When I was about 10 or so, “Hair Independence Day” loomed large. For a number of months, I feared it, and as it grew closer I became less and less sure of myself. But just like 8th grade and eventual adulthood, I knew it was something I would have to face eventually.
Instead of dealing directly with my hair, every morning I forced my mother to stand behind me in front of a mirror and desperately pull at it until it was gathered into a ponytail. If I didn’t like the ponytail (read: if it wasn’t tight enough to be the sure cause of an eventual receding hairline), I made her do it again. I simply did not do it myself, because that wasn’t one of the options.
But one day, tired of listening to me scream at her, my mother imposed a deadline, and coined the Independence Day term. She gave me about a three month preparation period, and every day she reminded me that the day was getting closer, and that when it came I would have to make my own ponytail. I think she may even have taped a numbered countdown to the mirror. I was terrified.
Before I knew it, the day came. I don’t really remember it, so I guess it wasn’t that eventful. I mean honestly, most likely I just cried for a while and then pulled my hair into a ponytail and then realized that it was insane I hadn’t previously been doing that. For a short while, my hair life was normal.
But the thing is this: I was also pretty OCD. This disorder manifested itself in various random ways, such as my inability to sit at a table without first pushing every chair all the way in, and my occasional inability to go to sleep without spending about an hour getting up and moving small objects a little bit to the left or the right. Listen, it was manageable. Yes, I did have to give my mother exactly 19 goodnight kisses in a row that followed a particular beat and pattern before I let her leave the room, but who didn’t? I was dealing.
But then, something terrible happened. The OCD part of me saw that I now had complete control over my own hair. It sensed an opportunity. And then it discovered bobby pins.
BOBBY PINS, MY FRIENDS. They seem so innocent. Just little brown stick-like things, really; just supposed to be used recreationally, to catch a stray hair here or there, nothing crazy. But see here’s the deal. I had (OK I STILL HAVE) tufts of baby hair at the edge of my forehead that did not grow. Instead, they frizzed out. This created a frizzy glow around my head on a day-to-day basis, or two little horns if I was playing soccer (the sweat would clump the frizz together to form the horns). Either way, like I’ve said, it had never really bothered me before. But, with the new control and the OCD and the BOBBY PINS, I realized that THIS WAS MY CHANCE.
So, I just started putting bobby pins into the clumps of frizz and I couldn’t stop. Every morning I stood alone in front of the mirror and inserted one more, and oh actually just one more, and wait I think if I put one more here it will just make all the difference! Until my head was actually covered in bobby pins. Just covered. THEY stuck out. You couldn’t even tell I HAD hair underneath. I was essentially wearing a metal helmet, but I felt really safe knowing that I’d done all I could to look my best.
My sister starting calling me Bobby. She got all of her FRIENDS to call me Bobby. I have one particularly distinct memory of hearing the word ring through the school hallway (weirdly, again, this didn’t really cause me much embarrassment – it was more like, I know, right, SO WEIRD about the bobby pins – wish there was something I could do!). That was just that! Bobby pins. And me.