Cut Up


It’s 12:37 PM and I am sitting at the desk in my bedroom holding a large pair of black and pink scissors. There is a window in my room and the midday light shines down on me like an aptly positioned spotlight. I prop my iPhone up against the sill in front of me and swipe to the camera. After a breath, I tap ‘record’ and clear my throat. 

Hi, I say with a wave to my imaginary viewers, and immediately cringe inwardly at this gesture. I’ve been watching too much YouTube. Aloud, I continue. It’s October twenty–something, and—I playfully snap the scissors open and shut—I’m going to cut off my hair


My honey-brown hair has been long all of my adult life, much to the frustration of my hairdresser. Over the past few years, despite her gentle encouragement and some friends’ unsolicited opinions, I’ve refused to cut off more than two inches. It steadfastly hangs down to the lower part of my back. What are we doing this time?  My hairdresser asks at each appointment, only to be consistently met by my boring, Just a dusting of the ends, please! 

I’ve been this particular since I first saw Miley Cyrus’s music video for “Party in the USA” back in 2009. In the video, Miley, in her cutoff shorts and scuffed cowboy boots, dances on the back of a pickup truck, her wavy, dark hair tumbling ethereally all the way down to her hips. I was mesmerized by that hair. I wanted that hair. I vowed to have that hair, even though my nine year old locks were mousy and brittle and growing so very slowly. 

Nonetheless, I remembered once being told that hair changes every seven years, so I remained hopeful and patient. And after years of sticking to a strict two inch haircut rule, my dream hair came to be: thick, silky, shiny and finally long. I like to think I willed this hair into existence, but I know it’s just genetics. I’m thankful that somehow I lucked out. 

Over the years, I’ve become irrationally proud of my hair. I’m proud of the discipline I’ve had—the will not to cut it when everyone around me was opting for sassy bobs, the will not to kill it by flat–ironing or curling it every day for school, the will not to fry it with premature highlights. But I’ve also become irrationally attached to it. 

My hair has become a portable blankie of sorts, something tactile and comforting that I take with me everywhere. I’ve developed an unquittable habit of petting and twirling it, soothed by the repetitive movement. My parents tell me this addiction makes me look anxious and is “kinda gross.” I agree with them, but alas, I can’t stop. I love the feel of the strands in my fingers, soft and smooth but slightly textured and crunchy at the ends. Sometimes I even bring a lock to my nose, inhaling deeply the flowery and citrusy scent of my shampoo. The smell is intoxicating and calming, an unexpected and bizarre analgesic I often turn to in times of stress. 

The length of my hair has become part of my identity. I must keep my hair long—just like I must always be punctual, just like I must always get perfect grades, just like I must always be liked. It is another one of the rules I’ve subconsciously ingrained, and my logic is absurdly irrational: my hair must be long because it must be kept simple because I am a good girl and good girls do not do wild things, as if cutting or dying my hair will somehow inevitably lead me to spiral and go absolutely off the deep end.

My mom often jokes that my hair is ‘virgin hair,’ a playful reference to my prudish avoidance of chemicals and scissors. I’ve relished this compliment, proud of my hair’s purity, how it remains untouched and unsullied by volatile trends and toxic peer pressure. But if my hair is ‘virgin hair,’ then I am the virgin Mary, a paragon of conventional purity. I don’t smoke. I don’t really drink. I study for seemingly endless hours. I say my pleases and thank yous. I feel guilty if I don’t pick up garbage from the floor or hold open a door for the person behind me. 

Sometimes I worry I’m not adventurous enough. I’m in my early twenties, and I should be, as they say, ‘living it up.’ I shouldn’t worry so much; I should entertain every spontaneous idea or urge that pops into my head; I should say ‘yes’ more; I shouldn’t care as much about school; I shouldn’t spend as much time alone; I should loosen up. I tell myself that spontaneity and discomfort necessitate fullness, that contentedness is catalyzed solely by making decisions that chafe against one’s values, because how else will one learn and grow? And so, I tell myself that I should cut my hair like the girls do on TikTok, that I should just say ‘fuck it’ and give myself bangs or a shaggy shoulder length sheering because, after all, hair grows back and maybe doing something so unexpected is what it means to live freely. So, thanks to my experimental non–fiction class, and my professor’s pushy insistence that I do something “radical,” here I sit, in front of my mirror, holding my innocent hair like a sacrificial lamb ready for slaughter, for sacrilege.  


