AT 20, I decided to have my head shaved. For the first time. And for no apparent reason. I just wanted it, and went through it.
Or, maybe, I was just driven by teenage angst (at 20, still a teenager?). Or it could have been because of a word of advice I heard from a professor: “Try everything once, except incest.” Sure enough.
The barber, Manong Gary, asked me the kind of haircut I wanted. When I asked for a skinhead, he reacted as if he heard a joke. “You’re sure?” Despite resurging doubts about my decision, I nodded.
Manong Gary started with a three-centimeter clipper, then took out the 2-centimeter, and finally the “uno,” which was the thinnest. The clipper made some tiny squeaking sounds which annoyed me. As Manong Gary proceeded, I could feel myself increasingly tensing up, and I didn’t know why. Then it was over. Mang Gary’s next words made deafening reverberations inside my ear: “Your hair is gone.”
When I looked at the mirror, the face that stared back at me was unfamiliar. My best friend Imelda had constantly told me my hair was an “asset.” I felt like I have lost something very precious. I felt like crying. But I managed to keep my composure like a real man.
I went home wearing a cap lest I’d scare the bejesus out of friends I might meet along the way. I myself was afraid of the thought of them calling me “Kalbo.”
When I got home, everyone in the family was upset at the sight of the “new me.”
My eldest bro reprimanded me: “Kung anu-ano ang ginagawa mo sa sarili mo. Gago!”
My sis mocked me “Mukha kang itlog!”
The youngest broke into laughter.
And Mama wailed, “Sa hitsura mong iyan, hindi ka na irerespeto.” She was obviously very dismayed. And I knew that if Dad were still alive, he would have been very angry.
I couldn’t fault them for their negative reactions, though their words did hurt me. Words may not break bones, but they can crush a heart. I slept that night with a broken heart but confident that this will come to pass.
Then Monday came. Long hours of classes awaited me. But what I dreaded most was the moment my new haircut would be exposed to all and sundry at school, and my new look being made fun of. My anxiety was justified. My classmates were shocked and puzzled and they wondered if I was losing my sanity. Some called me “Adik.” Others referred to me as “bagong laya” (just out of prison). And many had their pictures taken with me, with them wearing big, sarcastic grins. Of course, I didn’t want to be the “pikon” and so I played along.
I think Mama is partly right. Some people find “kalbo” ridiculous. I try not to think of this, and I tell myself that what matters more is the advantages a skinhead enjoys. Grooming is effortless—“wash and wear,” so to say. And there’s no need to buy gel. Most of all, this “new hairdo” gives me a sense of freedom. Now I really feel like a “bagong laya.”
I have dared to be different. I have challenged the mainstream. No regrets. I’m still a nice guy. And I thank people who still call me by my real name—not by any other name or “Kalbo.”
Now that my head is shaven, I like it.
Carlo H. Andrion, 20, is an incoming senior BS Civil Engineering student at the Pangasinan State University.