The One About The Time I Cut Off All My Hair…

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:

Replace the tux with a tshirt and pleated skirt and you have me circa 8 years old.

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.

Posted in Beauty, Life & Style

52 Responses

  1. Marge Edwards says:

    What a great story! I’m letting my bad “summer cut,” or “you need a change cut,” or “don’t you want a stylish cut?” grow out so that it covers SOME of my ears! I wasn’t quite as gracious as you (you were AMAZINGLY gracious!). But I’m older. And I don’t have a lot of hair. And I paid $65 for it. And she has been my stylist for 15 years.

  2. Lulu says:

    This makes me (even more) proud to call you my friend. Xo

  3. Sarah says:

    Laughing so hard! This is a FANTASTIC post ;). I love the length of your new cut–very modern.

  4. I love this post, and your shorter hair looks SO pretty.

    Also, you have spectacular eyebrows.

  5. Misty M-H says:

    This post makes me smile. :) You ARE smart and kind and interesting… and adorable… and so much more. You’re good people, Waspy.

  6. Kemp says:

    You look more wonderful than ever.

  7. Travis says:

    If all blog posts were this good, I would read more blogs. You are smart and interesting–I have video proof–and you are also very pretty, so stop fishing for compliments.

    Some kid with cancer is about to receive some beautiful luxurious hair. This kid will say, “What the fuck! I already have cancer, and now you’re trying to make me a ginger?”


  8. viictoria says:

    hilarious! what’s super funny to me is that i’ve been lusting after a bieber-ish cut (more like michelle williams or anne hathaway) for a while but don’t have the nerve. it’s just hair and will grow back! good for you for donating it!

  9. Misha says:

    Great post! This is my first time to your blog and I’m hooked.

  10. Jessica says:

    First off, you are fantastic. I can just tell :) secondly, I have a feeling I know exactly what beauty college you cut your hair at based on a super similar story I experienced right after moving to SA. A senior, two days before graduation, was cutting my hair despite the fact he decides to go into real estate post graduation and never cut hair again. I wanted a trim and a color (just something to cover some highlights my sister in law gave me a few months earlier) back to my natural boring brown. After three hours, with a two month old baby and an almost two year old at home with my trying to be patient husband, I left with a black bob. And this was with the instructor helping my obviously checked out hairdresser.

    Good for you for staying calm (I did too) and rock that new hair! :) I agree, it’s a great length.

  11. Melissa Ludwig says:

    Snorting with laughter. Ask my friend Jennie some time about her eyebrow dying experience at unnamed beauty school. Let’s just say she looked like Madonna circa 1982 and handled it way less gracefully than you. WASPY, you are growing up.

  12. Rick M. says:

    Too funny! You’re hilarious and wonderful and fabulous! So glad to call you a friend! Oh, and I think the new length looks great on you!

  13. marissa says:

    Great post, great hair, and a clearly fabulous person!

  14. Melissa Ludwig says:

    BTW I read to Mitch aloud and he said you should submit it to Readers Digest. I am not sure that’s the correct vehicle for your brilliance, but that was a compliment.

    • elizabeth says:

      Aw, I got kind of melty imagining a Mitch/Melissa story time with my post. If I ever write a book and get to record an E edition, you’ll need to write a ditty for the intro.

  15. La Momma says:

    You are so smart, funny and fantastic! This blog entry made me so proud to be your Momma. I also think you are incredibly beautiful both on the outside and inside. Let me know if you want me to post some photos from your early years…

  16. Kassie says:

    Growing up with short hair like you was crazy and I feel how you felt before but I am so excited to see what you did. I love the idea and everything and I have been thinking of donating my hair after my wedding.

  17. Lauren says:

    Fashion interventions = why we have friends. You handled that inexperienced hairdresser much better than most would. I probably would have resorted to screaming and slapping. Glad it worked out for you!

  18. Natalie says:

    Girl, my hat is off to you! Being one who also counts on my locks for self confidence, props to having the guts to go a beauty college for such a major cut AND for handling it gracefully. It looks gorgeous!!

    I’ve contemplated locks for love, but I just imagine the poor child feeling jilted when they go to wash the wig for the first time and my natural curly, frizzy texture appears. It took me 20 damn years to figure this mess out, I wouldn’t want to “gift” that to anyone.

  19. Uncle Mike says:

    You look Great!

  20. Tanvi says:

    O.WOW. Would love to see it in person. Looks lovely.

    ? © ?

  21. Neven Jones says:

    Beautiful account, I was hanging on your every word. Good for you for staying calm. You look beautiful by the way.

  22. MJ says:

    Hey Elizabeth!
    Just a note to let you know that you are not only FANTASTIC and interesting and funny, but your hair DOES look better at the new length….AND…your post made your parents feel very proud of you and good about themselves as well. Great job, EVERYBODY!

  23. Rita Arens says:

    You do have gorgeous hair. Don’t cut it shorter than what you did, says one who has fine, ash-colored hair and is forced to rock a super-short cut.

    You’re right, though — it’s dangerous to attach too much of one’s self-worth to a physical characteristic. I’ve had to come to terms with aging (I’m 38) as I watch some of the features I took pride in balloon or sink or wrinkle. It’s better you make peace with it now, sister, and let yourself age in your own miraculous way. Lucky you — good hair lasts for life. My mom has great hair, and she’s 68.

  24. Amy says:

    Oh Elizabeth, what a FABULOUS story this is! See, your parents are so right. It was so very kind and gracious of you to hang in there with Amanda, The Future Make-Up Artist Not Hair Stylist, wonderful that you donated those gorgeous locks, and then relayed it all in such a way that I nearly spit my coffee out multiple times. It will grow back. I had a Flock-of-Seagulls-esque cut once in my mid 20s (accidental, of course!) that took YEARS to grow out. But it did! And yours is in far better shape now. Looking forward to seeing the youthful haircut pictures!

    • elizabeth says:

      Thanks for your kind words Amy! It seems like most of us have a bad haircut or two in our history. Glad my story gave you a chuckle, I got a “revision” haircut yesterday and I’m already feeling better about it.

  25. Oh, girrrrrrrl. I could tell you a few hair-butchering stories. I seem to have a friggin’ red target on my head. “BULLSEYE! IT’S LISA! BREAK OUT THE HAIR-CUTTING VIRGINS, SHE’S BAAAAAAACK!”

    My hair is forever long right now, too. Why? Because we moved here last year and I’m too afraid to find the wrong place to go, because that’s what happens everytime we move, I have to get my hair cut, and I magically steer towards a place where the person who cuts my hair has had a breakup, or too much coffee, or not enough coffee, or is old as shit and can’t even see my head let alone my hair, or hasn’t even graduated high school let alone beauty school. Or scissors hate me, I don’t know.

    So if you see me at an SA Moms get together and I have straggly hair with dead ends, just smile ‘n wave. Just smile ‘n wave.

  26. Cynthia says:

    Random acts of kindness are always the right thing. A= for gracious act on your part.

  27. It will grow back – and it DOESN’T look that bad!

  28. Monique says:

    This is what I love about you! Your hair is totally awesome and will be Rupunzel long again shortly. :0)

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