It’s a sunny Thursday afternoon and I am at a wig shop. A bell tinkles politely as I open the door and step inside. Wigs of all sizes and colors line the shelved walls, extending the full length of the store. The white mannequin heads stare blankly at me as my eyes wander the unexpectedly open and bright space. I am here because I am trying to muster the courage to actually cut my hair because, as with everything, I like to be certain of any and all decisions I make. So I guess this is research. I figure trying on a short wig and seeing that the world doesn’t combust will help me actually go through with it. 

I meet Lois, the shop’s owner, and she brings me to a mirror with two stools tucked underneath a small counter. She motions for me to sit, and begins stroking my hair with her fingers. Her hands are strong and thick, the veins jumping beneath the skin, and her nails are painted a youthful light blue. Wow, she says. You have beautiful hair. So silky and long. Thank you, I say proudly, as if it’s anything but genetics and refusing haircuts that has earned me this compliment. Is there a specific style you’re looking for? I tell her something short, and wait patiently as she goes to grab options, bringing back two bobbed wavy brown wigs. Let’s try these first, yeah? She says. I feel like I’m eight years old again, playing dress up, and my stomach flutters with that same childlike anticipatory excitement. Sounds great, I say. She pulls my hair back into a low ponytail. 

You’re gonna wanna tie your hair back like this, at the bottom of your neck, she says. At the nape?  Yes, exactly, at the nape. She pulls a hair net over my head. Then slip that on, and split the ponytail into two sections. She twists my ponytail into two tight knots. Like that, she says. Then tuck each of these knots up into the cap. She does as she says, and I watch intently, focusing on remembering these steps. Then, you’re gonna grab this, she says, handing me the wig turned inside out. Hold it with two hands. You’re gonna flip it—she swings the wig onto my head in one swift motion—like that. Adjust it a little. She tugs, centering the middle part. And just like that. 

I stare at my reflection, adjusting to the incongruity I see before me. The wig falls right below my chin and its bangs hang over my eyes. The chin–length cut makes my face look even rounder and more innocent than usual. I look like Dora the Explorer. Lois asks what I need the wig for. I tell her a school project, and she asks what grade I’m in. I’m a junior at Penn, I say, and her dark eyes widen. Jesus, I thought you were in high school. This wig definitely doesn’t help, I joke, and we laugh. Then Lois asks suddenly, Do you get your teeth whitened? I smile nervously, Uh, no, I say, Why?  You have a movie-star smile, she says, and sighs wistfully. Such great teeth. You have braces? 

I watch us talking in the mirror. My teeth seem abnormally large in my mouth compared to her predominantly gummy smile. This exchange is ironic considering that earlier, after my morning coffee, I had spent ten minutes inspecting my teeth to determine whether or not they were turning yellow and panicking that, in fact, they were. Yes, I say, I did I have braces. Mmm, she says. I’m flattered but don’t like this attention so I jokingly tell her to stop blowing smoke up my ass and she laughs. 

I notice a sepia photograph of a couple framed on the wall. Oh, is that you and your husband?  I ask to change the topic. Are you kidding me? Ha, no, she says. I flush. Oh, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have assumed—Those’re my parents, she interrupts, you think I’m that old? That picture says 1942! We start laughing, me more from nerves than humor, and I suggest that I try on the next wig since it’s slightly longer in length and the one I have on feels unrealistically short for me. I’m not sure about this one, I say. She nods and waits as I successfully put on the second wig myself. This one also has bangs and they hang unevenly. Lois notices this and tells me she can fix that with a quick trim. I adjust the wig so it sits comfortably, and examine myself in the mirror, running my fingers through the too perfect thick ringlets. 

