Hairy affairs

I had obeyed the law and yet I was punished. Sometimes you find yourself in a bad situation – there’s nothing you can do about it. I was in sixth grade and my mother until then, had used to cut my hair. I trusted her, although she had once cut my ear. She has not been able to forget it until today, while for me it is a memory without emotion. I think it didn’t go very deep into the flesh because there is neither a scar nor any other sign of that wound. She hadn’t lost my trust because of it. Perhaps also because I knew that this cut had hurt her more than it had hurt me. Maybe she had felt the pain that I should have felt, who knows. In any case it was her business to cut my hair because I felt comfortable with it. When I look at the photos of earlier days, she has done quite well. I never felt beautiful with those ugly glasses I wore, and the haircut didn’t matter anyway. Or it did. My hairstyle was done by my mother and it was good that way.
Once she was on a business trip and my hair should be cut. Since my father is a pragmatic person, he took matters into his own hands. He probably knew that he would not be able to do anything clever with a comb and scissors and so he used the hair trimmer. I think he was just being practical: It would be quick, clean looking and for the next few weeks it wouldn’t be necessary to cut the hair again. He let the trimmer make its noise and I looked on the floor to see how tufts of hair piled up. It’s amazing how much hair it is when you turn it into a pile. Looking in the mirror frightened me. It wasn’t me I was looking at. I cried because I knew that there was no way out of this situation. The hair was gone.
The next day I went to school. My head was freezing, and I kept my hood on to warm it. When I arrived at school, I did not take off my hood. The first two hours passed, and nothing happened. I survived the break and for the next two hours nobody was bothered by my headgear that gave me so much security. Lunch was served and we gathered in the dining room. There was no canteen, the school was much too small for that. I ate my food and talked to my best friend. The whole room was filled with the typical noise that arises when children eat and chat a little. But the noise was replaced by dead silence from one moment to the next when a teacher urged me to take off my hood while I was eating: “Put the hood down or you’re not allowed eat!”, she demanded. Now this teacher had never been responsible for me but she was not unknown to anyone. She was strict and people were afraid of her. I was afraid, anyway. I always was, but with her even more so. I had never been a rebel and I never disagreed and always did as I was told. And so I did in this moment: I pushed my plate away from me and fulfilled thereby the given instruction. This should be enough, I thought to myself. After all, the school’s advertising materials always said that you could learn here without fear. Well, at least I wasn’t allowed to eat without fear. Because pushing the food away was not enough. That would undermine the teacher’s authority. She probably didn’t even know that she was responsible for this because of her vague statement. She had probably already forgotten that she said: “You put the hood down or you’re not allowed to eat”. I didn’t feel guilty. But she asked me again to take off the hood. I had tears in my eyes because I did not want this shame. I didn’t want to be in the centre of this situation, and I didn’t want to show my almost bald head. But in the end, I did as I was commanded. The teacher was silent, and the days and years passed.
I have not forgotten this situation and I am angry about it. I am angry because I did not fight against the teacher. In the worst case we would have gone to the principal. A good-hearted man with a big belly. He would have explained to me, of course, that there was this rule and that he would understand if I was ashamed of the hairstyle, although he saw no reason for it at all, because I would look beautiful with it as well. And after that he would have talked to the teacher separately and asked her why she was treating a young student like that.
At some point I had to take off that hood, that was inevitable. I couldn’t have walked around like that for weeks. I am also not saddened that I was harmed in a certain way by first shaving off my hair and then later putting me in the centre of attention and letting me suffer there. I think I have grown from that. But I could have continued to grow. I could have gotten up to defend myself against a wrong treatment so that she might not hurt anyone again after that. Today I sometimes find myself in situations in which I also have the choice between staying seated or getting up. I never really have to stand up for myself and I hope that I have learned to stand up for others.

Steffen Gärtner

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