthday. I’m no longer that little girl that watched my mother cry on the floor. Or the awkward teen who cried while getting her hair cut.
While I’m not perfect, I wanted to write this to acknowledge how far I’ve come and make people realize that your scars and your wounds WILL heal over time. You will find your way. Time heals all wounds, slowly but surely. For now, stay strong and take it one step at a time and one day at a time.