I have had more than my fair share of bad haircuts. One of my school pictures is legendary in my family. I’m sitting with my arms crossed, in front of a very obviously fake bookshelf background. I’m trying to smile, but it looks more like I just lost a fight — almost all of my teeth are missing, and my expression is more of a grimace than a grin. It’s a wonderful, terrible picture even before you get to the haircut.
But, oh man, the hair. It definitely wasn’t intentional either on my part or the barber’s, but my hair looks a little like Spock’s. I won’t ever say that Spock isn’t cool, but I don’t think his hairstyle was in fashion at the time. The real problem, though, is my bangs. They are almost a perfect diagonal from one side of my forehead to the other. You could launch into space off the ramp in my hair.
I’m sure that was my worst haircut, but my most disappointing haircut is a whole other story. It’s a story I wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for Star Trek.
This disappointing, Star Trek-inspired haircut that caused me all of this confusion and sadness at the barbershop happened when I was pretty young. I wouldn’t have even been in school yet, but I was already no fan of having my hair cut. I didn’t like having to talk to the barber, and sitting still wasn’t any fun. Even so, this time, I asked my mom to take me. Because this time, I knew what I wanted: I wanted to be bald.
My poor mother.
We got to the hair salon, and if the stylist found my request unusual, she didn’t show it. She just got to work. I was too little to realize this was the first sign that my wishes were about to be misinterpreted. Remember that Next Generation episode where Scotty drinks a glass of Scotch from Ten Forward, and he almost spits it out because they served him synthehol instead of real alcohol? That’s the level of misunderstanding and disappointment I’m trying to prepare you for. The barber cut off what sure felt like all of my hair, but, when she turned me around and let me see my reflection, I saw that something had gone terribly wrong.
I was not bald. I had a buzzcut.
Even today, one of my biggest problems with getting a haircut is that I never feel like I have the words to explain what I want. This very young, not-quite-bald version of me got to experience a high-stakes moment of what would become a dull problem I’d deal with my whole life. This is probably the only time I have ever handled this problem well.
“I want to be shiny bald!” I said, and I honestly think I did a good job getting my vision across.
The barber seemed to understand. She looked skeptically at my mom, as if to say “I mean, I could,” but my mom swiftly (and, I now admit, correctly) shot it down. I remember feeling my bumpy buzzcut with my hands and being so upset that it wasn’t the smooth, sleek baldness I’d wanted.
Memory is a funny thing. I never forgot this story. You just don’t forget “shiny bald.” For years, though, I forgot the punchline. I forgot why I needed to be shiny bald. I really did forget about Star Trek.
My first Trek memories come much later, when The Next Generation started coming out on DVD. I was nine. My dad bought all of the box sets, and I asked him what was on the TV when he started watching them.
“You loved this show,” he said. “You used to watch it all the time.”
I have to admit that not much about TNG jogged my memory. It made a ton of sense to me that I would have loved it as a kid. The uniforms and the ships looked so cool; characters like Worf and Data were so different and interesting. I didn’t remember liking Star Trek so much before, but it didn’t take very much to lure me back. We got to an episode with a Klingon Bird of Prey, and my dad pointed out that a toy version of that ship had been on the dresser in my bedroom for years. We saw “Elementary Dear Data,” an episode where Data and Geordi recreate a Sherlock Holmes mystery in the holodeck, and my dad remembered that it was one of the episodes he had on a VHS tape, and I would watch it over and over when I was little. I was seeing so many classic characters and episodes, but it was like I was seeing it all for the first time. Almost none of it felt familiar.
Of course, there was one exception: the Enterprise-D’s beautiful, bald captain. I saw Jean-Luc Picard, and a story that had lived in the back of my brain for my whole life suddenly made sense. It was Picard, with his cool voice and smooth confidence, who inspired me to attempt pediatric baldness. Without Star Trek, even Star Trek that I forgot for years, I would never have thought to try.
A few weeks ago, while they were going through old pictures, my parents discovered another Star Trek memory that I’d forgotten: a photo of me in a Starfleet uniform — command red, just like Picard’s. I’ve even got my own tricorder. My hair in the photo is pretty long, so my sad buzzcut must have grown out. Like most things Star Trek from before the DVD era, I don’t really remember dressing up in uniform. But I think it must mean I got a happy ending.
I got to be Captain Picard, and my full head of hair couldn’t stop me.
Kyle Tresnan (he/him) lives with his wife, parrot, and miniature poodle in his old Pennsylvania college town. He’s been using all of his time at home this year to finally watch Deep Space Nine.