The ends brush the top of my shoulders, and when I touch the strands they feel unnaturally durable and synthetic, but, still, I notice myself grinning in the mirror. I feel like I need a new name, I say giddily to Lois, who watches with a satisfied smile as I twirl to admire myself in the mirror. Something sassy and exciting and fresh, I add to qualify. I like Eva, she says with a shrug. I gently pull the wig off, shaking my hair free, and hand it over for her to package. I think this is the one, I say. 

In the Uber on my way back to campus, I notice my armpits are wet and my cheeks hot. It feels like I’ve taken the first steps in committing an unforgivable crime. I’m shaking slightly—from excitement or nerves, I don’t know. But as I watch the blur of cars and people pass through the passenger window and my heartbeat slows, a realization hits me: the wig’s color is still too dark and the waves too cartoonish to look like a shorter version of mine. It looks like a costume, something childishly pretend. I don’t know how to go back and tell this to sweet and encouraging Lois, though, and I’m nauseated by the thought of doing so. 

When I get back to my apartment, I’m deflated and embarrassed. Did I seriously just buy a wig that I’m never going to wear? I put my new purchase, still wrapped and bagged, on a table with other unopened junk I’ve ordered and bought this month. After I shower and am ready for a night of homework, I sit at my laptop and type ‘realistic short wigs’ into the search–bar. My wet hair hangs down my back like a sheet, soaking through my sweatshirt, reminding me of its uncut presence. Beads of water drip rhythmically down, an unignorable pulsing chant: I’m still here! I pull a strand forward, petting it, shushing it, and scroll through the results. 


My favorite show of all time is arguably a lesser–known Y2K show called Felicity. My mom watched it when it ran in the early two thousands, and she recommended it to me a few years ago. You will love it, I remember her saying. She listed a few reasons why I would enjoy it—the romance, the drama, the realness, the existential humor—and told me that I would see shades of myself in the main character Felicity. I started watching and, as with most things, my mom was right. I was hooked. The show follows Felicity as she navigates the ups and downs of college. I saw so much of myself in her, this old soul who was also overly sensitive and a goody-two-shoes but oftentimes very lost. 

One of the most memorable moments on the show is when Felicity, recovering from a rocky relationship, decides to shear off all of her luscious hair. My mouth hung open as I watched this episode. I knew Felicity for her iconic mane of curls, and couldn’t imagine what she’d look like without them. Furious at the producers, I ranted angrily to my mom: why did they have to chop off all of Felicity’s gorgeous hair??  My mom smiled knowingly and told me that she adored that scene. It’s a turning point, she explained, a giant middle finger to expectations and other peoples’ opinions, an action that exudes confidence and independence. It’s symbolic of her letting go. 

I frowned at this response then, unsatisfied. Couldn’t this liberation that Felicity craved be achieved in a different, less drastic way? And why did she need it in the first place? It was the first time I felt our values diverge, and my admiration of Felicity’s character waver. I could never do that, I thought, and I would never want to


My phone thrums, waiting for my mom to pick up the FaceTime. I examine my reflection on the small screen as I wait. The wig I bought from Lois looks laughable on me now, mussed from the packaging and positioned on my head slightly off kilter. I want to see if it is at all believable. I’m trying to adjust it so that the part is more centered when my phone chirps to signal my mom has finally picked up. Her eyes widen as she registers my appearance and she covers her mouth with her hand, choking on a laugh. Oh my god, she says in disbelief, what on Earth are you wearing? I press my lips together to suppress my own laugh. I look again at my reflection in the tiny box on screen and feel absolutely ridiculous. Eva, my god, she continues, that doesn’t even look like your hair. Did you expect me to believe that? Where did you get that awful wig? 

I know by awful she just means totally unbelievable. But I find myself feeling defensive even as I start to laugh. I don’t really think it’s that bad, I say. I kinda like it. No, sweetie, she says. Just no.

No to the wig because it isn’t passable, I want to ask her, or no to the idea of me with short hair?

