I’ve been rocking my long hair à la James Taylor or Ryan Agoncillo for over two years now. Even before COVID-19 hit the country (the hairstyle has become a trend for men during the pandemic), I’d taken pride in my jet-black tresses dangling over my shoulders. Weedd’s iconic lyrics, “Ano’ng paki mo sa long hair ko?” occasionally play in my head, giving me a sense of satisfaction for having finally achieved my dream look post-college.

There is, however, the flip side.

My hair tends to get on my face, especially during meals. Sometimes, it comes into contact with the rice and ulam I’m about to swallow, or the cheeseburger I’m about to munch on. It even makes its way toward my gaping mouth. I’d have to comb it with my fingers and exercise caution with the next spoonful or bite, becoming overconscious and foregoing delight in the process. Ditto when I’m reading a book or working on my laptop.

Hence, headbands and hair ties. But while these accessories provide some relief, they “suffocate” my hair after a few minutes or so. There’s also that weird pulling, clutching sensation that may eventually endow me an “airport” forehead and a bald head thereafter. Once I remove my headband or hair tie for much-needed “breathing,” I almost always get a couple of hair strands with it.

Even before the maskless, shieldless days of yore, I have often been mistaken for a woman because of my long hair. Many retail clerks and service crews tend to call me “ate,” “miss,” or “ma’am” during transactions. But what takes the cake are some of the snickers after the realization. Once, two workers of a popular fast food chain had to turn their backs just to giggle, never mind that I was still within earshot.

I don’t really take offense over the misidentification. I never bother correcting people; I just let live, laugh it all off in my head, and share the stories with my girlfriend.

But in the grand scheme of things, there are moments that I can’t just dismiss as hilarious, when having a long-hair-don’t-care mindset or a Weedd attitude just won’t cut it.

Some conservatives have judged me as a “sanggano” or “adik” just because of the way I look. The verdict would sometimes escalate to “demonyo” or “satanista,” or “bakla/bading.” Other men with lengthier hair have suffered the same fate, even if some of them have beards and/or mustaches, too.

I’ve been harassed in the streets a few times. One night as I was walking home, some drivers at the tricycle queue repeatedly called me “ate” in unison. “Sakay na po kayo,” they said, followed by roars of laughter as I hurriedly left the scene. Another night, some construction workers atop a building whistled at me.

It crossed my mind to revert to my 2×3 haircut after all this. But I never did. The onus is not on me for sporting long hair; it’s on those who make fun of how I look, or find it objectionable for whatever reason. The burden shouldn’t be on the victims. We shouldn’t forego our own personal choices just because we don’t conform to the expectations of those around us. I flip my hair at you.

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