About a month ago, I met my friend Rachel in person for the first time. After having a lovely dinner at a local vegan restaurant, we headed up north for a house party that a few of my friends were stopping by. Though we'd been chatting pretty much nonstop for the whole 20-minute trade ride up, she stopped me just outside the house.
"Um," she said. "I just had to tell you. You … kind of look like Miley Cyrus."
I'm not sure what reaction she was expecting, but the one I gave -- which was a sort of full-body eye-roll, complete with sad groaning -- may have seemed like overkill. "Urghrhgrghgh," I explained.
"Sorry!" she said. "It's just -- you know."
"The hair," I said. "I get it. A lot. I get it a lot."
Maybe she thought I was trying to make her feel better. If she did, it only took about five minutes inside the party before one person, then two, then handfuls started singing "Wrecking Ball" at me. Since we were kind of late, and most people were already well on their way to happily wasted, pretty much everyone thought that she was the first person to come up with this hilarious comparison.
She was not. And neither was Rachel. Right around the time I moved to Chicago in August, in fact, I started getting Miley comparisons on a near-daily basis.
Maybe it was the fact that this two-toned half-blonde hairstyle is actually not uncommon in San Francisco. I mean, it's not like its ubiquitous Leigh-Anne-style side-shave cousin -- which landlords in the Mission might as well include as a requirement for their master tenants as long as they're hiking up the rent prices -- but I'd generally give someone the Same-Haircut Nod in a crosswalk about once a week or so. In Chicago, I pretty much haven't run into anyone with a similar 'do (although I've met several folks who profess to have just shaved theirs off).
Or maybe it was the fact that I moved to Chicago on August 21st, and a scant week later, Miley was busy giving the Internet (myself included) a collective conniption over her performance at the VMAs. Though the "We Can't Stop" had come out a few months before, it seems like most of the conversation around Miley and her behavior really exploded in late August. Which, coincidentally, was right when random frat boys started screaming "MILEY!" at me outside of car windows.
Having never resembled a celebrity before in my life (apart, perhaps, from Lesbian Robin on "How I Met Your Mother"), I was frankly unprepared for how soul-tarnishing it eventually started to get. Strange dudes had a new weapon in their cat-call arsenal. Drunk girls on the street would cup my face in their palms and coo, "She's pretty and so are you!" Even my best guy friend started to get in on it, responding to every Snapchat I sent him with "OMG, party in the U.S.A.!"
Just as when demons possess a human body for too long and start taking on empathetic characteristics, I started to fear that my form was going to begin dictating my function. I got scared, admittedly irrationally, that I would become Miley, at least in the eyes of random passers-by. Naturally, I reacted poorly. I stopped smiling ruefully when guys in bars cooed, "Where's your wrecking ball?" I refused to dance when my housemate blasted "FU" in our kitchen. Instead of tolerantly chuckling in response to joking comments, I'd snarl, "Wow, real original," and, once, "What, do you want a fucking autograph?" As much as I tried to resist it, Miley had made me into the monster I had most dreaded becoming. Fame -- or, at least, a passing resemblance to someone famous -- had changed me.
Because the thing is, I don't like Miley Cyrus. At all. I love most pop music, but I think "Wrecking Ball" and "We Can't Stop" are obnoxious (though I do have a soft spot for "See You Again"). I find her whole shock-sexual shtick, as well as the debate surrounding it, to be boring and unworthy of the millions of hours of Internet-time spent discussing it. And, most of all, I cannot stand the way she continuously, time after time, participates in the appropriation and dehumanization of black culture, both in her music videos and performances. I know that my personal resemblance to her is basically the least of anyone's problems with that appropriation, but the idea that anyone would conflate the two of us, even for a second, was and is repugnant to me.
I had high hopes for this haircut. This haircut was supposed to buoy me through the doldrums of fall 2012 and get me excited for a brand new year. I spent countless time and way too much money trying to keep it an ice blonde that's basically unachievable in nature unless you are a four-year-old boy or your name is Robyn. I arranged outfits around it. I made my mom cry over it. Like a lot of queers (and a lot of women, I think), my hair became an integral part of my aesthetic identity. And I didn't want any part of that to be associated with Miley Cyrus.
The final straw, by the way, was when I went to an open Chicago Blackhawks practice two weeks ago. I'm a big hockey fan, so seeing all the dudes from three feet away was incredibly surreal (and kind of awkward, honestly). Though the players clearly do their best to ignore the handfuls of fans giggling at them and surreptitiously taking photos, I kept seeing one of the defensive players, Duncan Keith, nudging his teammate and glancing at me.
"It's gotta be my imagination," I thought to myself. "He's probably just looking at his own reflection in the glass."
Toward the end of practice, though, he skated over to stand in front of me. "You," he said, pointing, "Look like Miley Cyrus."
My face froze somewhere between a hopeful grin and what a dog looks like when it eats its own barf. "No," I said flatly.
"Yes," he said, clearly thinking I hadn't understood. "Miley."
"Like," I said, smacking my fist exaggeratedly into my palm. "Wrecking Ball?"
He grinned, delighted. "Yes!"
"No," I said again. "No." It was too late. He'd already skated away.
I clapped my face to my hand, feeling my cheeks burn. Here was a guy I'd stared at on television for hours, from my favorite hockey team, who won the Norris trophy for best defensive play in 2010 and whose style of play had moved me to actual shouts in the past. I'd had daydreams of casually bumping into him or one of his teammates for months, striking up a conversation, maybe becoming bros. And now, I was burned into his puck-struck brain as one Miley Cyrus.
"You do kind of look like her," one woman said thoughtfully next to me.
"I'm dyeing my fucking hair green," I snapped in response, and called a salon on the way home. Thanks a lot, Miley.
Kate is no longer bein' Miley: @katchatters