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Janine Turner's Hairdo by Sage Tyrtle

I shaved my head the day I heard a talk show host say that Janine Turner from Northern Exposure could never win a Miss America Pageant. And even though Regis Philbin was not exactly beating down my door begging me to be Miss Pennsylvania, I wanted to join Janine's club. The Never Miss America Club.

Twenty-six years later, I'm riding the subway. A little girl looks at me and hollers, "Hey!" She is frowning. Her dad, sitting next to her, is bemused but silent.

I turn to her. "Um, yes?"

"Why do you have hair like that?" she says.

I don't tell her about Janine Turner. I don't tell her about Miss America or bathing suit competitions. I don't tell her about how many people die of eating disorders or plastic surgery or of hating their reflection in the mirror. I don't tell her that for twenty-six years everything about my body has said, I am not in this Miss America Pageant.

Instead, I say, "It feels nice, so I cut it like this."

"You cut it all by yourself?" she says.

"Sure. At home, with clippers. How about you? Do you have long hair, or short hair, or medium hair?"

After a long moment she reaches up and takes off her knit hat in slow stages. She shows me her shorn skull. She says in a low voice, "My Gramma had to cut it off. Because of bugs."

I don't tell her she is beautiful, because it doesn't matter.

I don't tell her she is beautiful, because it doesn't matter.

I don't tell her she is beautiful, because it doesn't matter.

"We are hair twins," I say. "And I think that's awesome."

The little girl runs shy fingers over her head. She smiles. "Me too," she says. She leaves her hat in her lap. When her stop comes she yells, "Goodbye, Hair Twin!" and gets off the subway, holding her dad's hand. Holding her hat.


Sage Tyrtle's stories have been featured on NPR, CBC, and PBS. She is a Moth GrandSLAM winner. When she was five she wanted to be a princess until her dad explained that princesses live in a dystopian patriarchy, so she switched to being a writer instead. Twitter: @sagetyrtle

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