Charity 

While I was visiting the family, I had 10-15 inches of my hair cut off.


Voilà!


Just like that, it was gone.

I had one person ask me if I was crying yet while it was being cut off, and others have expressed surprise about how short I went (I’ll include a picture at the end). After growing my hair for five years it was a relief to be rid of it. I have told very few people in my daily life that I donated it to Locks of Love, because that seems like the type of thing you say to people who are basically strangers in order to gain their attention, and I don’t want that kind of attention. Or, perhaps more truthfully, I want to minimize the chance that anyone will say what only one person has said so far: “How nice of you.”

Because I am socially adept enough I understand that these words are somehow supposed to make me feel good about myself. However, as a transracial adoptee who grew up hearing about how grateful I should be to my parents for adopting me, these words bring up an immediate gag reflex. I don’t understand what’s so nice.

Is it nice that I didn’t have the hairstyle I wanted for a couple years so that a child I’ll never meet may feel slightly less awful about the probably harsh reality of their day-to-day?

Or is the nice part that I donated my hair instead of tossing it in the trash?

Perhaps the nice thing is that who I am doesn’t appear to be combative to differential beauty standards that fetishize women’s hair and are so invasive that they effect every member of society?

I feel like what that one person was saying when she blanketed me in the banality of niceness for this minuscule charitable act is the same as what people mean when they tell me all about how great my parents are for adopting me. “It surprises me that there are people who care about other people who may look and be completely different and whom they may never meet.” To me, that is the translation of the combination of those types of casual words with that particular soft and non-committal tone.

Now, I say what follows with love and respect, both of which call for truth. As someone who lives on the line of this artificial boundary–who has been told that immutable facts make her the object and actor of charity–let me tell you that I appreciate the intentions, but that appreciation doesn’t negate how tired I get from parsing intentions from words so that the speaker had a smooth interaction. This is work, and it wears me out. I don’t think less of people who say these things, I just think it would be so sweet to live in a world where what we see as charity becomes commonplace because everyone envisions caring about all the people, regardless of how much or how little those people acted or looked like them.
As promised, here’s the haircut:

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