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I removed eight inches of my life

“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.

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Before and after.

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.

 

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Personal Stuff

This is the only wedding-related post I’ll ever write.

Last Thursday, I huddled in a corner of our house and decided to pull together a wedding invitation-sending marathon. I was on envelope 22 of 57, singing along to Fiona Apple’s “Not About Love” and geeking out over how awesome my brand new Sharpie Pen was. Suddenly, I realized it was the first time since becoming engaged in December that I was actually having fun doing something wedding-related. And it’s all, sadly, because I was doing two things that I love doing in my everyday life: writing with nice pens and listening to good music. And I guess sticking labels and envelope seals and stamps everywhere was kind of fun, too, because hey, who doesn’t like stickers?

I’m pretty sure Fiona Apple is not the artist of choice when it comes to choosing wedding invitation-stuffing accompaniments. In fact, she is basically the antithesis of anything lovey-dovey, happy or even mentally-sound. But that’s okay. It was my space, my time, and I could listen to anything I wanted, regardless of what the ‘proper’ soundtrack (and I’m sure some poor soul on TheKnot.com has created such a thing) for stuffing invitations is.

And that basically sums up how I feel about my upcoming wedding ceremony and reception.

I don’t like decorating. I’m way too cheap, I’m not crafty, and I have more trivial things to worry about, like what I’m going to get at Panera for lunch or why there have been three turkeys chilling in this person’s front yard the whole week I’ve driven by during my morning commute.  I like things as simple as can be, and that’s exactly how I’ve planned our beachside wedding to be: no frills, just the basics.

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Okay, I lied — PERHAPS I would get excited over something as awesome as a tiered donut stand in lieu of a wedding cake.

People have questioned why I’m being so simple about the ‘most important day of my life,’ but I want to know – is that really the truth these days, or is it a standard set by companies and the movie industry? Call me a feminist, but I wasn’t born with the end goal of being married – I was born with a desire to learn, to work hard, explore the world, raise kids one day and hopefully read some really awesome books along the way. Everyone has different goals and priorities, and I think it’s okay for me, and others, to admit that sometimes planning a big wedding just isn’t one of those things that you dream of like other girls do.

When I was little, my big dream was to have an apartment and a cat of my own. I also had a desire to learn how to churn butter, but that’s probably because I was temporarily obsessed with the Little House on the Prairie books. I dreamed about being a published writer and learning a new language and going to college and joining a sorority. I don’t think I ever once played out a wedding scene with Barbies, but then again I wasn’t a big fan of them to begin with. I was too busy playing handheld electronic games and recording songs with my sisters. These dreams that we have when we are young, although sometimes silly, fuel our desires and goals when we get older. The more of them we accomplish, whether we end up truly liking them or not, the more fulfilled we feel. I guess this all leads up to my ultimate response when people ask how wedding planning is going: It’s going well, but it’s not something I can say I’m genuinely excited about because it just was never a dream of mine to begin with.

For all the gung-ho brides-to-be out there, I applaud you for your eagerness to match color pallets, your willingness to spend hours crafting things that I probably could never make, your unwavering interest in bridal magazines and websites and your general excitement over what you have always dreamed of being the best day in the world. Your dreams were different than mine, but that doesn’t mean we are different – we both are getting married because we’ve found a person that we want to spend the rest of our lives with, and that, my future veil-adorned friends, is certainly worth walking down the aisle for.