Dad’s home, she whispers. Call him in here, I say, let’s see what he thinks. I move my face away from the screen as my dad enters the frame. Hi Daddy, I say. Hi sweetie, he says. I hear the confusion in his voice. He’s wondering why my mom is laughing. What’s going on? I did something a bit interesting today, Dad. Oh yeah? Yeah. I see him look questioningly at my mom, who is trying to remain stoic but her face is turning pink. Why are you laughing? He says. Why is she laughing? When I move into the frame my dad’s smile falters. You’re joking, right? What on Earth is that? Is that a wig? No, it’s real. You’re joking. Dad, I’m not joking. A stunned pause. Eva, what did you do? How could a salon let you leave with that? I can tell he’s thrown off by the bangs and comical ringlets. I don’t even know, I say, sighing for dramatic effect. I was getting my hair blown out and mentioned wanting a haircut to the barber and then he was just like ‘well, why don’t we cut it now’ and I was like uh, and before I knew it he had just started snipping and I didn’t know how to say no—I trail off. I knew this last part of my lie would really help sell it. My dad knows what a people–pleaser I am, and how much I have trouble saying no—especially considering I was once in a foreign country for a wedding and a hair stylist forced me into a botched and uneven trim. He raises his eyebrows and glances at my mom, who shrugs. I can see he’s struggling to decide whether or not to believe me. He calls my younger sister into the room. I purposely did not want her there because she can smell my lies from a mile away. 

She stands with her arms crossed, assessing me. She’s lying, she sighs. It’s a wig—look how far down it is on her forehead. I feel heat rise to my cheeks and force an offended scoff, but I can’t stop myself from smiling and my family sees that as an admission of guilt. My dad starts hysterically laughing then, my favorite laugh, the one that’s silent but has all his teeth showing, his face turning red and the vein in his forehead bulging as if the laugh were traveling through his bloodstream. Ha! You’d never actually cut your hair off like that! He says. 

The call ends and I slide the wig off my head. What is it about me that says ‘I’d never cut my hair like that?’ I know my friends think that, too. Each time I’ve floated the idea of giving myself a makeover it’s been met by a flattering agreement that I am ‘beautiful no matter what,’ but a firm discouragement because long hair for me is ‘best.’ Sometimes I wonder if this notion of ‘best’ is more than just a logic rooted in the aesthetic, i.e. the idea that long hair might just physically suit me better. I wonder if it is actually saying something more existential about my nature and essence as a human being, that I, like my virgin hair, am predictable and pristine and refined. 

I’ve been told before that I am “too nice” and “too innocent,” ostensible compliments flung as insults. I remember the heat rising to my face, my cheeks reddening with embarrassment. The values I had been proud of were framed and presented as flaws in my character. I try to be good, but apparently that is bad. Sometimes I feel I should just intentionally desecrate my image, that I should vandalize and paint over the foundation I’ve laid, pull a Felicity and just let go. I tell myself I should actually do it: I should actually just cut my hair. Or cut something. Take the scissors and… 

It’s 12:37 PM and I am Miley Cyrus the virgin Mary. Sometimes I worry I’m not prudish. I feel guilty if I don’t smoke. Such great teeth, the ends brush the top of my shoulders. I feel like I need a new name, I say giddily, Felicity. My phone thrums, , an unignorable pulsing chant: I’m still here! It’s a turning point, she explained, and I notice my armpits are wet. I feel like I like Eva. The length of my hair is “kinda gross.” Those locks are me. The fact is Oftentimes times I feel I am Slightly garbage. no; Not nerves—chemicals? Try a husband? I’m an old virgin. Strict family or mousy. Hair is—just why? I’ve and let’s. Hairdresser and I; little ringlets myself, I could; I try. Sometimes I am thick; I cringe at the Adult of myself, my human. All know. All I know are grades. I, it’s misunderstood, uh. Ready the cut. I must know why. I’m adventurous. I decide to off everyone. See, don’t cutoff, no—choking. Lois!

