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What does your hair say?

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Letter from the Editor-in-chief

Dear Iris readers,

          I’m so excited to present our fall 2023 edition, Hair Monologues. This concept is one of our most
succinct and exciting yet, and emerged from another collaborative session within our executive
board, which at the time amounted to only six people—and now boasts eleven! In other words,
while this is a letter from the editor, and will contain fragments of my life, my hair, and my
queerness, it is absolutely not about me: it would not exist without the ceaseless passion of our
entire e-board.

          When our arts editor, Torianna, presented the idea “Hair Monologues,” we were all immediately
struck with the theme’s simultaneous specificity and possibility. In the past, our themes have
often been seasonal: our first edition, New Beginnings, marked the start of a new semester, along
with the advent of Iris; its counterpart, Omens, alluded to both the promise and inevitable decay
of late autumn. With Hair Monologues, we opted for something a bit different: a theme to meet
each creator, editor, and reader as individuals, invoking distinct memories directly tied to
respective identities.


          This past summer, before “Hair Monologues” was at all on my mind, my father and I had our
first blowout argument. It was about my armpit hair. Having recently opened a small business in
Texas, my family found ourselves involved in murky terrain often dubbed networking. Suddenly
dependent upon the whims of the middle-aged and upper-class—hairspray, Polo garb and
all—my father, for the first time, proposed serious input in the existence of my armpit hair.
Somehow, a few dozen follicles were indicative of gender and class imbalance; somehow, these
mere patches were threatening enough to warrant monologue.

          Late that summer, as the grass scorched amber and the days stretched wider, I read Lisa Low’s
poem “Ode to Armpit Hair.”
At once cathartic and condemning, the poem assured my wavering
emotions about my ongoing familial tension, while also reminding me of the dynamism of
identity, and the privileges afforded to some members of the queer community more than others.
Low’s words form a loving tribute to her own underarm hair, and a disruption of American
society’s harsh and hypocritical distinctions between “beauty” and “ugliness”; she writes: “I
look at my armpits and think of / the power accorded to them… I can’t now / see armpit hair on a
white woman without picturing expensive produce and clusters / of white women.”

          Low’s poem embodies what I hope we as an e-board have achieved through this issue. Hair can
be a reminder of imbalance and insecurity, but it can also mean freedom of expression. Bad
haircuts soon enmesh themselves into distant memory; your favorite color can remain affixed to
your head until you find yourself favoring a new one; wigs can swap one identity for another.
Somehow, hair is everything—but also nothing.

          When I think of hair, I think of our managing editor, Ella, who has lovingly cut my tresses for
nearly four years now; I think of their impeccably-maintained layers and the intimidating bleach-
blonde of our first meeting; I think of the bright red she ended the year with, and the purple that
marked the start of our sophomore year, whose lingering she so bemoaned; I think of our friend
group crammed into a bathroom somewhere, shaving heads, rinsing dye, and chopping bangs.
I am incredibly lucky to have found myself among such a caring and creative pocket of
Geneseo’s queer community. I am also incredibly lucky to witness the perspectives of adjacent
“pockets” through our magazine’s editorial lens. As I look through the range of submissions for
this issue—playlists, song lyrics, collages, poems, and more—I feel the echoes of meaning from
one “hair monologue” to another.

          As I round out this letter, I want to give special thanks to all of our new e-board members: Catie,
who has recently taken up the responsibility of treasurer as our club grows in funding; June, who
has already taken our public relations under a skillful wing; Chloe, who will fulfill the new and
exciting role of DEI coordinator for our mag; Juslannie, whose boundless creative energy has
found an easy home within our editing staff; and Maddy, who designed this very issue with
clarity, precision, and passion. I would also be remiss not to mention that this is our final issue
with Ella, who will graduate this month, and to whom so much of this magazine is indebted. I’m
also excited to invite our current writing editor, Sam, to fulfill the role of managing editor; I
know he will do so with grace. While the impending graduation of all of our founding members
is bittersweet, I am beyond confident in our future editors to continue fostering a community of
uniquely-queer creativity.

Finally, thank you to everyone reading for supporting Iris in all its forms.

With love,

Mia Donaldson

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