Robin Age 10
Porcupine Hair
by Robin Dawn Hudechek

When my babysitter set down the shears,
I looked into the mirror,
told her I liked the haircut,
tried to sound sincere and couldn’t.

My thick hair, shiny as a blackbird’s wing
when it lay flat against my back
sprouted from my head in spiky curls,
unruly as the weeds shooting up every spring
through cracks in our sidewalk
at the edges of our lawn.

No matter what I did with my brush or comb
my hair stuck out over my ears, under my ears
and the back of my head.
I blamed myself for that awful haircut.

We couldn’t afford a salon cut,
so my babysitter volunteered.
When I tried to describe what I wanted,
waves curling at my shoulders
with a glow only the Breck girl could rival,
she tried to follow my instructions, but failed.
The kids already had enough reasons to pick on me,
my bowlegged walk and hyperactivity that
led me to get up and dance around the room
or hum a symphony in my head over my drawings,
as lines flowed through my fingers
and my characters leapt to life on the page.

My drawings were “messy,”
and the art teacher felt sorry for me, they said.
None of them ever mentioned my drawings
filling one whole wall of the art room,
a series of historic moments–
Paul Revere’s famous ride and Pocahontas
rushing to stop the executioner from smashing
John Smith’s head with a club.

With my outrageous haircut
I could have been a punk rock Medusa
long before technicolor punk hair
or dreadlocks were considered cool.
I could have been have been a Powhatan warrior
like the fierce men ranging themselves behind Pocahontas’s father,
their mohawks worn proudly as bright plumes.

The kids made sure I would never feel the pride
of an Powhatan warrior, a punk rock star, or a feminist-rebel.
The school photographer gave the pretty girls
names like Missy, Princess, or Peaches.
I was Porcupine. He snapped the photo
with a chuckle and ushered me
out of the room as quickly as he could.

PHOTO: The author at age 10.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  I was nine years old when my babysitter cut my hair and was teased unmercifully almost every day about it for months until it finally grew into the much more manageable style seen here in my fifth grade school photo. I was unable to find my fourth grade photo, the one the photographer took as he dubbed me “Porcupine.” I doubt he realized how insensitive his comment was, or how humiliating it was for me. Somehow, the photographer’s comment, so thoughtlessly cruel, only seemed to validate what the kids said about me, that I was so ugly and weird that even a professional photographer could find nothing kind to say about me or my hair. Like most girls my age, I longed to be pretty and liked by everyone. Fortunately, time can sometimes be kind, and the snide comments from school kids gradually faded away, as did the quizzical looks from people too polite to say what they really thought about my hair. I could look in the mirror again without wincing. I was pretty (no matter what the kids said), and I cherished the secret thought that one day they would notice, and the teasing would end.

robin hudechek 2a

Robin Dawn Hudechek
received her MFA in creative writing from UCI. Her poems have recently appeared in Caliban Online, Verse-Virtual, Poemeleon, Chiron Review and The Hummingbird Review. Her chapbook, Ice Angels was published in IDES: A collection of Chapbooks, Silver Birch Press, October 2015.  Robin lives in Laguna Beach, California, with her husband, Manny, and two beautiful cats. More of her poetry can be found at