I decide that, perhaps, I need to take more baby steps, and decide to get a nose ring. Maybe as a replacement for cutting my hair? I don’t know. I order a fake one off of Amazon. It’s a thin gold band, barely visible unless I turn my head just so and light catches the metal. It slips on easily, hanging onto my nostril like an unwanted booger. I like the way it looks—a lot, actually. I feel edgy. I feel older, cooler. I pair it with hightops and a band T-shirt and convince myself I look like the kind of girl who is dating a hot, tattooed drummer. 

I walk to class and bump into one of my housemates. We greet each other in passing—I’m rushing to class and don’t have time to stop—and I see her do a subtle double take. I’m curious if she’ll say something, but she doesn’t, and she never does because the next time we see each other later that day, I’m no longer even wearing it. She probably figured it was a trick of the light because, naturally, I don’t think she’d ever think of me as having a nose ring. 

Before I even get to class, I take it out. I suddenly feel like a phony wearing the nose ring, this pseudo-symbol of change and maturity and confidence, when sometimes all I want is to be a little kid again, to be swaddled and coddled and sheltered and soft. It doesn’t help that the ring itself is a fake, that I’m too chicken to get the real thing, to make this small and insignificant change to my appearance. I want to do it, but—as with my hair—only in theory. What does that say about me? Does that say anything about me?


My freshman year of college was my sister’s last year of high school. We spent the summer after she graduated driving with the windows down, letting the wind whip our long hair across our faces, and lounging outside in the heat, our skin browning and freckling under the sun. 

It’s August and while the days stretch longer, the time we have left together shrinks as we prepare to go our separate ways for the fall. One of the last items on our to do list: get our hair trimmed before we leave.

We are driving to the salon, me in the passenger seat and her behind the wheel, the way it always is when we’re together. I’m a safe driver, but a nervous one—too many potential things could go wrong. My sister, on the other hand, loves driving. She’s a natural behind the wheel and happily accepts her role as chauffeur. It’s quite the symbiotic arrangement. She is my little sister, but oftentimes I feel the roles are reversed. She often takes care of me. 

We listen to music in comfortable silence and I watch cars pass outside the window. You know, I think I’m going to actually cut my hair, my sister blurts out. I turn to look at her. What do you mean?  Like, cut it off?  She glances at me. I mean, not like a buzzcut, but yeah, like, short. She runs her fingers through her tangled strands, knotted from chlorine and sand, and lightened by the sun. What do you think? She asks. I’m quiet for a minute, digesting. Wow. I know, she says. Are you sure?  I ask. Yeah, why? You don’t like the idea anymore? You’ve been telling me the past few weeks you think a sassy cut would suit me, she says, putting air quotes around sassy. We pull up to a red light and I chew on my lip. She is right, I have been saying that—rather selfishly. I want my sister to cut her hair because, in theory, I want to cut mine. She is my guinea pig, my test subject, because she often has the courage to do the things that I don’t. She is my surrogate. I pause. I’m just nervous you won’t end up liking it and will be mad at me. She shrugs. Hair grows back, and I wouldn’t be mad at you, it’s my decision not yours. Really?  I ask. She looks at me and then back at the road. Really, she says. I squeal, excited as though it were my decision, and hug her. She laughs and pats my head. Please calm down, she jokes lovingly. I’m trying to drive here.


We cannot stop giggling as we leave the salon, high on my sister’s spontaneous decision. My bare arm is around her shoulders and for the first time in years her hair isn’t caught beneath my grip. It looks so good, I tell her. Her smile is huge, dimples digging deep into her cheeks. She keeps shaking her head back and forth like an excited puppy that’s just been groomed, enjoying the way the ends lick the tops of her shoulders. I love it, she says. 

In the car, we have a little photoshoot. I take pictures of her laughing, throwing her head back and flipping her new hair. She looks so confident and happy and free and I am mesmerized watching her. Yet amidst the giddiness, a pang of jealousy. 

