Satya ShawSeptember 8, 2020Strength and InfluenceAwesome Moments

I’ve always been insecure about my hair and my ears and, because of that, I’ve grown to dread haircuts.

I always felt the need to cover my face because I was afraid of what other people would think if they saw me. But when I was cast in a short film about a boy who cuts his hair, I realized I would have to brave my fears.

The film is about the director when he was a kid. He has a crush on his best friend, but she doesn’t like him back. At one point, she tells him that his hair is too long, so in desperation he cuts it. But in the end, she still doesn’t like him. We spent the first few shooting days in a park where my character, Nitin, was hanging out with his friend, Samantha, and then one more day in my house shooting a scene where Samantha comes over. But the next day, when the time came for me to cut my hair, all of my anxieties came rushing back. I ran upstairs to where my mom and dad were and told them how scared I was. They hugged me and told me I was brave but because I had signed up for this, I couldn’t back down now. I walked down the stairs slowly and picked up the scissors. It wasn’t hard to replicate the emotions that my character no doubt was feeling; I was feeling them too. In my head, I was holding the one thing that could kill me. I was a mighty warrior with only one weakness. With the director encouraging me, I found the strength I needed and cut off a piece of my hair. It was pretty anticlimactic. We changed the camera angle and I cut some more, and then some more, and then some more, until it was just below my ears. After the first cut, I was in it and, even though every inch of me wanted to stop, I knew I couldn’t. The director decided that was enough for that scene.

Between that day and the next shoot, the director asked me to get a real haircut to make it even. He also asked that my hair be cut above my ears. He said it needed to be noticeable on camera. On the day of the final shoot, we drove to the park and everyone in the cast and crew said it looked good. They said things like “Nah, it looks fiiiine” and “Don’t be so hard on yourself! It looks good!” Even though I didn’t fully believe it myself, it helped me get through that day. I think the most remarkable part of this story is what the director did when he saw how I felt. Although he didn’t want to, he shaved his head just because of me. It’s funny to think about but it’s also so amazing and such a wonderful thing to do. It took a lot of courage and kindness to shave his head just for a kid he didn’t know all that well. When I look back on it, the director is just a grown-up Nitin. He went through the same things both me and the character went through, and I think when he realized that, he felt guilty and cut his hair to show that I wasn’t alone. What amazes me is that he shaved his head, which is more than I could ever do, but he didn’t have that feeling of trauma that I did. And yet, when I log onto my zoom class tomorrow, I’ll be wearing a hood just like I have since the day of the haircut.

I can’t fully explain why I care so much about my hair. I asked myself what I think people would say if I chose not to wear a hood one day, but the answer I came up with was I don’t know. I think that part of it could be the feeling that if I don’t look right, my friends will just get up and go. The feeling that if they can’t see what in my eyes is bad hair, they’ll stay. And although I feel bad for doubting them, there’s a part of me that can’t see a world in which they would stay friends with me even with bad hair, given that they’re more popular.

This film changed my life. Not in the sense that it fixed all my problems, but it forced me to think about why I cared so deeply about my hair, something that many people I know don’t even think about (or just don’t show that they do). It opened me up to my vulnerabilities and showed me the ways I could strengthen myself.

I think the most important thing I’ve taken away from this is the realization that the director, as the grown-up Nitin, didn’t have the same trauma I did after cutting his hair. It gives me hope that the feelings I have with my friends are just in my head and will go away with time. I also think that maybe they’re already on the way out, and that’s why the haircut was so anticlimactic. I was expecting this big, dramatic, action-movie moment but in reality, it just was what it was: a haircut.

Satya Shaw is an eighth-grader at Saint Ann's School in Brooklyn, New York. He loves to read, sing, and hang out with his friends. His dream is to become an actor.