After last week’s post, I felt the need to express why my Asperger’s had me so focused on hairstyles. See, I thought I was the only person in history who had any anxieties about haircuts. While it may not be a big thing for most of the world but to someone with Asperger’s Syndrome, anxieties such as this may be harrowing for the person suffering from it. I know this to be true from my own experience and even though it was thirty-five years ago, the memories still remain and leave a sour taste behind.
My haircut anxieties began in 1979 when I enlisted in the US Marine Corps. I knew before I joined that when I went to boot camp, that I would get all my hair shaved off and that I would have to keep it short throughout my entire enlistment. However, I didn’t realise just how strict the Marine Corps regulations were on haircuts and that it would remain very short for that time. Nobody did. Furthermore, I was in the infantry who were strict to the letter on this. It also gave me anxieties over whether or not my haircut was within regulation. Therefore, like many of my comrades, I couldn’t wait to get out and grow my hair once again. I felt that, in my own words, “after four years of this bald eagle shit, I had the right to rebel a little.” It was my right after living under strict discipline while giving four years to my country.
So, when I got out of the marines, that is exactly what I did. I got my final haircut in the service five days before I left and didn’t cut my hair again for eighteen months. By that time, my hair was down to my shoulders but I didn’t care. I was just rebelling from having to be the other extreme for four years. Unfortunately, since it was during the intolerant times of 1980’s Reagan America, most people were unsympathetic. Okay, I never wanted people feeling sorry for me but I know that I didn’t deserve the persecution, abuse and exclusion I got from people for doing nothing more than growing my hair long. One guy made it a point to tell me I looked like a faggot. Then he could because of his physical disabilities, I would have been in the wrong for retaliating. (I should have used this example in my Hidden Forms of Bullying post but I digress.) What really frustrated me was that many people knew that I had served in the marines. Many knew that I had to adhere to strict regulations but it seemed that they just didn’t want to make the connection that my long hair was down to a reaction from that life. In their minds, I was not conforming so I needed to be sanctioned. What frustrated me more was that practically none of those people had ever served in the military, many of those were just out of high school and had only a TV/textbook view of the world I had seen with my very own eyes.
The fallout from this was not only great amounts of anxiety due to the belief that people were judging me solely because of the length of my hair but it began to make me resent my country. Growing my hair once I got out was one of the things that kept me going when I was in the marines. Therefore, when people gave me crap about my long hair, I saw it as if they wanted to take away the very thing I was looking forward to having. It was important to me!
Fortunately, my story had a happy ending. Three years after I got out of the Corps, I went to college in London and found a more tolerant society. At least no one was persecuting me over my hair length and things did turn out well for me in those regards. Saying that, the more painful memories haven’t completely gone away but I can deal with it now, even with people today who have tried to downplay my suffering. I mentioned on one site about all the intolerance I suffered for having long hair, one woman responded patronizingly with, “Poor victim” and something about getting free counselling. A gentleman stated that if my own problem in 80s Reagan America was a few people dissing me about my hair, it couldn’t have been that bad. I had to inform him that he was way off base with that one, he didn’t respond.
That is my haircut anxiety. It might have been three decades ago but it was very real for me back then and caused me a lot of anxiety, stress and suffering. For the vast majority of the world, it is a little thing but for someone who has Asperger’s Syndrome or genuine anxiety issues, it is very important to them and can have a traumatic effect on their lives.
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