annie_cheng

United States of America

pronouns | she/her
house | ravenclaw
patronus | hummingbird
age | 16

“Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly. They’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.” - Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

Message to Readers

For the sake of context, my hair is over two feet long right now. And no, I still haven't cut it. Thanks for reading! :)

Split Ends

August 21, 2018

This is a story that begins at the ends: the frayed, thinning, split ends. The mangled, tired-looking roots that tell a tale of irreparable damage and stagnated growth. Why wouldn't I cut them off? The scissors are in my hand, the inimitable power to sever and the potential energy of choice gripped shakily in my palm. But my finger rests perpetually on the trigger. This is why.

The first time it happened, the scissors were not in my hand. They were in the hands of my fearlessly independent eleven-year-old cousin, Tessa. I was only six years old, so young that I blew off big decisions like dandelion fluff, unconcerned about where the seeds would land. "Do whatever you want," I had said, lacking to will to choose for myself.

I didn't realize that by not choosing, I had done something terribly irreversible, until after I had heard the harsh snips of the blades and felt the tickling of severed hair brushing past my neck onto the ground. When my mother came into the bathroom, her eyes dropped to the ground and took in the tufts of black hair scattered haphazardly across the sterile white tiles on the bathroom floor.

Later, she would tell me never to let someone else hold the scissors again. She would tell me about the sacred power of choices and the burden of consequence. But at that moment, she didn’t have to say anything. Her eyes, hollow with the shards of broken expectations, said it all.  

Today, when someone asks my mother when I last cut my hair, she’ll act as if she's forgotten. “Not since birth”, she’ll say, lying with unwavering pride. But I know that the memory of that first haircut hasn’t been discarded from her mind as unceremoniously as the locks of hair that she had swept up with the dustpan and tossed into the trash bin. Beneath the confident lie, I can see her eyes narrowing with the same shameful discernment, as if I were a puzzle that she couldn't quite piece together. 

That was how it always was with my mother. She would never tell you anything, and yet you would already know. As the years passed by, and my hair grew longer and longer, I became an expert at reading in between the lines of the homilies she would impart whenever her moral smoke alarm went off. Never do the wrong things. Always make good choices. Choices, choices, choices. But only one right answer.  

In this way, I grew up in a realm where Always and Never were the king and queen. As a loyal subject, I dutifully obeyed my mother's laws of Absolutes, allowing them to restrict me with their maternal protectiveness.

Discussing the possibility of getting a haircut after the first debacle fell under the domain of Never, even as my hair transformed into a disobedient cloud of tangles that caused both my mother and me a great deal of pain. Every few weeks, the two of us would sit down in front of the educational children’s TV programs on PBS, armed with a fine-toothed comb to inflict pain and a bowl of ice cream to lessen it. Each time, I would beg her just to cut it all off. Wouldn’t that be easier? And each time, she would refuse, continuing to tug persistently at the tangles without offering an explanation, as if she were shielding me from an unforeseen threat.

Once, after a particularly painful hair-combing session, I decided to take things into my own hands. I was sick of my mother’s power to trap me between the stubborn walls of Absolutes. Sick of her fingers knocking the scissors out of my hands as soon as I had picked them up, out of the fear that I would cut myself. So I took out the sewing scissors and my beloved American Girl doll. I grasped the scissors tightly, and an electrical current coursed through my veins. My anger surging, I chopped off all of the doll’s synthetic black hair. The plastic strands fell to the ground without a sound, and the doll continued to stare at me with her glassy-eyed complacency, unconcerned that I had just taken everything away from her.

At that moment, my mom came into the room. Wordlessly, she looked at the doll, and then she looked at me. “It’s so easy just to cut things off, isn’t it?” she said quietly. “But things don’t always turn out the way we expect, and we have to live with the consequences of every choice we make.”

I finally realized why my mother had refused to let me cut my hair. After that day, her fear of the irreconcilable was passed down to me. Like a virus, it only grew, spreading to every aspect of my life. Every time I was faced with any decision, I would panic, remembering the tufts of hair on the tiled floor of my cousin’s bathroom and the doll with mangled hair who I never played with again. Even for the simplest of choices--Right or left? Paper or plastic?--my mother’s words echoed in my head. So easy just to cut things off. I became so scared of making the wrong choice that I ceased making choices at all. Like an overrun garden, my hair grew out of active neglect. And that’s when the split ends began to show up.

It was gradual at first. I noticed one day that a few strands of hair had bifurcated. A fork in the road. An uncertain ending. But after a while, it got out of hand. Every end became a split end. The longer I waited, the more damage I was inflicting. By dodging the burden of consequence, I was only orchestrating my own ruin.

And so here I am again. At the ends. With all of the power, but none of the will. So easy just to cut things off. But in reality, it is so difficult. The scissors are in my hand.

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5 Comments
  • Made4Love

    This is amazingly well-written! You are an incredible writer! Keep it up! I love it!


    about 1 year ago
  • Poppy.M

    This is an absolutely gorgeous piece. Amazing job!


    about 1 year ago
  • halcyon

    Dude. This is amazing! You are seriously so talented. This has to be one of the best (if not THE best) piece of writing I've read on this website. You've got some serious talent, and you'll go far with it! I could read your writing all day.


    over 1 year ago
  • Luna Lemon

    This is incredible! I love how you weaved this story together and bringing back the split ends in the end showing how that one event shaped your life. This was written PHENOMENALLY and I don't think I'll ever be able to truly express to you how beautiful this piece is.
    Also, how you wrapped this piece up is just... SOOO good. Everything about this is PERFECT!!! GREAT job and keep writing:)


    over 1 year ago
  • Lauren Nelson

    This reminds me of the book I just read, and I think that book has changed my life just a little bit. Keep up the good work!


    over 1 year ago