A haircut started it all…

My dad cut my hair exclusively until I was 18 years old (barring that one time when I was 4 when my mom tried to scalp me before I went off to my grandma’s for the weekend). It was a nice bonding ritual, a time for us two Black men to get together and figure out what to do with the mess of hair that was my non-Afro. But as I grew distant from my dad, due to me realizing I was gay and that my former pastor daddy was not gonna be OK with it, I stopped looking forward to these haircuts. In high school, I sometimes wondered if I should be rebellious and just find some hair place (be it a barber shop, beauty salon, hair donation site, etc.) to put lightning streaks in my hair or dye it rainbow, but instead I continued to be the good Christian boy I always was and let my dad cut my hair while he started grilling me on why I wasn’t more Christian, or at least as Christian as him, a man who was a pastor at 16. When my life fell apart the end of my junior year (a separate post for a later date), I realized that I was more or less on my own since I couldn’t rely on my immediate family, and I was gonna have to figure out what to do with my hair myself.

Now, when I was 18, a couple of months before I was gonna go off to Oberlin College in Oberlin, OH,  I ended up going to some hair salon in the town next to me that I got free coupons for because I sang Christmas carols there. Maybe at this point, you think I’m some bougie bitch, and you’re probably right. But that’s another post. I got my first haircut at a place called Fantastic Sams in Forest Park (got to put a plug in here, and it’s an important part of the story). This young white woman, I’ll call her Megan, was the first person who was not biologically related to me to cut my hair. At the time, I didn’t think about it, but damn, I got a good haircut and I basically gave a big “Fuck you” to my dad at the same time, because there’s no way my dad would have let me go to a place like that to get my haircut. Well, he never let me go anywhere to get my hair cut, but especially not some “fancy hair salon” that cost $15 a haircut. Hmm, maybe I was the only one getting fucked here…

In any case, I got a good haircut, and I thought I was cool, being a part of the rest of the world of people who got expensive haircuts, except mine was free. Plus I got 3 free haircuts from my caroling adventure, so that should have lasted me until I went off to Ohio for college. But the whole experience represented something big to me as I got ready to leave my hometown of the Village of Oak Park (just want people to know where I’m from). My main identity for all 18 years of my life was being my father’s son. Hell, I was named after him. So I was essentially supposed to live out his legacy. I was supposed to be a super-religious pastor musician like he was, except I was not supposed to be a drug addict. I was supposed to marry some nice Black girl and have a son named after me. I was supposed to be my dad if he made better decisions. And for a while, I figured the best thing I could do was be my dad but better.

But that’s not the life I was going to live. And after started to figure out who I was and what I wanted in life, I guess I found out that I didn’t want to live that life anyway.

Cut to some 3-4 years later, I’m back in Chicago for a summer program (which I’ll write extensively about) and I faithfully go to Fantastic Sams, which I try to do the rare times I’m back home and want to cut my hair. To my surprise, I arrive to a new and improved Fantastic Sams (across the street from its old location). An older Latina who I’m pretty sure was a mom due to how much she was fussing over me was helping me figure out what type of fade I want, and as she asks me about where I go to school and what I study and what I want to do, I decide to share that I want to be a writer. She suggests to me that I get a blog. Outwardly, I’m as people-pleasing as always saying, “Yeah, that sounds good, I should do that,” but inwardly I’m hesitant. Don’t self-absorbed people make blogs? Even if they do, and I am one of those people, would I really have anything interesting to say?

But after I got my (wonderful) haircut, it clicked. I’m scared of failing. In this case, I guess failure would look like people making fun of me for this blog or something. But having a struggling musician father made me very acute to the different types of failure I could experience as someone into writing and art. I didn’t want to be jobless. I didn’t want to create only for people to mock or, even worse, ignore. I didn’t want to end up making horrible decisions in my life in pursuit of my art and grow old with regret. I didn’t want to be my dad.

Making a blog is a small step in confronting those challenges. It’s free and easy to do. And like my most recent Fantastic Sams hairstylist said, “You can put it on your Linkedin.” And maybe I can share some cool stories with whoever wants to read them. That’s what I want to do in my life anyway. I realize that’s the one thing that keeps me connected with my dad, we’re both passionate, artistic people who want people to see what we have to say. I guess this inadvertent Father’s Day post should end with a thanks to the man who I’m named after, without him, I never would have had a hairstylist at a fancy hair salon I could barely afford convince me to chase after my dreams.

Oh, and thank you Nat for the title.


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