As if reading my mind, my little sister looks at me and cocks her head knowingly. You could do it too if you wanted, she says. Nah, I say. Maybe next time

A month or so later my phone thrums and it’s my sister calling. I pick up the FaceTime. Her face is puffy and red. She’d been crying. What’s wrong?  I demand. She goes on to tell me the list of things that are making her upset. And, to top it all off, she says breathlessly as her eyes water, I hate my new hair. 

Oh no. I immediately start to apologize, feeling guilty for forcing my vision on her and wanting to live vicariously through her. But she qualifies her complaint, sniffling as she explains that she’s not mad at me, she’s just upset because she’s feeling insecure and thought short hair would make her feel more confident, not less. I’m sorry, I say quietly. Again, she says, not your fault. I know, I say, I’m just sorry you’re feeling shitty. Me too, she says. And then, she laughs. I should’ve known a stupid haircut wouldn’t just magically fix all of my problems. 

I decide that I feel like an unwanted booger. Barely visible. So I see, he says. I want to Like, cut it off?  I should’ve known a stupid haircut wouldn’t just magically fix my guinea pig. I know I have my decision. I immediately start to feel insecure, shitty, like a hot, tattooed drummer. I consider the quiet slips experiment with the looks—a chauffeur; Myself, she, her. Know yes. End sometimes one camera. We vicariously light out my housemates together. Insecure hair—only it isn’t. Calm and lighthearted was daddy. Do I shrinks because of me? My; Across is me again and on Wheel jealousy; she looks edgy. Think I hurt my head outside. She, driving, and I as not down feel hair of with it figured; Comfortable you last just I doesn’t care. Before safe natural. The would—It’s the way I am. Feeling naturally me. Nervous I’m the way I am. Am I The experiment? I’m quite Swaddled. My what wrong?; A trying theory, it runs symbiotic to her shrugs. Enjoying chicken back. I ring my upset, satisfied with the wrong; To do it but fake. Instead the salon says; Just say digging; And mesmerized Like potential. To not separate maturity, a decision. Knowingly I think? I could feel the vision and I do. I Cut courage off. I’m the surrogate giggling because I demand the one I be.

It’s 12:42 PM and I am still holding the black and pink pair of scissors. I have gathered my hair and tied it into a thick ponytail below my chin. I hear my pulse in my ears. Okay, I say more to myself than to the camera, here I go. I put the mouth of the scissors above the hairband. If I make the cut here, the hair will fall just to my shoulders. I nod encouragingly at my reflection in my small desk mirror, reminding myself that I can do this. I begin to cut. 

I realize too late I should have sectioned my hair because the single ponytail is too thick. I have to use a sawing motion and my hand starts cramping. I’m sweating and keep muttering c’mon repeatedly, an aggressive chant. The slice is now slanting and I am panicking. Oh fuck, I say, oh fuck. 

Then, at last, the final strand cuts free. Aha! I yell excitedly, holding the sawed off ponytail. I immediately see that it’s entirely cut in a harsh diagonal and I groan, wondering why I didn’t just follow a YouTube tutorial. I dare a peek at the mirror.

Oh, I say, admiring my reflection. Okay, okay, it doesn’t look too bad. The front pieces flop forward then, ballooning around my face. Okay, nevermind, that looks bad, I say. I start doing what I’ve seen hairdressers do in movies and at salons, and try snipping away at some strands in the front to give a more textured and layered effect. After about a minute of doing this, I check back in with the mirror and see that I’ve only made it infinitely worse. I now have bangs that are way too thick and that hang unevenly to my nose. I cover my hands with my mouth. Oh my god, I say, the sound muffled. I stare at my reflection in disbelief. It looks laughably atrocious, and I have made an absolute mess. Strands of hair litter my desk and my floor, looking like tiny hairy centipedes. I realize I need to clean this up. I stop the recording then and start hysterically laughing. That felt good. Cathartic, and, indeed, freeing. 

But thank god it wasn’t my real hair. I examine my reflection in the mirror for another minute, and slide the desecrated wig carefully off my head, my long hair spilling free from where it was safely wrapped and protected underneath.  

