Full disclosure… This post is too long. This post isn’t about food. Not even a little bit. It’s not even about living a chic WASPy life of international travel, fancy nail polish or fine dining. This post is about a haircut – but it’s also about finding myself. Maybe? A Little?
Ok, real talk… this is going to be vapid. I think it will also be funny, and I hope you’ll hang in there with me and read along.
A little back story for context purposes: I was raised by two doting and dynamic parents who instilled in me from a very early age, a belief that I was FANTASTIC. This belief that I was fantastic had little to do with my relative adorableness, and a lot to do with being smart and kind and funny and interesting. God bless them for that. But I’m human, and probably sometime around my high school years, I wised up to the fact that relative adorableness plays a role in society. Today, despite the fact that the majority of my self-worth is based on my confidence that I am smart and kind and interesting… a part of my self-worth is tied to my appearance.
I’ve never been especially confident about my appearance, save for one thing. I have great hair. Really great hair.
Documentation of my great hair, circa June 2012
What’s funny about how I’ve invested most of my pride in my personal appearance in my hair, is that I spent a lot of my childhood looking like this:
No really - I was perhaps 25% less feminine than the above for most of my youth. You see… when I was in elementary school, my Grandmother (who lived with us when I was growing up) would call a cab and take me to Lord and Taylor to get a Justin Beiber haircut while my Mom was at work. My Grandmother was the epitome of chic. She was timeless in her Salvatore Ferragamo flats and argyle sweaters – she was Audrey Hepburn meets Angela Lansbury. She had this phenomenal short haircut – sort of Dorothy Hammil by way of Mary Martin in Peter Pan. She thought that a similar doo would be adorbs on her Granddaughter.
She was fucking wrong. (I don’t have any photos to support how wrong she was, next time I’m at my folk’s place I’ll scan some and update this post. Trust me, it wasn’t chic).
I looked like a little boy for most of my formative years – there’s no two ways about it. But the best part about this Justin Beiber sob story is that my Mom always took these surreptitious Lord and Taylor haircut trips like a champ. She would arrive home after a long day of work to be confronted by her little manchild daughter with a Cathy Rigby pixie cut, and instead of being aghast and immediately displaying her disappointment she would take a deep breath, smile and tell me that I was beautiful. She would quickly follow that compliment with a reminder that I was smart funny and kind and therefore FANTASTIC.
So perhaps the fact that my childhood was peppered with tragic boy cuts explains my tendency as a grown woman to let my hair reach bizarre lengths. I may not be a size zero, or be 5’8″, but I know that I have shiny hair that is naturally straight but holds a curl for days. I know that it is an interesting shade of auburn. A shade that my Mother’s colorists have yet to replicate with dyes (read, I’m screwed in a few years when I go grey). Wanting to maximize the physical trait I felt most confident about makes perfect sense. So I let my hair grow really really long. It was all fun and games until I accidentally TUCKED MY HAIR INTO MY PANTS.
Creepy bathroom photo from Thursday evening when I was leaving work. I had just tucked my hair into my waistband. Not ok.
After some gentle nudging from my coworkers, and an intense intervention style conversation with my friends Lauren and Marissa, I knew it was time to cut my hair. So today I went to the salon and chopped 11 inches off. I originally was planning on cutting 4-6 maybe 7 inches max. But after some thought, I knew that I needed to cut 10 inches so that I could donate my hair to Locks of Love. I’ve donated to Locks of Love twice before, most recently chopping 14 inches on my 26th birthday. I knew I had it in me to make that drastic of a change, and I also had never had hair long enough to still have “long” hair after making a donation. I was excited.
This should be a really happy story. A story that ends with me walking out of the salon looking phenomenal with a super chic and more age appropriate haircut. A story that ends with me filled with the satisfaction that by cutting off all my hair, I was helping children suffering from medical hair loss.
Unfortunately, I scheduled my haircut at a beauty college near my apartment. I know! I know! It sounded convenient at the time. What should have been a 60 minute appointment ended up taking over 3 hours. The stylist cutting my hair (We’ll call her Amanda) had only cut 2 other people’s hair prior to me. Y’all, “Amanda” was 18 years old. She was honestly TERRIBLE at being a hairstylist. The shampoo process didn’t even go well. She was shaking as she sectioned off my hair to cut it. I honestly thought she was going to vomit when she put my hair in three different pony tails to cut my donation for Locks of Love.
About halfway into the haircut, Amanda lost it. I was about to cry. She DID cry. She confessed to me that she was only getting her cosmetology degree because she wanted to be a makeup artist and that she really didn’t like cutting hair. OMG literally it was my worst nightmare was coming true. Given the history of my tragic andtrogenous haircuts in my youth, and how much of my womanly self-image I have invested in having super long hair, this could have been very traumatic for me.
I don’t know what happened, but something big did happen. When my Amanda was visibly struggling and seemed completely lost about what to do next, I could have lost my shit. I could have asked her instructor to come over and finish it for her. There were several moments over those three hours where I was screaming on the inside. But somehow, I experienced this sensation of tremendous calm. I didn’t lose it. I didn’t let on how terrified I was that she was going to butcher my hair. I even stopped her and asked her to take a deep breath at one point. I made eye contact with her in the mirror and told her that she was doing a fine job. I told her that my hair was ok, and that we were going to get through this and that WE were going to be ok.
What the hell? Who am I? I usually have to have a glass of wine or two prior to a simple trim just to stay mellow. I am not this chill. I am not this gracious. Or maybe I am?
Maybe I’m finally old enough to have the perspective to know that it’s just a haircut and it will grow back. Despite the fact that my most significant source of confidence about my outward appearance is my hair, I was willing to let Amanda fight her way through this horrifying three hour haircut. Maybe it’s because I could sense in her that she didn’t have much self confidence, and I HONESTLY wanted her to feel good about herself for finishing the job. I wanted her to feel proud of herself, to feel like she was smart and kind and funny and interesting. I wanted her to feel like despite the fact she kind of sucks at cutting hair, she was FANTASTIC.
So that’s my haircut. It’s not terrible. It’s not super short considering I chopped off 11 inches. It needs a little attention to give it some shape and address some issues like the fact that it’s approximately two inches longer in the front than the back. I’ll likely get a “revision” haircut in the next week – at a real salon, clearly. But it’s not the end of the world.
I’m not Samson, completely stripped of all my powers now that I’ve cut my locks. If anything, I feel empowered that I still feel attractive with a sort of shoddy haircut. I feel especially good knowing that by handling this tortuous three hour haircut with grace, I perhaps made a young woman feel good about herself.
At the end of the day, this was just a haircut. I didn’t find Jesus or the meaning of life in this haircut, but I do feel like I found a bit of myself through this process.
It will grow back.