The Discovery of Cool This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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I stared at my fifth-grade school picture that my mother had been obligated to buy. The T-shirt I wore had a rather large stain on the front, and there was a small tear in the shoulder from a recent skateboarding fall. Frequent use of a wet suit had colored my neck the shades of Neapolitan ice cream: pale near my chest, red at the halfway point between my chin and my collarbone from a wet suit rash, and very tan the rest of the way up. The skin under my eyes was dark from sunburn, making my eyes appear sunken.

What was happening on top of my head was a different story altogether. A shock of white-blond hair that would have reached to my shoulders was plastered back over my scalp, and thanks to chlorine and salt damage, strands had clumped together to form what resembled snakes from the skull of Medusa. Needless to say, I was grateful that they didn’t sell yearbooks in fifth grade. Not that I really had a problem with the way I looked. I surfed and skated and had fun, and I didn’t know or care that I looked like a small girl who had unfortunately become addicted to methamphetamines.

“Let me look at it,” boomed my father, smiling proudly.

He paused for a moment as he took in the image.

“This is awesome!” he blurted. “You look like one of the Z-Boys! Like Stacy Peralta or something. That’s cool; it’s what I looked like when I was a kid.”

His words made me flinch. It’s not that I thought that the Z-Boys weren’t cool, it was the fact that he said I also looked like him. I wanted to be original and preferably not comparable to my dad. Besides, in all the surf magazines, those guys who lived a dream and rode perfectly blue water all day in remote Indian Ocean atolls had short hair and bangs that swung to one side of their forehead. That was cool.

“Yeah, I guess,” I responded flatly.

I sought the solitude of my room, where sunlight burst through the gaps in the deep blue curtains as if to let me know that the afternoon was waning away. Sitting on the edge of my bed, I wondered what it would be like to have short hair. It was a strange thought for me, a new thought; I had never had a real haircut, just the occasional trim to get rid of dead ends.

I thought of my favorite surfers and how smooth they looked in the glossy ads in my magazines and how much fun they always had in the many videos of my surf movie collection. One day I would be like them, traveling the world in board shorts and sandals, always seeking the perfect wave. My dad never did what they did – or at least he didn’t seem as cool doing it.

My abundance of strawlike blond hair all of a sudden felt annoying and heavy. The pointy ends scratched the back of my neck and bothered me as I slept.

The next morning was Saturday, and I had decided that I would cut my hair once and for all. It needed to go if I was ever going to live a life like professional surfers Andy Irons and Taj Burrow. I strode confidently into the living room, clad solely in my boxers, and announced that today I was going to get my hair cut.

“Oh, but honey, you look so handsome!” protested my mother.

“I bet you just want to look like that Jack Beerber singer or something,” my father said, glancing up from the newspaper. “Look, you can cut your hair, but just know that college girls love a guy with long hair. They think it’s cute.”

Strangely, this only reinforced my decision.

“I just think it’s time for a change,” I replied.

I made an appointment for 2 o’clock that afternoon and made sure to bring the latest issue of Surfer magazine. It had an interview with one of my favorite surfers – and a head shot. I thought it would be a good reference for the hairdresser so she could really capture the style I wanted.

It can be hard to know that one has had a substantial amount of hair cut away until they get up from the barber’s chair and walk around and feel the wind through it, but for me the feeling was instantaneous. When the hairdresser finally put her tools down, I felt as if a great shaggy cloud had been lifted from my head. For the first time I felt a chill on the back of my neck and realized there was no longer a curtain of hair covering it. I nearly ran out of the salon without paying; all I wanted to do was run around with my new light, sexy, sleek head of hair. I left a twenty on the register and galloped out the door with the breeze caressing my nearly visible scalp, and boy, did I feel cool. 

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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