After I stop slanting, I nod. I am diagonal. The effect is god, textured nose below sound, laughably back. Hairdressers made my pink reflection carefully. Dare I say my fuck. I like cuts. My face is sawed, my mouth sectioned, the front in pieces. I stare at my hairy centipedes. I thank my ponytail, oh I still Yell. Encouragingly, after another I flop ballooning. That mirror is sweating excitedly. I’m okay, scissors spilling shoulders groan infinitely. Laughing because I need that above doing for myself. Some cut the panicking, unevenly snipping at 12:42. I slide thick to keep my cover, panicking around the absolute start, oh my. That holding is cramping. I felt small, cathartic recording. Begin the gathered hands about the wrapped cut. The litter have muffled, motion to the mirror. My stare underneath indeed is to chant repeatedly where to start. Reflection is—nevermind. Admiring and wondering; I’m a tiny thick head. A single minute, bangs it’s and mouth ponytail. I tied disbelief, see the wig. I in is and layered tutorial oh cut. Here is I at last. 

A friend of mine once told me a cheeky parable about Napoleon. One dark and stormy night, Napoleon and his troops were camped on a mountainside. Napoleon was undressing for bed when he realized he wanted a cigarette. He patted his pockets, and searched his tent, but alas, he could not find his cigarettes. Then, a realization: he had left the cigarettes in a different tent a mile away. If he wanted them, he would have to brave the freezing cold and pouring rain. ‘Am I really going to let a pack of cigarettes have so much control over me that I would brave this horrible weather? No one controls Napoleon,’ he said with a huff. He continued undressing for bed, but then, another thought: ‘Am I really going to let the weather control my decision to go get something that I want?’ And so, Napoleon did what any sane person would do. He bundled up in his warmest layers and schlepped to the other tent to get his cigarettes. Except, once he arrived, he picked up the cigarettes, promptly put them back down, and made the trek back to his tent empty handed, because, after all, Napoleon wasn’t going to let anyone or anything control him—not the weather, nor the cigarettes.

Which begs the real question, how is a pack of cigarettes like a pair of cold metal scissors, trembling in one’s hand, still in search of an ever cuttable surrogate?

 I told myself that my experiment this semester would be to muster up the courage to actually cut my hair, to use this action as a symbolic rebellion of sorts against my own personal expectations and ‘shoulds.’ But I have not been able to do it, perhaps because I don’t actually want to. 

I’ve felt like a failure. How shallow am I, I’ve thought, to care so much about my hair that I won’t cut it off for the sake of art? How boring am I that I just can’t embrace that notoriously GenZ/millennial YOLO mentality, the one that tells us we have to make uncomfortable and adventurous decisions in order to live a “fun” and “exciting” life? In order to make one’s life be a story worth telling? Worth reading? 

But cutting my hair won’t magically make me more confident or more decisive or less of an anxious overthinker or less fearful of change and growing up. And perhaps telling myself I ‘should’ cut my hair is only yet another self–imposed rule, another requirement I must fulfill in order to get the perfect, most climactic story. So, I decided to do what Napoleon did: to empower myself by going through the motions, to have this surrogate experience so that the idea and theoretical desire don’t oppressively hang over my head and taunt me. Indeed, I exist as a paradox: I wish to control how I relinquish control. And so, I turn to the Dadaist gods in artistic supplication, offering a different sacrifice instead.

Rather than bring the scissors to my hair, I bring them to the page. 

I magically am Napoleon. I order to myself, weather myself. A continued overthinker and a story embrace, undressing the failure. The Genz/millennial troops I desired to be felt this tease adventurous. The tent was anxious for the warmest Napoleon. I am a shallow requirement, freezing. The page mentality picked a climactic paradox. Cutting is decisive, much desired to ‘should’ against to ‘fun.’ Do that, am that,’ a self imposed theoretical, a horrible theoretical to perfect indeed. I am stormy; brave; fearful; Napoleon; symbolic; a failure; a rebellion; a surrogate. I relinquish cigarettes and smoke expectations all for my art. For my future. For my hair.