I think ninth grade is hard for everyone, it's a pretty universal experience, but I had an extra little dose of difficulty when I started ninth grade. Firstly, a few months before, my mom and I had moved in with her boyfriend (DT) and he lived directly in the middle of nowhere (when I say this, I mean literally. If you google map my mom's house, it only shows forest) and 30 miles from all the friends that I had grown up with. Additionally, I instantly inherited a 4 year old sister, who I barely knew and was suddenly living with her father full-time (this was a new arrangement) and sharing a bedroom with me (prior to this, I was an only child, so for 13 years I had my own room, so it was a little strange). It was a very challenging transition in so many ways (I'll keep this as short as possible so that this doesn't turn into a psychiatrist appointment!), and I was extremely nervous about starting a new school where I didn't know anyone and I was having anxiety attacks weeks in advance -- who would I eat lunch with? How would I get home after school? The usual, really. In addition, the school that I would be attending is something like 19 miles from my house, so technically I'm not even supposed to be there, so I worried about that too. DT's mom (PT) lived right near the school (literally, her house was a stone's throw away) so she let us use her address for registration and even let me come over after school, so that I had someplace to go until my parents got off of work and could pick me up. I was nervous about that too, because I didn't know PT and she was at home some days (others she'd be at work) and either way I felt awkward in a stranger's house for 3 hours every day.
And then I decided to cut my hair. I'd worn my hair long for years (practically my whole life) and I felt like starting a new school was an opportunity to reinvent myself. I'd been watching a LOT of Keanu Reeves movies and I kind of liked the look of his hair at the time. It seemed like a style that would work for me and my thick hair. If I knew then what I know now, I'd request an off-the-shoulder length bob with layers up to the ears. If it was 1994, I'd ask for The Rachel. I wanted something sort of along these lines:
(incidentally, looking through Google for pictures reminded me HOW DAMN CUTE KEANU REEVES IS!!!)
What I got was.... well, a bowl haircut. Which was awful. But that's not the worst part! No no no no no!! You see, my mom didn't want me to cut my hair at all. She kept asking me to "at least keep the back long" and I didn't want to do that, so I sat in the chair and said CHOP IT. I should interject here that the hair stylist was PT, DT's mom (my soon-to-be step grandmother). Okay, so I I describe the haircut that I want and I think I even mention Keanu by name (which means nothing to grandmothers of a certain age, BTW), and she goes to town. HOWEVER, she decided to "save" a piece of hair in the back, you know, for my mother who didn't want me to cut my hair at all. When she told me that, I was picturing the Carol Brady flip mullet, which I didn't really want, but she assured me not to worry, not to worry... when it was all said and done, she'd left behind a RAT TAIL. So now I have a bowl haircut with a rat tail. It looked like a coonskin cap.
I cried my eyes out the entire drive home. My mom was apologetic and also a bit of a gigglepuss (I mean, I insisted on cutting my hair and look what happens!) and I was just beside myself. This, of course, is Sunday evening and I start school tomorrow. I am devastated beyond words. Not only is there not time to find another salon to fix this disaster, plus we can't go to another salon, because we'll offend PT who is letting me use her address and even stay at her house in the afternoons. ALSO: PT is home on Mondays (why are salons closed Mondays, anyway?) so she'll be there waiting for me tomorrow. I can't exactly show up with a revised haircut. So my fate is sealed. There is NOTHING that I can do... my mom makes me wait 3 weeks to go get it fixed by another stylist, because at least by then I can claim that I'd "just wanted a trim" and somehow got this whole other style.
Lucky for me, it's not like the first few weeks of school are used for forming impressions of the new kids! Oh wait. On my first day of P.E., one of the "rocker" chicks asked me if I was a little boy or a little girl and maybe I'd wandered into the wrong locker room, and then everyone high fives her. The "rocker" dudes would reminisce about when they used to have rat tails and how awesome they were -- in 5th grade (I mostly tried to hide it in a thin braid, under my shirt). I had only a couple of kids speak nicely to me, and mostly to sympathize with my haircut. Oh! As it turns out, long hair is super "in" at this school. Every. Single. Girl. has long hair, down to her mid-back or longer. Literally, I can remember two girls with short haircuts: one was growing it out after a brain operation and the other was the weird girl who smelled like spoiled milk that no one really wanted to talk to. So, that's where I was on the social strata.
Other things that didn't help: because we were always strapped for cash, I shopped the clearance section of all the stores, so I was wearing all of last season's fashions. This picture is September 1991 which, incidentally, is the season after giant cowl neck sweaters died. No one else had one but me. I wore it once, on the 3rd day of school for this picture, and then never again. I know that there are a lot of kids out there who have the uncool clothes experience, but I was having an extra difficult time adjusting because this school is in a very affluent neighborhood. The kids were dropped off in Mercedes (until they were 16 and bought a BMW of their own) and wore the cutting edge fashions. It was painfully obvious who was sifting through the clearance racks (though, thankfully, I wasn't totally alone in that). My godsend came the next year with grunge music, which made thrift store clothes "cool" and I could finally be myself.
There have to be some good pictures of those days floating around somewhere...