The Daily Tar Heel
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Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023 Newsletters Latest print issue

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The Daily Tar Heel

My hair wasn’t luscious until he told me it was. I just thought I hadn’t had a haircut in a few months, but the way it sat a little in front of my eyes was actually perfect. I smile, and take extra care in it now. Wiping the steam two or three times to match my baggy eyes as I meticulously form each curl. 

Brush, flip, scrunch, flip, scrunch.

Split down the middle, form curls from bottom to top, back to front, wipe mirror, scrunch hair. The routine in muscle memory.

It’s 15 minutes in the mirror and I have hairs, not hair. Each one an individual being with a flow, acceptance or disregard for its position. Each one of them could change the course of my day. They should be on their best behavior.

I’m wearing a size small tank top and you can see my chest acne. This and jeans. My roommate’s floor-length mirror is better – it’s more accurate. I feel underdressed, but I look cool so I make breakfast and lock the door behind me. Glance at my reflection in my car window, like something different will look back at me from when I last checked minutes ago. I unlock my bike. 

It’s the coldest it has been in a while. I bike to campus wishing I’d worn a real shirt. My hairs are still wet and my headphones squish them down. The pads around my ears stink and stick to my face from years of sweat. 

Nobody glances at me when I walk into Davis, but I look at everyone. My chest acne is cold. Next is office hours with my TA and I poise myself thoughtfully like I'm in an oil painting, unsure who it would be for – a habit I've got to undo. I consciously deconstruct my pose, cross my arms, and hug my shoulders. Then reference my color-coordinated notes and ask about the upcoming quiz. 

My curls are popping and people compliment them. My arms look good in this tank top, they say. 

I stop in the store to grab an energy drink. The cashier asks me how tall I am. Six-and-a-half feet and no, I don’t play basketball. No, I’m not a swimmer either, I recite my script from memory. The cashier thinks I’m tall and smiles at me for a beat. I joke that I’m too good for the basketball team and leave. People like that I’m tall. 

Form-fitting basics are in. I try to look like I don’t try. I walk up to my friends and the first thing I say is that they look cool and they say it back. I forget what else there is to say.

I don’t think I’m funny or interesting. But I have good style. Or at least people tell me so. I used to talk about ideas. Now I talk about other people having them. 

A desire for reinvention, a new stage of life, a new location, school or job. Outward personal growth (glowing up, shutting up) grips me now. It’s the cultural currency I work full-time to earn. 

Because once you’re told that your hair is luscious, you can’t let it go back to being anything less than that. Before my hair was luscious, I slept in for 15 extra minutes. Before my hair was luscious, my height made me lanky and not a vast, desirable figure at gas stations and in front of you in class. I had high socks and shorts that went past my knees and didn’t think my being was anything other than my brain. Before my hair was luscious, days were good because I decided they were. Not because I waited for people to decide they were.

@dthopinion |

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