Costco’s haircare sales have taken a steep dive in the year since Locks of Love received the fattest single-donation they’ve likely ever seen, and my scalp is still recovering from the shock. I realize it most when I get into the car—before turning the ignition, exhaust pipe farting ghosts—and I don’t have to pause to reopen the door to unstick my unruly tentacles. Or when my brush grasps at air near my hips and must make an unnatural migration to well above my shoulders. People are charitable with their compliments, saying “cute” when I know they mean “Chia Pet,” but since the mirror, mirror on the wall ain’t dishing any deference, I’ll take what I can get.
I’ve gotten used to it. Kind of. But this weekend at the Hana Film Festival, I felt like a shaved-head Sampson. I realized it was my first trip to Maui’s most Hawaiian town since I lost my only evidently Hawaiian attribute.
“Where are you visiting from?” was a question I was too-often asked this weekend—maybe for the first time in my life, really. My blue blood boiled. It hurt that with my mottled snow-white skin and beanied bob I was all the more ethnically ambiguous. Was a kanak-attack herd of tako sprung from my head the only apparent stake I had in a culture I so desperately love? Without it, was I just another anybody? With it, did it make me somebody?
In Hana—at least at first—it felt like it did. Not so much for the locals as for the tourists. Before, my hair would snake out and shout, “Look! I’m from here. Ask me something! Anything! I may not be from Hana, but I’m from up over the hill and am eager and willing to talk your ear off with historical facts and hopefully helpful directions. I’ll re-plan your vacation, if you give me the time!” Now it just says—well, I don’t know what exactly it’s saying (it may be short, but it’s still all over the place).
On the way into the festival, a blue Jeep stopped in the middle of the road. A White Stag-clad woman ambled out of the driver’s seat and walked the double yellow line toward Mom and I, who’d stopped behind her.
“Are you a Taurus?” the woman asked.
“No. Mom here is a Scorpio. I’m a Cancer,” I nearly replied, instead saying, “What?”
“Are you a tourist?” she repeated.
“Oh! No. We are not tourists,” I said, even more confused.
“OK then. Do you know if we can turn down this road, here?”
I proceeded to remove her ears with vacation tips and…
Let’s just cut to my Stan Marsh-from-South Park moment: You know, I learned something at the Hana Film Festival. Somewhere between grinding fresh-caught seared ahi with pahole fern salad at sunset and watching short films with a mass of content bodies stretched out on blankets as plump drops of rain made quick percussion on the event tent, there was a feeling of true community that glowed like a searchlight in the night. As if a little luminescence rose off the tops of each of our heads, and in the way that the moon refracts in the ripples of the bay, but still in its pieces reflects a unified orb, all our epiphanies and inspirations and moments of love came together in the quiet dark.
For whatever it was worth, the firefly I contributed to that night was the realization that my external markers do not make or break me. While I’m proud to be Hawaiian, whether or not it’s evident that I am—or whether or not I am at all—is irrelevant. What matters is that I love the place and its people—and a lot of folks share those sentiments. It’s hard not to recognize that we are each other in a place like Hana and at an event like the film festival. We’ve got a lot to be proud of; from our humblest early morning farmers markets to the wildest late night bookings, people are making great things happen because people care. That’s a good thing, proud Mauians, whatever your hairstyle.