My 13-year-old daughter wrote this story about our family’s experience with the recent legislation changes. New York, this is the sort of student you just kicked out of school.
Sunlight streamed into my face, warming my frigid nose. I stirred and groaned, not yet ready to leave the warm comfort of my covers. I was about to drift off, returning to my peaceful slumber, when a loud voice boomed through the house. “Hope! Get up or you’ll be late!” I groaned again, rolled over, and sat up. My long, frizzy hair stuck out in all directions from my face. I looked in the mirror to assess the damage, and internally screamed. This will be a nightmare to fix. I sighed, and got down to business. My yelps of pain filled the room as I tore mercilessly through my tangled locks. Once that mess was finally at least brushed, I set about fixing my clothes. I changed into my everyday wear, and pulled my hair into a tight bun atop my head.
My feet crashed down on each step, as I threw on my bonnet. I hurried to the table to grab some breakfast. “So,” My father teased “You’re finally up.” His shoulder-length salt and pepper hair was tied into a ponytail for convenience. He threw a bowl of porridge in front of me, and went off to work as I devoured it. “Hurry up. You don’t want to be late!” I smiled, and then groaned aloud as I heard my brother stomp down the stairs. Caspian’s long, wavy, mouse brown hair was often even messier than mine, which is really saying something. He’s never been a morning person. “Caspian, look at your hair! At the very least, brush it out in the mornings!” he grunted and shoved me off. “Leave me alone.” I sighed, knowing it was useless, and went to wake my other siblings.
I poked my head in Ethan’s room, and found him wide awake, telling himself stories, as he often does when he can’t sleep. “Oh. Hi Hope!” his cheery voice called as he saw my face. “Time to get ready. You know how Miss Brown is when you get in trouble.” He nodded, and began brushing out his toffee hair. Smiling at his easy-going nature-Unlike some of my siblings– and went to wake Alina. Just as I’d predicted, I found her still asleep, huddled under her covers. “Alina! Get up!” I shook her awake, and she groaned. She wasn’t a morning person either. “Don’t make me drag you again. Get up, before your porridge gets cold!” That caught her attention. She dashed downstairs without even bothering to change. I sighed, then chuckled at her antics.
Lastly I poked my head in my mother’s room, only to find her already up, with her nose buried in a book. Sean was huddled on her lap, still deep asleep. I walked up and stroked his shaggy blonde hair. “How are you today Mom? Any ideas?” She shook her head quietly, her face serious. “Hurry up, get to school. Don’t wake Sean!” she cautioned. I grinned cheekily, and walked down to help Alina get ready. She was never ready on time if we trusted her to do it herself.
As I stroke her golden hair, Caspian attempted to tame his with a comb. It wasn’t working. We all had a good laugh about that, but finally, finally, we were ready for school. Ethan and Caspian got into a heated debate on how best to go about stories, and Alina was, as usual, lost in her own little world. We were a of storytellers and dreamers, scholars and philosophers. It was in our blood to find our own inner sanctuaries. We were lucky to have parents who so highly valued educacion as well as stories.
We plodded along to the school house, and a familiar face showed up along the way, in the same place it always has. “Maggie!” I called, as she turned and smiled. “Hey Hope. House the pack?” she asked, gesturing behind me. “Oh you know how they’re like. Caspian’s brooding, Ethan’s arguing, Alina’s dreaming, Sean’s scheming.” She chuckled, and her cropped brown hair waved beneath her bonnet as she shook her head in mock-disapproval. As always when talking to someone outside, my hand ran over my head, hoping to smooth the incriminating flyaways. Thankfully, my own bonnet hid the fact that my hair was pulled back, and I was grateful again for hats being in fashion. We chatted the entire rest of the way there, each of my siblings breaking off to walk with their groups. The conversations were often lighthearted, but they sometimes took a nerve-wracking turn.
“Hey Maggie,” Alison called, her blond hair barely reaching her ears. “Did you hear the new joke about those Shaggers?” I tensed, bracing myself against the incoming unintentional insult. “So a Shagger mom was dragging her kid through town, right? She goes to the market, and begins arguing with the shopkeeper about their flour prices, saying that the prices at the florist’s were cheaper!” They both begin to laugh, and I awkwardly chuckle along, self-consciously lowering my eyes to the path. “What do you think Hope?” I paused, then forced a laugh. “That was pretty funny Allie. You have a new one every day.” They accept my non committal response, and I change the subject to an easier topic. I again unconsciously smoothed my hair with my hand, and attempted to disarm any more accidental attacks. Do I blame them? No, I could never. Allie is hilarious, and Maggie is kind-hearted. They don’t mean to insult me, or my family. They really are good people – just misinformed.
School was boring, as always. Caspian brooded quietly in the back, Ethan was constantly fidgeting, and Alina’s large blue eyes were always focused on something just beyond our sight. Thankfully, we weren’t required to remove our hats at school, though most did anyway. In a wave of short, neat hair, I felt uneasy. It was easy to forget I was different when everyone had their hats on. I know they’ve noticed, I can feel their stares burning through me. I hope they don’t suspect anything.
My family has endured this our entire lives. I know it must seem silly, to face such prejudice for something as simple to fix as a haircut, but it’s part of our way of life. We all love our hair, and, though it is a hassle, keep it clean and tidy. We aren’t as stupid, illmanered, or dirty as people think. Just because we like our hair long doesn’t immediately mean it’s crawling with lice and germs, matted into a bush, and appears black from filth no matter the color. If anything, we put in more of an effort than the normal populous to keep ourselves clean. Still, they’ll probably never believe that. We’re just an idea, and object of ridicule, no actual people with actual feelings. This is why we put in such an effort-to prove them wrong.
This is why it was such a nightmare to see the urgent news in the article demanding that the entire town line up each september and march for biannual haircuts.
Our entire family, our entire way of life, had been shattered before my eyes. No matter what protests we gave, they would not, would never listen to us. We couldn’t just let them take away such an enormous part of our identity! Do we run, to a place where having long hair is okay? Or do we stay, keep a low profile, and hope no one notices us?
As you’ve probably guessed, this is the same problem my own family is facing at this very moment. Because we’re against vaccines, we could be chased out of our home, ridiculed at school, or be pulled out of school entirely. If you want to see a happy ending to this story, please, help me write it. Help my family keep our home, and our way of life. We’re people too, no matter what choices we make, and we deserve the ability to make those choices. At the very least, think before you speak. Try to understand before you insult. I’m tired of bearing this burden in silence.