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All the Haircuts You Used to Have

By Liza Olson

It started out with the bowl cuts, obligatory for that time period, every kid the same, and then the buzzcuts via wall-plugged clippers, sweaty in the bathroom, hair collecting on skin and floor, and your dad trying to teach you how to shave, years before you’d shave legs and pits, years before the eventual gelled-up spikes, insisting it’s not a phase, and the fascination/excitement of longer hair, even if you did feel compelled by gender norms to wear it up, make it shoot out of your head in all directions the way you wished you could shoot out of that tiny town, to just be Away, and then the experimental bleach-blonde tips, the duckbills, buzzcuts again when those didn’t work out, and the pain in your stomach when it was all gone, hair in the trash, later that year kissing a boy and not telling anyone, hearing in your head the chorus of slurs that the other boys would use, had already used before, and then doubling down, growing it out real long, teenage Catholic rebellion at the all-boys school, being taught that you’re an abomination, spending religion class picking apart the dogma, forcing questions your teacher can’t answer, but doing so well on homework and tests that they have to give you an A anyway, then growing it till it breaks dress code and you’re forced to bring out the clippers again, making it through somehow to graduation, to distance, to trying every style imaginable, getting a job and making a little money and saving up and abruptly moving very far away, and kissing more guys, letting the shame curl away like smoke from the cigarettes you’d share with them, sickly sweet, and not cutting it anymore, not a single lock: hair down to your shoulders, hair like a queen of the silver screen, and months later, long after the move, it was finding those old clippers in a long-forgotten box, finding them, and taking them away, and oh how beautiful it was when they disappeared, when you let them drop, finally, into the trash.

Liza Olson is the author of Here's Waldo, Editor-in-Chief of (mac)ro(mic), and a Chicagoland transplant now living in North Carolina who's been published in SmokeLong Quarterly, Hobart, Fiction Southeast, and other fine places; find her online at or on Twitter @lizaolsonbooks.

Art by Jay Baker, an artist from Colorado, living in Oregon by way of New Mexico; he records music as Tom Foe.


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