A Tale of Posers and Power
by Dan

An article about addiction. Anything you want. Reasonable length. Mid February.

This seemed like a simple enough task, to begin with. The usual suspects of alcohol and drug abuse jumped into my fingers, and off they went, tap-tee-tap-tap-tap. 500 words in, and they stopped again, stabbing at the delete key. It seemed stupid, I reasoned, to talk about things which, although important aspects of my life in the recent past, no longer affected me the way they once did. Whilst a number of people I knew were addicts, and although I did have a bit of a love/hate relationship with booze, I knew deep down that I couldn't allow myself to sully over subjects that were no longer at their most vital stage in my life.

So instead, I'd like to talk about my hair.

Today, my hair easily passes shoulder length. Up until recently, though, my hair was as short as to be non-existent. For those of you in hairdressing circles who are familiar with a standard grade 1 razor cut… well, my hair was shorter than that. I used to do it myself with my dad's beard trimmer, going over it again and again until I was satisfied that it would go no shorter. I'd look at myself in the mirror, run my palm over the stubble, and smile to myself.

What I had found, you see, is that my having short hair affected people, people who'd never met me. Being brought up in and around areas which pretty much epitomised the traditional Welsh male perspective of weakness (i.e. you have a right to do anything that no-one can stop you doing), I found out very quickly that image, how you carry yourself, is vital to survival. If you walked down a street looking nervous, or 'different', or in any way weak, you were likely to find people having a go at you or trying to beat you up. If someone looks at you and you can't glare back with ten times their intensity, it's not going to be your day. This sort of thing had happened to me regularly before, and although I'd been physically tough enough to deal with any trouble, it bothered me that I appeared vulnerable, that others perceived me as an easy target.

Then I started shaving my head.

Suddenly the world changed over night. I walked down the street to the bus stop, and people were crossing the road to avoid me. It was a revelation. The same sorts of people who would previously have made a b-line straight for me were struck dumb, eyes staring straight at the floor, desperately trying to avoid my gaze. The feeling you get… it's awesome, in the literal sense of the word. You can hardly believe that it's happening. It's like something warm, yet spiky, flowing through your veins, starting in your stomach and spreading outwards until you glow, radiate strength. All those fuckers with bad attitudes out there trying to get at you just make you laugh, their stares bouncing off and knocking them back. Through this one act of cutting my hair in such a way to make me appear less vulnerable, I had changed the world as I saw it forever.

I'm not talking about being addicted to shaving. I'm talking about power: pure, uncut, 100% proof power.

The thing with power is… well, there's that well-known saying isn't there?

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

And this is what I found happening to me. Sure, I'd been an aggressive person before, and I'd never been coy about standing up for myself… but when you have that power flowing through you, that sense of indestructibility, of giant-slaying mountain-smashing world-conquering strength, you go the other way. You become the one starting fights, the one making other people feel small. Your temper becomes legendary, and your tolerance for weakness disappears. Why should you put up with the fakers and posers, those lumps of shit that try to act tough and boast about all the shit they've done? You who can take their confidence and self-esteem and tear it to shreds, you that only let the tide in when you feel like it, you who allow the sun to set because you want the night to come - when you control everything around you, when everything is created to suit you… why should you have to put up with it?

And of course, you don't. The rational you, the one who could look after himself when the situation called for it, who pitied the weak and the stupid… that you is gone, drowned in hate and bile and blood.

Perhaps not being a 'traditional' addiction or obsession, people don't always appreciate how difficult it is to give up. They just imagine it as: "What is there to give up? You're just not cutting your hair anymore". What people have difficultly grasping is that it isn't about the hair itself, it's about what it represents. By shaving my head, I unlocked a part of me that I normally only saw in a spilt second of extreme anger before returning to normality. If you believed that by shaving your head, you could possess all the power in the world, how difficult would you find that to give up? And if you did, how much shit would you be prepared to let life throw at you afterwards before you did it again?