I believe that the term ‘write what you know’ is about including small details of yourself and your experiences into your writing in order to imbue it with authenticity, rather than only write about topics where you are academically knowledgeable. Because of that when I have a small memory from some part of my life that seems to stick around I like to write it down as I figure it must have some import for me not to forget it, with the added hope that one day I’ll be able to use it when it’s appropriate to a story. On that note, here is one of those memories.
It was 2011 and I was shaving my head in the bathroom. I find the experience of going to the hairdressers uncomfortable. This is mostly because I never really know the answer to ‘What are we doing with your hair today?’, but also because the forced conversation or uncomfortable silence option is one I’ve never managed to master. As a result of this I prefer to chop my hair off myself. That was true back in 2011 and it’s true now.
The only problem with shaving my head is that I can’t cut a nice straight hairline at the back by myself. I’ve tried and it’s never ended well. Luckily for me I’ve always lived with someone who can help me out. At the time I was living with my older sister, Angela, and the Lady Holly; who I think had either recently moved in or was around enough that she may as well have. As it seemed a more girlfriend than sister type duty I asked Holly to do the back of my head for me.
Quick diversion. When I was a kid Angela and my older brother Matt would sometimes pick on me because, you know, they’re older siblings, and that’s what older siblings do. In those moments I would always try really hard to contain my anger. Even back then I was someone who preferred to remain calm and reasonable. Unfortunately I was also five so rather than contain my anger I instead bottled it until my icy calm would explode into a burning rage; basically a tantrum. I always regretted when my anger would explode, one, because I didn’t like feeling out of control, and two, because it had little effect on my older siblings anyway. Now I am no longer five, and I haven’t had or even come close to an outburst like that since I was.
Back to the head shaving. Holly was going to cut a neat hairline at the back of my head. To assist with this I had removed the attached comb from the clippers, which controlled the length of the cut, leaving just the blades. Unfortunately there was a miscommunication and so Holly thought she was shaving the whole back of my head rather than just a line at the base of it. She turned the clippers on, zipped them across my scalp, and I had a bald patch. Holly, sweetheart that she is, became upset by what she had accidentally done. I was a little bit upset too, not at her of course, just at the situation in general, which is what I told her as I tried to comfort her and stop the flow of tears that had started. I told her it was okay, it would grow back, and that she shouldn’t worry about it. As I started to clean up my fallen locks Holly went to the bedroom to compose herself.
Angela, having heard some of what had happened, went to Holly and told her something along the lines of “He’s always had a temper” in an attempt to comfort her. Holly, shocked by a statement I’m happy to report she saw as the complete opposite of both the situation and a misrepresentation of me as a person, struggled to give a response.
Holly told me later what Angela had said and I could only sigh and explain to her how five year old me would occasionally get picked on to the point of explosion by the very person who now, fifteen years later, saw me as someone with anger problems.
It saddens me that this is included in my older sister’s opinion of me. 1) because I don’t like the idea that anyone would see me in that light and 2) because despite all the evidence to the contrary I’m still victim to a first impression my sister made when she was nine.
Mostly though it taught me that you never really know how people see you nor do you have any control over it.
Turns out that’s what I know.