As the pandemic flung forth, so did my dad's hair.
What was once a charcoal beret had grown into a voluminous cloud, and like a cloud it had a windswept flair, its outlier wisps gathering into a rat tail at the nape of his neck. Apart from the upper patches lidded by a baseball cap, his locks flowed without restraint and in no particular pattern. My dad refused to cut it, citing his newfound freedom. No other explanation was needed; from the way he’d said "freedom," I could glean undertones of nostalgia for the American sixties he did not get to experience – until now, in his own way, in his own sixties.
His taming methods in the early stages were unorthodox to say the least. When he laid a hair net over his puffed crown to flatten it, my mother and I raised a brow. We offered to cut it, and he refused. We asked whether he’d considered using gel, and he shrugged.
As his hair grew longer, so did his list of reasons for letting it be, though the reasons were less important than the carefree ring in his voice. That the barbershops were opening up again did not make a difference. He was bemused and then enthralled by the new identity his hair afforded him, an identity with which he could experiment freely. As we'd suggested, he brought out the gel, slicking his locks to create what he called “motorcycle hair,” and matched the look with a fiery red and black t-shirt. With a little more practice, he could sweep his bangs to rival those of Elvis Presley or Johnny Bravo.
I began to imagine a reality in which my dad could become a sort of Rapunzel with the exception that he didn’t mind staying indoors. Dad would be, I wagered, a fairytale character who didn't need to conform to beauty standards of the day. I pictured being able to twist his locks into a braided updo with face-framing strands. Fashion photo shoots with him and my mom together at golden hour. Chiaroscuro B&W portraits at a tilted angle. Beachy waves, roller curls, beehive.
When he finally cut his hair, it was of his own accord. First, the wispy strands, which had coiled further down his trellis of a neck – snip. Then, a horizontal shave at the base to level the jaggedness –buzz. If he lost his sixties motorcycle look, any grief of what was or what could have been did not have time to materialize, for in that instant a new identity took hold. He left the rest of his hair untouched and came out of the bathroom looking like an enoki mushroom.
But that was only what I saw. What mattered was what he saw: possibility. Whether the American imagination was ready for my dad as a surrogate cultural icon was hard to test within our household alone. Then again, I suppose his explorations need not depend on anyone's readiness but his own.
Tiffany Mi is an emerging writer hailing from greater Dallas, TX. She recently received her B.A. from Pomona College and was a Fulbright recipient in Spain. Her work is published in Careless Magazine.