Life of a Rooster

Memoirs of a psychiatrist, journalist and educator

Not all short hairstyles are cute bobs

on June 4, 2014

I awaited impatiently the day we would go and register at the school my parents had picked: Jin-Hua Girls Middle School.

I had heard from Aunt Lily and checked out the fact that all middle school girl students were supposed to have a “uniform” hairstyle: a short bob. I was ecstatic. My favorite singer then was Mireille Mathieu, who sported a cute bob. I so wanted to look like her!

Mireille Mathieu, famous French singer

Mireille Mathieu, famous French singer

After registration, and checking in with the uniform supplier, we went to the hairdresser next to the school: “We want a middle school haircut, please!” The young ladies, all smiles and questions, proceeded to wash our hair and give us a healthy dose of scalp massage, which I enjoyed a lot. Then she chopped off my long hair. OK, when the hair is wet, it won’t look its best, let’s wait and see. She then grabbed an electric shaver and proceeded to shave the bottom of my scalp’s backside. What!!!! I nearly jumped out of my chair with horrified indignation.  “Why are you shaving it?” I managed to ask, overcoming my shyness.

“Ah, but that’s the rule,” answered the young lady. “One centimeter above the ear lobe, all around the head. Anything below it is shaven away.”  I sat dejectedly, my vision of a Mireille Mathieu hairstyle evaporating in the humid heat. “Here,” she added, “free hair pins.” Huh? I was a bit puzzled. “Jin Hua Girls’ Middle School requires middle parting, with a hair pin on each side to hold back your hair off the face.” I looked at my new head in the mirror. Very silly look. But then, my sister Saadia looked equally silly. And outside the window, the passing students all looked just the same. I figured no one would laugh at my hair. Still, I could not get rid of the anger swelling inside me. “Thank you and please come back!” sang the two young ladies. “In your dreams… grrrr!” I answered between my teeth, biting down on the free gift, a little plastic ball of shampoo. Well, my enraged teeth managed to poke a hole in the plastic, and next thing I knew, I was swallowing shampoo. So much for nurturing anger.

Middle school hair uniform: cut one centimeter above the ear lobe, all around, central parting, two hair pins on either side.

Me with my middle school hair uniform: cut 1 cm above the ear lobe, all around, central parting, two hair pins on either side.

Next, we had to get the uniform. Our school dictated a black pleated skirt below the knee, a white sailor shirt with tie attached to the collar, and a black jacket in winter. Plus short white socks and black flat shoes. Plus the silly short hair and the shaven chicken butt under it.

I didn’t mind the sailor shirt too much. It was cute. The strange thing was that only Third Year students (9th graders) wore this uniform. First Years and Second Years wore blue pleated skirts and khaki shirts. The reason was because we were the last batch of “Girls Middle School” and the following batches were “National Middle School”. Taiwan had implemented free public education all the way up to Middle School two years previously — up from only free public elementary school.  The free public middle schools also implemented mixed education, and so there were now both boys and girls in the first two years.

Uniforms were only the beginning of the total paradigm shift we went through at the time.


One Response to “Not all short hairstyles are cute bobs”

  1. Saadia Mai says:

    I can chuckle now with amusement at these past times, but they were not so much fun then. I was overwhelmed with the total efficiency of the system. I do remember that the students all managed to impart their own individuality among the uniformity of haircuts and clothing.

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