It was autumn, and the wind outside has become cool enough to combat the renegade heater in my dorm room. Still, I closed it. I wanted privacy. Now I stood before the bathroom mirror running my fingers through my long black hair. Slowly, silently, I took a strand, and snipped it away. The work became faster and faster. Not a lock fell to the ground. I clutched on to the ends of my hair, and let the scissors eat away at it so they were still in my hands when they fell away from my head. There was no mess, no trace.

I have been longing to cut my hair for a long time. I wanted it short, but I wasn't adventurous enough. So I last fall, I let the black man in dredlocks and bandana snip off bits and pieces of my hair, so when I walked, each strand, having a mind of its own, will float away from my face, as if wanting to escape. "Now you look fine, uhm hm!", he said, and I smiled. Sure, I'll try this on.

That school year, I hung out with a couple of Caucasian boys living in the dorm, who just by looking at me, thought I would make a great lead singer for their band. They did nothing but talk about it though, and we would stay up nights playing cards, vandalizing property and cleaning it up afterwards, stealing odds and ends like trays and abandoned chairs, watching movies no normal person would have ever seen, and listening to the distortion and whiny voices of what they considered real punk: meaning anything not on the radio.

Other nights were spent debating on what to do until it was so late in the night that one by one, we all just drifted back to our rooms. To me, they were exciting, new, adventurous, and still honest and very sincere. But all their good qualities didnt change the feeling around my neck, like a pair of hands, a cloth, or a rope squeezing tighter. Soon, the nights became unbearable, and the more I spent time with them, the more I wanted to get away. Yet, I stayed because they were my friends and I couldnt just leave them.

Now, my hair hung randomly layered to my neck. I massaged what was left of it with my fingers while in my mind, I tried to imagine different styles that could go with the shape of my face: something that would frame it well, something that showed everyone who I was and how I wanted to be seen. Bangs? No bangs? Should I cut it shorter? Leave it as it is?

Over summer break, my whole family and I went to the Philippines. We stayed over at Tita Mylenes for good will, and on days when we stayed home, when I wasnt too tired, I laid in bed, listening to everyone else outside leave for work and for school, while my family beside me slept soundly.

She referred me to her hair dresser because he was wonderful, and I trusted her. My hair has grown too long and the effect it had last year was vanishing because of its weight. But everything happened so suddenly, that before I knew it, it was done. In the mirror, my hair, only inches shorter, hung to my chest like everyone elses, like every other Filipina.

I stored my hair away into a paper bag. Maybe I can do something crafty with it later on. Then I pulled whatever I can back into a stubby ponytail and walked over to a salon. Luckily, they were open on Sundays. When my hair stylist was ready, she sweetly asked, Ok, what can I do for you today?

I opened my sketch book and showed her what I wanted: something modern yet conservative, something that did not require so much maintenance, something that looked like it belonged to the shape of my head, something that framed my face a certain way so that it helped me see who I really was right now.

-Florence A., Filipino American Studies, 11/6/02