Ode to Chinese Superstitions, Haircuts, and Being a Girl
By: Dorothy Chan
Chinese superstition tells me it’s bad luck
to get a haircut when I’m sick, and my hair
gets cut twice a year, because I let it grow,
tying it into a ponytail, exposing my forehead,
looking like I’m the protagonist of an anime,
which makes me think about my last name,
Chan, also known as the Japanese honorific
for someone endearing. Chan, like a friend
or someone childlike. I’ve been told I sound
like a child when I pick up the phone, or maybe
it’s my pure joy to hear from the ones I love.
And yes, voices are sexier than faces, so dial me,
honey, let’s get a little wild tonight, as I pour
a glass of bourbon and picture myself in anime—
cartoon Chan starring in a slice-of-life show
about a girl group trying to make it, and you bet
I’d be the rambunctious one, the tomboy-
rabble-rouser-ringleader on the drums—
the trouble with the exposed forehead, also
known in East Asian culture as a symbol
of aggression, because an exposed forehead
puts everything out there—you’re telling
the world you’re ready for a takedown,
and according to my father, good Chinese
girls never show their foreheads, and I know
he wishes I were born in the Year of the Rabbit,
like my mother, the perfect woman with flawless
skin who never causes trouble with the boys, but
no, I’m the Year of the Snake, and I always bring
the party, cause the trouble, or as my lover says,
I’m sarcastic wit personified, and it’s boundless,
because I am Dorothy—pop embodied in a gingham
skirt with a puppy and a picnic basket
filled with prosciutto and gouda and Prosecco,
but really, what is my fate? And my mother
tells me the family fortune teller got me all
wrong, because there’s no way in hell
I’d end up being a housewife with three
children and a breadwinner of a husband.
But of course, the fortune teller got my brother’s
fate right. It’s moments like this when I wonder
if I even matter because I’m a girl and not a boy.
It’s moments like this when I think about my fate,
or how Chinese superstition tells me not to cut or wash
my hair on Lunar New Year, so all my good fortune
won’t be snipped away. But really, what is fate?
I tie my hair back and put on a short skirt, ready
to take over the world—forehead forever exposed.
About the Author:
(Excerpt is taken from; https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/dorothy-chan)
Dorothy Chan is the author of Revenge of the Asian Woman (Diode Editions, 2019) and Attack of the Fifty-Foot Centerfold (Spork Press, 2018). She is an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire.
1 thought on “Ode to Chinese Superstitions, Haircuts, and Being a Girl”
Beautiful, humorous and interesting story!