“Are you freaking out? Because I would totally be freaking out. Once I start, I can’t undo this.”
My hairdresser Lena pauses with her scissors in her hands and looks at me with concern. I tell her to do it, and I watch the first of what will be a TON of hair fall to the salon floor. For the first time since the age of twelve, I will have hair just below my chin.
I got married a little over a month ago and went through a pretty stressful engagement which I really don’t care to talk about. It left me, as I’m sure many newlyweds will attest to, with this feeling that something anxiety-inducing was just around the bend again. It was like I had almost trained my mind to just assume that drama and arguments and spending tons of hard-earned money on crap was now a permanent fixture in my life. I needed a change — no, I needed a healthy distraction to get me out of my funk. I needed to feel confident again. I needed to get rid of this unbearable weight that was my hair. So I did.
My sister Bridget was my inspiration. She had donated her long locks and looked absolutely artsy chic with her long bob. Bridget has a cute, rounder-face and dimples and could probably pull off anything. I, on the other hand, have a longer face, stress-induced acne (and acne scars, yay!) and I often actually hid behind my long hair because I didn’t want to deal with how I looked. I realized that cutting my hair short would force me to deal with that, and as scared as that made me feel, I decided it would be a healthy thing to do.
I was surprised at how calm I was when I looked in the mirror after the deed was done. I was so desperate for a change that I didn’t even go through an initial shock… I was just happy to look at myself in a different way than before. In the days that followed, I immediately began understanding what Bridget had said: I really was learning a lot about myself.
Things I learned after I cut my hair short:
I had either been using a curling iron wrong or my brain was completely wiped after my hair was cut. I actually had to look up basic YouTube videos before I realized that I was curling my hair in the opposite direction of the barrel, thus producing some pretty terrible looking 90 degree angle bends in my hair. The second night after I had cut my hair, I ran up to my husband and yelled, “What am I doing wrong? How the hell am I bending my hair like this when I’ve been curling my hair for like seven years??” Obviously he didn’t have an answer or solution (and I would have been slightly concerned if he had). He looked terrified.
I have to wear more tank tops to cover up cleavage at work. I could usually get away with wearing V-neck shirts at work because my hair almost always was covering my chest area. Now, if I wear anything lowcut, it’s like BAM, there’s my boobs. I’ve had to Amish up my clothing choices a bit, at least in a professional environment. Probably not a bad thing.
I realized I had “hair habits.” Ever see a teenage boy who had really long hair and then cut it short quickly flick his now-invisible bang away from his eyes? My personal hair habit was grabbing all my hair and throwing it to one side while talking to people or while on the phone. I’ve tried to do it a few times since then only to realize that, duh, I can’t do that anymore.
I realized that I associated femininity with long hair. And honestly, most people do. This was probably the biggest thing I had to get over (and I’m still getting over it). I’ve had to think of new ways to define myself and make myself feel feminine, including looking up new hairstyles, wearing red lipstick and choosing to wear more girly clothes. I didn’t feel as attractive around my husband because I knew he liked my long hair, but I had to get over it and remind myself that this was my hair and my body and it’s something that only I give myself permission to control.
Posting a before and after picture of your hair on Facebook can result in a ‘like’ and comment from an award-winning author. Anyone ever heard of the amazing Wade Rouse and his hilarious books, including Confessions of a Prep School Mommy Handler? That fabulous man liked and commented on my picture, and I fangirled for a good three hours or so. Amy Tan, Margaret Atwood and Cheryl Strayed — I am patiently waiting for you all to do the same.
I actually make an effort in the morning. I had a few bad hair days at the beginning — I went to work a few times looking like I crawled out of bed and let a toddler try curling my hair and I just had to suck it up and own it. I had to get up earlier than I had before just to practice what I had practiced the night before so I could look halfway decent. No matter what I did, I had to embrace it the moment I walked out the door, and I had to acknowledge the change in front of countless co-workers even on days when I felt like a hat was my best option. I couldn’t just wake up twenty minutes before work and throw my hair into a braid or quickly run a flat iron through it in a half-assed attempt to look “done up” anymore.
So, now that the change is made, am I going to keep it this way? I haven’t quite figured that part out yet. My next trim is in October, so I will definitely be sporting short hair throughout the colder months. The whole experience, though — from the adrenaline rush of such a big change to the learning process that followed — was a meditation, of sorts, in how I view myself and how easily I can boost my happiness if I just focus on something new and different. That, I feel, made it all worth it.