Guest Submission


  • 17 years old
  • New Glarus, Wisconsin


  • 28 years old
  • Madison, Wisconsin
  • Processing Specialist IV (Team Lead)

My Story...

It started simply enough. I hadn’t gotten my haircut after about two months and it was getting longer than it had been in quite some time. A girl I thought was cute took note and commented that I should grow out my hair for our junior prom. Not having anything better to do with my life at the time, I figured I might as well do so to kill some time.

This was my senior year photo, probably about a solid year after I had last had a haircut. I’d keep it growing for around another six months. I think when all was said and done my hair was about eight inches long.

Growing an afro was kind of a turning point for me in my high school career. I had gotten teased a lot growing up (my name is Per, pronounced “pear”, and I have red hair, it made me an easy target) and by my sophomore year of high school I had become an outcast of sorts. My tendency towards introversion had taken over by that point in time and my desire to blend in and go unnoticed was high.

Growing my hair out changed that. When you have an eight inch red afro it becomes extremely hard not to stick out wherever you go and I had to adjust. People paid more attention to me. People always wanted to touch my hair. Girls began to show some interest in me for the first time, in part because I think I reminded some of them of Hyde from That 70’s Show. I began to get invited to parties. I got a large part in a play put on by my forensics team where I played a mad scientist. The best artist in our class asked if she could paint my portrait, a piece of work I still have hanging in my living room. My senior class voted me as having “Strangest Hair” among other things.

I stopped getting caught up in my head with things that had precluded me from being more of myself and in turn came out of my shell during that time. I actually began to develop some self-confidence which I had been severely lacking in prior years. In a twist, this self-confidence caused me to kind of resent the fact that I had become defined by my hair, rather than who I was as a person. After 18 months, I called up a friend secretly, went to his house and I shaved my hair down to a quarter of an inch. That same night I showed up at my school to audition for our musical for the very first time. I was wearing a knitted cap and when I took it off people were in disbelief. A girl I had become friends with nearly began to cry. I’d do well in the audition and get the role of Albert Peterson in Bye, Bye Birdie. In retrospect, getting that role was sort of the culmination of everything that had happened to me during the prior 18 months and a statement to how much I had grown into myself as a person by then. By the time I graduated I felt accepted by the rest of my class and was no longer an outcast. Growing an afro proved to be a good way to kill time.

Nowadays I can only dream of having hair that long. Having a mix of genetics from three grandparents who all eventually went bald has started to catch up to me. It’s probably all for the best though as having that much hair was a hassle. People still remember it though. A friend of mine and I were discussing how I used to run cross country at a golf course in what turned out to be her hometown about 20 minutes away from mine. I found out that she was a freshman at that same race when I was a senior. When I asked if she remembered a guy with a giant red afro, her mouth dropped open, her eyes got huge and she said, “That was you?!”

It’s kind of crazy to think about how 11 years later there are probably strangers out there who would have the same reaction.

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