By Reuben Su, Yale-NUS ’17 – See bio
They swooped in on their bicycles and left a blinding trail of bubblegum pink, baby blue and lime green. The Powerpuff Girls had arrived at the company line. Furnished with an arsenal of electric clippers that have forcefully grazed through thousands of unwilling heads, they were moments away from giving my fellow conscripts and I our virgin No. 1. No, it was not anything of the sordid kind, more like a rite of passage for Singaporean males – from Ah Boys to Men.
The No. 1 represents a buzz cut, more specifically a butch cut, where hair on the ‘top and the upper portion of the back and sides’ is cut to a uniform, really short length. The other subsequent numerical conventions do exist, up to No. 4 I believe. They merely denote the length of hair a soldier is allowed to keep depending on the stage of service he/she is in. The higher the number, the higher the hair and hence, the closer to God. I would say that the No. 1 is a look that only multihyphenate darling, Tyra Banks, would deem, “High fashion!” – And then only if it was on a gangly, legs-for-days clotheshorse.
It all went down on the second day of enlistment. Bare-bodied 18-20 year-olds packed the entire training shed. Lines were formed in front of whomever we thought could give us not the best haircut but the least traumatic experience. And so, everyone was drawn to ‘Blossom’, the most senior macik (Malay for aunty) in her bubblegum pink windbreaker. The meandering file in front of her disgraced that of her fellow compatriots. I was sitting on the stone steps, too petrified to commit to any queue, cautiously admiring the panorama of young men and their scrunched up facial expressions (à la 9gag memes). I was the man who can’t be moved from his epic vantage point. It was painfully hilarious and wholly detrimental to my karma.
In the apt words of a SgForums.com member, “the auntie in Tekong cut hair damn xiong one, less than 30 sec gao dim.” True enough, the barber’s skill was ferosh and completed in a jiffy – sushi chef style minus the panache.
For the record, mine took about twice as long! Boy did Blossom go to town on my head! She shaved it like a shepherd doing his routine sheep shearing – and I would like to say that it was three bags full. It was NOT sugar, spice and everything nice. I cringed as chunks of my crowning glory fell upon my bare skin. Gone was my teen hood; I had transformed into a bona fide Recruit. Much to everyone’s dismay, two more pruning sessions were conducted during the course of Basic Military Training. I was unable to whip my hair back and forth for the longest time. How I missed running my fingers through my dense cranial forestation, sorting out the kinks in the canopy…
Biochemically speaking, my hair has a large amount of disulfide bonds, even more than the average Asian. I am proud of my kinks and curls. However, I am terrified of other hereditary glitches like my dad’s androgenic alopecia (aka. balding). A deforestation of sorts, his cranial vegetation is pretty sparse and the archipelago is slowly dissociating to form an island and lagoon. Attempts to reforest have proved needlessly futile. Traditional Chinese hair tonics and anti-hair fall miracle shampoos have failed in their promise of successfully engineering new hair follicles. My dad has yet to succumb to the hard sell of in-your-face hair care center celebrity endorsements appearing on all forms of public transport. Instead, he is coming to terms with losing his mane-liness, like a defeated Simba. I for one would not want to go down the same road; I hope and pray that my hair won’t get thinspired and breakaway. #malepride
I love my hair just like Tom Cruise loves Scientology; North Korea loves their leader; Nicki Minaj loves pink; Angelina Jolie loves adopting; Lindsay Lohan loves rehab; Sadako loves crawling out of televisions; Gollum loves his precious; Yale loves NUS and vice versa.
Like all momentous occasions in life, we must first: Instagram it.
Oh wait, camera phones were not allowed in Pulau Tekong back in 2011. #mybad