Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Katie McMahon: Oh, do you mean me? I'm actually a girl.

So I’ve done a lot of awful and great things to my hair. It started off in high school after listening to too much pop punk and falling into a deep depression. I started off with the Kelly Osbourne-do because she was just as angry as me, though I was chubbier. I was smart enough to have a person who actually cuts hair for a living cut mine, but way too cool to have them color it. So I went to the nearest Sally’s Beauty Supply and picked up a bottle of temporary hair dye in jet black with blue undertones. Everyone started saying, “Oh, you look like that Osbourne chick,” and I picked up an electric guitar and told them all to fuck off.

As soon as I graduated high school, I stopped being so angry and started feeling super wacky. Almost as soon as I picked up my diploma, I was off to the hair salon again and the stylist was now bleaching my hair. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the day before I had picked up bottles of hair dye in punky blue, hot pink, and purple. I went blue first. Two weeks later, my hair was pink. I ended with purple. I was trying to be like Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but I didn’t have an orange hoodie sweatshirt. Also, I weighed about two hundred pounds and though I was only eighteen years old, there were definitely parts of my life that I wanted to erase. At the end of the summer, my hair was the color of an Easter egg that some idiot kid had dipped in every color. Its texture was just like the fake green grass you put in the Easter basket and cover with candy. My head was an Easter basket.

After that summer, as I moved from Michigan to California for college, I thought it would be an awesome idea to make another hairstyle change, so I chopped it off. It was short, really really short. I dyed it black again. My hair was now so dry that if I itched my head, little black flakes would fall on my shoulders. Most of the time, I looked like a drunken Elizabeth Taylor, which was basically who I was at the time anyway, just quite a bit younger.

It always started off with the need for a change. Every once in a while, I would get a horrible haircut. I had an accidental mullet not once, but two times. Part of it was because I was having any old person off the street cut my hair. The other part was because I never knew exactly what I wanted. I just knew I needed a drastic change, and I always got what I asked for.

I went through a long phase of hipster bangs. Those were probably my favorite and I’m not going to lie, I miss them sometimes. I let my hair grow long. I cut it into a bob. It was nice. I even bleached it again, but got natural-looking highlights. It was what you would call pretty hair. Girl hair.

I have spent the last year trying to make up for all the damage I’ve done to my hair. I dyed it back to my natural color and kept cutting it, little by little, to bring it back to its original state. One of my best friends was getting married and asked me to be in her wedding, so I spent most of the past few months trying to grow my hair out. I figured I would be able to put it up and make it wedding appropriate. Maybe a few flowers here and there.

But then I got that feeling again. I needed a change. The longer my hair grew, the more plain and boring it looked. I kept pulling it back because when I tried to wear it down, it looked like a dead animal was resting on my head. I called my friend, whose wedding was now less than a month away, and asked for her permission to chop it all off. She laughed at me because she knows how weird I am and said yes.

So I took a picture of what I thought I wanted to the lady who cuts my hair. I’ve recently come to trust her because she is always honest and doesn’t charge me a bazillion dollars for a haircut that takes fifteen minutes. She looked at the picture I brought with me and shook her head. She said I would look creepy. 80s creepy. My mouth dropped. I like attention, but that was not what I wanted.

The hair lady has a really cute short haircut that could be worn messy, in a little fauxhawk, or sleek and sassy. I want your hair! I said to her and so that’s what she gave me. Chop, chop, buzz, buzz. Twenty-five dollars and I’m riding my bike with a lighter head and a better attitude.

I got everything I wanted out of the new haircut. It made me feel good. My hair became much healthier. I got lots of attention from people saying things like, “Oh, I love your hair!” or “Cute hair!” Lots of oohs and aahs. It has become my perfect hair cut.

Except for one thing.

I work at a movie theatre where we have the unfortunate pleasure of wearing incredibly unflattering uniforms. We all look like Dr. Evil with slip-resistant shoes and nametags hanging from our necks. Even the most attractive employees look pretty lame in their unisex, dark blue, button-up shirts. Seeing people outside of work is astonishing. They look like humans. Women look like women and men look like men. The point of this explanation is this:

At least twice a day, someone calls me a man.

“That guy can help us find our seats,” or, “Excuse me sir, when is the movie going to start?”

In the dark, the short, cute hair has made me look like a man.

To ancient, elderly people, the adorable haircut makes me look like a little boy.

To top that off, at my friend’s wedding, people kept asking me where my girlfriend was. Granted, we weren’t amongst the most liberal crowd, so a short hair cut could seem kind of wild, but I slowly started to realize that people thought I was a lesbian.

I’d rather be labeled as a lesbian than a man, but come on. Why must a haircut label anyone as anything? Sometimes if I am called sir or young man more than three or four times, I want to rip my shirt off and scream, “Does a young man have these?!”

I want to have enough self confidence to not care, but sometimes it really annoys me and knocks me down a bit. My co-workers always remind me how stupid certain guests can be and that old people are just old. I think that’s a good excuse.

Plus, people always called Peppermint Patty from the Peanuts cartoon “sir.” And she wasn’t a lesbian or a man.

Katie McMahon is a lady who lives in the North Hollywood area. She has a bachelor's degree that she keeps on her bookcase and looks at sometimes. She is getting a master's degree to put on her nightstand. Sometimes she takes pictures which you can look at here, but you don't have to if you're busy right now.


  1. Christ, this happens to me all the time too (not only do I have short hair, but I'm also 5'10" tall -- great combination). Last winter, I finally bought a tailored coat so that from behind I'd have more of a feminine figure. It's made a noticeable difference. The boob thing struck a definite chord with me -- lo, the times I have been tempted to do that. "Did you just call me 'Sir'? SIR THIS!"

    Great piece!

  2. Holy cow, that article must have made me smile of laugh 6 times. You have a great attitude about this the fac t hat you can laugh this off like you do... well props to you for that.

    I hate to admit, but I've been the one to say something stupid like putting a "sir" in where it didn't belong and I walk away kicking myself and wondering why I'm not more tactful.

    this is really the first time I've heard someone express what it feels like to be on the other side of this.

    Thanks for a great article.

  3. I once held a door for a pregnant stranger at church and I said, "Here, let me get the door for the expectant mother" and she snapped, "I had the baby 6 months ago."

  4. I always had a somewhat deep voice and when I bobbed my hair at age 12 a middle school classmate asked if I was male or female despite the fact that I was wearing purple shorts and a shirt with girly flowers on it at the time. And some girly cheerleader types asked me, "Why do you talk like a boy?" just to be mean. It rankles, it does. I was always a tomboy but today I'm trying to get in touch with my girly side a bit more.

    Also on the subject of hair, have you seen these? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oabOl-t5U5o

  5. Aw, I love your hair!!! and I'm pretty positive you are not a lesbian. (love, E.I.)

  6. that animal hair video thing is terrifying.