My Terrible Jackie-Chan Haircut (The First of Many)

Young Jackie Chan, Young Betty. Lots in common
We could be related. But we aren’t.

I should have kept David’s card. It would have made a sweet memento from my high school days, when for the most part I considered myself rather mannish and unattractive to guys. Inside, I was pretty romantic and loved romantic movies and could get very attached to certain actors and the roles they played. I also thought I had different taste than the average teenage girl – I liked Edward Norton over Leonardo DiCaprio, Christian Bale over Paul Walker (may he rest in peace) – I mean, those other actors were so obvious. (Even though now I love Leo because he cares about the environment and like Ed and Christian a bit less; Ed because he fell off the face of the earth and Christian because he has a bad temper).

I considered myself someone who couldn’t be categorized. I wasn’t a star student – I got more B’s than my parents found acceptable and didn’t take as many science or math APs as my friends. I wasn’t a star athlete. Badminton took place in the spring, and though I had made varsity, it was because I had good form and knew the footwork, having, before trying out for the team, taken private lessons for half a year from a wiry Chinese man who had been on the Chinese National Team. Mostly though, footwork was about not going where your partner already is – and despite not being a great runner or strategist, I liked the camaraderie and competitive spirit of tournaments. I didn’t choke the way some of my teammates did when all eyes were on them in the finals – but then again, I was always paired with someone much stronger (read: ran more). I was good at getting out of their way and grinning maniacally when the opponent messed up. On court, I was kind of a ham.

So I wasn’t a great student or athlete but people assumed that I was because I hung out with better students and better athletes. I wore these assumptions as easily as I did my badminton clothes and short haircuts. Badminton clothes because they were roomy and had elastic waistbands, a necessity after my pants stopped fitting when my appetite became super-charged the first semester I started to play and gained nearly thirty pounds in three months of “conditioning.” I shrugged it off, telling myself it was okay because I was an athlete and being able to eat three bowls of rice or an entire Chipotle burrito followed by a large Cold Stone ice cream was not only acceptable but cool and maybe attractive to my guy teammates because they did the same thing. Except they stayed wiry and I had to buy bigger badminton shorts. Short hair because I was dumb and decided one evening during junior year to cut my own hair – it would be easier to wash and dry – only to walk into class the next morning to a hushed classroom.

“Someone got a haircut,” somebody said quietly, except not that quietly because everyone heard him. Especially me.

Later, at badminton practice, my teammate Victor came up to me.

“Hey, you look like Jackie Chan.”

“Har har,” I said, though his words struck a chord in my chest.

It was not the first time someone had likened me to Jackie Chan. The year before, when I got my photo taken at the DMV, the young insensitive white guy (who should have known better) studied my ID for a minute. I waited for him to hand it back to me, wondering what he was looking for until his furrowed brow began to relax. A smile spread across his sallow face. DMV lighting.

“Hey,” he grinned, “You kinda look like Jackie Chan.”

I had long hair then, which I always kept tied up in a ponytail. I didn’t think I looked like Jackie Chan, but, scrutinizing my ID, I didn’t not look like Jackie Chan. I could have been a fifteen year-old skater boy. I could have been Jackie Chan’s son. I still have the license. It doesn’t expire until next May.

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