“That’s how you can tell someone’s poor.” My babysitter pointed slyly at the neck of the boy sitting ahead of us in the bleachers. We were at a basketball game at her high school, a small public school in a small Virginia town where pretty much everyone was just one shade of poor or another.  

I don’t know why she’d taken me to the game, but I felt important and nervous, the only kid there who wasn’t with his parents. I was paying careful attention to everything, afraid I’d do something to give away the fact that I was a 5th grader and not a sophomore, young enough to believe that people couldn’t tell the difference. I wasn’t sure where I fit in. I stared at the boy’s neck, unsure what I should be seeing. 

“They cut their own hair. They don’t get that peach fuzz on the backs of their necks.“ It was light and soft, like the hair on a never-shaved cheek.

When I cut my hair now, I shave my nape blind. I cut myself about half the time.

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