The Mohawk This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

February 20, 2013
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“It’s just hair.”
That was my defense, my justification to the widened eyes and dropped jaws. When people asked how I could do it – how I could go from my socially acceptable, shoulder-length hair to a mohawk – my response was always the same: “It’s just hair.” In my innocent, unassuming mind, a change, although admittedly drastic, in hairstyle couldn’t possibly result in a change in how I was perceived intellectually or socially. I was quickly proven wrong.

If it was “just hair,” my mother wouldn’t have avoided looking at me for months. If it was “just hair,” cashiers’ gazes wouldn’t have followed me as I browsed their stores. If it was “just hair,” I wouldn’t have been treated differently. However, all those things happened, and consequently, the mohawk came to mean something else ­entirely.

Every other aspect of me had ­remained the same when my locks were shorn. I didn’t develop a rebellious or disrespectful attitude, my grades didn’t drop, and I didn’t lose sight of my in­­tellectual pursuits and academic goals. My mohawk did not excuse me from my self-imposed obligations and goals to be an accomplished student and an integral part of my community. Quite the opposite: by expressing any harbored insubordinate desires through the harmless outlet of a simple haircut, I stifled the desire to rebel in other areas of my life. I knew that my choice of hairstyle said nothing about my academic achievements, my manners, or what my mind was capable of.

Although I was aware of this complete lack of internal change, others didn’t catch on as quickly. Suddenly, because the sides of my head were shaved down to a thin layer of hair, I was viewed as a less competent student. Teachers became skeptical of my work, forcing me to expend more effort to maintain my high grades. My good behavior was no longer accepted at face value. I had grown up accustomed to automatically gaining an adult’s trust with my respectful and inoffensive demeanor. Once adults saw my mohawk, however, my demeanor was viewed as a ruse, an attempt to deceive, and the concept of trust disappeared.

As these people came to know me better, they rethought these first impressions. They saw me listen to authority figures, take direction without complaint, and respectfully voice my opinions. They also watched me analyze literature, prove hypotheses, and take pleasure in my education. They may have reformed the image they had constructed in their heads, but that initial doubt has permanently altered the way I see myself. My hair does not define me, and to judge me based on something so inconsequential is a mistake.

In the end, “it’s just hair,” anyway, and there are more parts to me than strands on my head.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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Joele12 said...
Aug. 8, 2013 at 6:28 pm
kind of like how people first see me and think I'm a terrible mean person.. when in fact I don't even think of hurting a flie ( unless they're indoors trying to get on my food)
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