Right around January of 1995, I finally cut the large mop of hair that had been accumulating on my head for the past three or four months. Length-wise, it wasn't much, but volume-wise, the hair was something spectacular.
My hair looked terrible, it was unmanageable, and so long as to make it uncomfortable to sleep, but I really liked it, probably because it made people wince. I remember feeling like I was surrendering to society with the haircut, which probably contributed to my sudden decision, upon leaving Supercuts, to adopt an even more confrontational look: wearing a backwards SF Giants cap.
For a suburban Caucasian boy, this was a bold move. The cap's backwardness frustrated adults to no end, including my father, most adult male relatives, and the 1995 College Park High school yearbook photographer, who twice yelled at me for arriving at photos shoots wearing the rebellious cap. I wore it in class, at social gatherings, and even during my job lifeguarding, though I took it off when actually teaching swim lessons.
This habit disturbed a little boy named Aidan. Aidan's mom had forbidden him to wear his own baseball caps backward, because of the gang-rebel-miscreant associations that went along with such a look. But his beloved Coach Sean wore a Giants cap turned backwards, the rebellious way, every single day at the pool! Aidan was quietly tormented. Finally he brought his concerns to his mom.
"Mom," he asked hesitantly, "Is Coach Sean a bad kid?"
I wore the hat with regularity for about seven straight years. Caps came and went, but the backwardness and rebelliousness remained the same. Then, for no real reason, I gave it up. I started coaching at a new pool, met some new people, and went cold turkey on the hat for a good two months. Then, on a morning of bad hair, I donned it before leaving for swim practice.
The kids were not having it. Immediately, they wanted to know what had made me wear such a thing.
"Coach Sean, why are you wearing that?"
"Come on, guys, just get in the water."
"Coach Sean, why don't you just take the hat off?"
"What's the matter? It's just a hat."
"Why are you wearing it like that?"
"I just... I like it bet..."
"Coach Sean, take the hat off."
Later, I realized that most people had been horrified by my pseudo-B-Boy appearance all along - they were just more polite than the 7-8s from an unnamed Lafayette swim club. This is especially evident when people I met post-April, 1995 see me wearing it - there's a quick, involuntary shudder of disgust, and then they'll greet me, desperately trying not to stare and/or gag. If I'd just asked the kids, or heeded Aidan's concerns, I could have saved myself some hassle and/or friendships.
This year, the kids didn't seem fazed by the lone appearance of the Giants cap. They were, however, disturbed by my body hair. The chest hair, they got used to. But a comment from young Tracy isolated their (and honestly, my) main worry:
"Coach Sean, why is there hair on the back of your shoulders?"
I pondered trying to explain the aging process, or to argue that it was only a small tuft of hair, practically no big deal, but I knew there was only one reply. I leaned over very seriously and told young Tracy:
"Because I'm a bad kid."