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Davis, California

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Column: On haircuts and breakdowns

I ask Josie, my coworker, if she got a haircut. She smiles (which I’m convinced is her neutral face) and says no. I tell her it’s probably because she’s wearing a white pea coat and her dark brown hair shows up more.

I ask her how she’s doing. She says “okay.” At first, I think “okay” means the usual: stressed about work, midterms, applying for jobs and so on. As she elaborates, I learn that “okay” means she had an anxiety attack last Sunday, shaking and hyperventilating until she threw up. The friend who was with her freaked out when it happened, almost calling the ambulance.

In a few minutes, she’s smiling again. Trust me, this is normal.

I’ve known this girl since the days of our freshman year, when we would bike over to the KDVS station in our American Apparel hoodies at 4 a.m. to send out our downloaded trip-hop trash over the airwaves. She has a history of falling really hard when she falls, though she snaps back up almost instantly.

I suggest UC Davis’ Counseling and Psychological Services. Another friend of mine told me he went into emergency counseling at CAPS, because after averaging two hours of sleep three nights in a row, things started catching up.

She asks me if I’ve ever gone to CAPS. I say I have, but I didn’t like it. It was two years ago, after I was getting over a bad case of unrequited love, but my Chinese therapist had her way of solving everything away with being Asian American.

“It’s because of our culture,” my therapist had said. “In Asian cultures, we were brought up that way.”

When Josie asks me how I’m doing, I say I’m doing “okay.” I tell her “okay” means I’m stressed out by my school projects. She knows I’d been getting three to five hours of sleep each night because I was designing for Vent Magazine. We’ve been counting down the days that my designing is over so I can have a social life again.

What I don’t tell her is that I actually enjoy staying up all night designing spreads. Unlike writing or reading for class, designing actually gets me to stop thinking. I don’t tell her I’ve texted “HAITI” to 90999 so that my $10 donation would take the earthquake off my mind for the rest of the day. I don’t tell her I almost deleted the e-mail I got earlier this week from ChinaAid, the organization that tried to free incarcerated Christian missionary Gao Zhisheng from Chinese labor camps for over a year. The e-mail said he was beaten to death.

Earlier that day, I tabled for Vent Magazine to advertise the release for the upcoming winter issue I just spent about 40 hours designing. Two of the girls were talking about getting fake IDs for this weekend so they could do unlimited club hopping in San Francisco on a flat rate of $11.

“I think you sort of look like me,” said Laura, who was tabling with me, to one of the girls.

She laid her IDs from the past four years on the table, all of them with different lengths of hair. One had hair past the bottom of the picture with a shining forehead behind her middle-part. The second had a side part with her wavy hair down to her chin. We glanced at both of them, and then back at Laura. Her hair was shorter than that of my housemate Thomas, whose haircut is described as “Azn Gangster Buzz Cut” our house.

“I spent a lot of my life trying to be people I’m not,” Laura said. “It’s liberating to stop trying.”

I asked Laura how she was doing. It’s been three weeks since we’ve talked. She said she just quit her job. She asks me how I’ve been doing, and I say I’ve been okay.

Later that night, my housemate David and I are eating microwaved leftovers for dinner. He scrolls up and down Davis Wiki for a barbershop that’s open. Most of them are already closing, and when they ask if he wants to come in the next day, he says he needs one today.

I ask him why he can’t wait. He says he just can’t.

He doesn’t ask me how I’m doing. I don’t ask him either. He told me earlier in the car that he woke up last night in the morning hours in an outburst of misdirected anger. He yelled “fuck!” as loud as he could, though no one could hear him.

He calls another barbershop, and a woman with a thick Korean accent answers. She says she can cut his hair at seven. I tell him his hair looks fine. He goes and gets a haircut anyway.

GEOFF MAK wants you to go to the Vent Magazine release party on Feb. 4 at The Grad. E-mail him at gemak@ucdavis.edu if you want tickets.

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