Ode to Chinese Superstitions, Haircuts, and Being a Girl

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.


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