When I was five, my mom took me with her to a hair salon, and for the first time, she told me I could choose my very own hair cut. Up until that point, my grandmother, a retired hair stylist, had always cut my hair at her house.
I flipped through one of the waiting room magazines for inspiration, and I knew right away that I wanted a pixie cut.
The pixie cut is a short, boyish hairstyle, thus named because it only looks good on petite girls with wide, orblike eyes and small, dainty chins.
I, on the other hand, was a square-jawed Irish child, but I was convinced a pixie cut would be extremely flattering on me.
I could tell my mom and the hair stylist didn't have as much faith in my choice. I withstood their psychological assault with a grace and courage of conviction that were impressive for a five-year-old.
The hair stylist tried to stall as long as possible, giving me every opportunity to relent. As she fastened the smock around my neck and ran a damp comb through my hair, she kept pausing to show me exactly how short it was going to be.
"Okay!" I invariably chirped.
Finally, with the scissors in her hand, she had me take one last look in the mirror.
She started cutting.
When she whirled the salon chair around to show me the finished product, an unfamiliar five-year-old boy returned my gaze.
I walked out of that salon like a girl who was rocking her pixie cut. Only on the sullen car ride home did I admit to my mom that the pixie cut had not turned out as planned.
And that's why, from age five through seven, I looked like a dude.
Whenever someone sees the group photo from my sixth birthday slumber party, they ask in a tone of surprise, "Who's that little boy at your sleepover?"
Then I have to tell them, "It's me."
But of all the times I got told I looked like a boy, I never once heard it from my mother.