Since I can remember, my hair has defined me. I’ve only cut it short three times in my life. Today was número tres. By short, I mean a bob or somewhere around my shoulders, but never shorter. My long hair has always been my prize. It’s defined who I am and how people describe me. The crazy thing is, I’m not alone. Many women I’ve spoken to in the past have mentioned their desire to have long hair or their fear to lose it. I’ve always been afraid of having a bad haircut. Maybe it’s a control thing. It’s certainly not logical at all. It’s what I have always called my strength, like the story of Samson in the bible.
The first time I ever had a drastic haircut was at the age of six or seven, according to my mom. I can’t say that I know exactly why I decided to chop off my long hair or if my mom had convinced me to do so, but I remember how it made me feel. That night, after hours of crying, my mom found me in front of the mirror, still awake and still crying. “Why did you do this to yourself. Why! Why!” I remember the words perfectly as I smacked the bottom of my bob, both left and right. I felt ‘less than’ and not pretty and definitely, not my idea of what beautiful should be. I don’t know who or what told me that. All I know is that I felt this horrible feeling and so, that became what short hair felt like and I didn’t want to feel that way again.
The second time I had short hair was in high school. It was tenth grade and I was getting ready to attend my first homecoming dance. Now that I think about it, it’s funny, but I decided to go to the worst possible place to get my hair done. EVER. No, it wasn’t a barber shop or some lady’s house, it was my grandmother’s hair lady. This should have been my first clue. I remember sitting in the chair and telling her how excited I was about dressing up in 40s glam for my first ever homecoming dance. Suddenly, in the midst of chatting, I felt her section the crown of my hair and comb it high above my head. Snip! Snip! That was the start of a horrible experience. I hoped and prayed that somehow she’d make it look okay, but I knew better. The hair that went down to my bellybutton was now a hot mess and I had a party to go to. Thankfully, mom and I went to work and disguised the mess that night by curling the horrible layers, but the next day was another story. Ever since that day, I’ve been scared and nervous whenever a hairstylist first takes his or her scissors to my hair. If I don’t trust them, that feeling comes back, strong as ever.
Today was my third day. Now, this wasn’t a decision I spent months or weeks working on. I knew I wanted something different, but I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew I liked the lob haircut (long in the front, short in the back), but… no way! Too short for me! Then, I called my hairstylist and decided to just talk to him about it and come up with something different together. It had been years since I did anything other than the same boring layers and the same boring color. I wanted some color and new style, but most importantly, I wanted a change.
My stylist sat down to discuss my options for the lob haircut and I agreed that I wanted the longest part to end up mid-breast and that we’d go conservative in the back. Although I’ve been going to him for three years now, the feeling came back. I was sweating, indecisive, and increasingly nervous with every move he made with the scissors. Then, I saw it and ran my fingers through my hair. It was short. Perhaps shorter than I anticipated, but I was okay. That ‘feeling’ had subsided.
Soon, my dear friend Darlene came by with her boyfriend to pick up some things and I saw that she was surprised, but loved the new look. Minutes later, another dear friend, Sharon, showed up for her appointment. She was surprised, but raved about it too. Of course they were surprised! No one had seen me with anything shorter than very long hair and here I was taking a ton of inches off– in one sitting. So, while she did her roots and I finished my color, we sipped wine and got caught up with life and work. It was great, but now, I couldn’t run my fingers through my hair. In the back of my mind, that little feeling was creeping back. Ever so slightly.
Now, I know I sound like a crazy person. I mean, c’mon! It’s just hair. After my stylist was all done with color, he tried something different for the finished look based on the pictures I showed him. It was a curly, mousse and diffuser version of my locks, something I don’t ever do. I loved it. I really did, but the locks looked shorter and that fed the little feeling inside me, growing stronger.
On the car ride home, I called my boyfriend. He could hear it in my voice and soon he said, “Baby, it’s hair. It’ll grow back and I’m sure you look beautiful no matter what.” I wish that had been enough, but I raced home and did a quick blow dry just to calm my nerves.
Why did my hair make me feel like this?
Simple. I’ve always hidden behind my long hair. It’s been what I drape over my shoulders if I’m uncomfortable with the way I look, what I’ve always known to be desirable by the opposite sex, and what I’ve allowed to identify me. But, man, I’m so much more than that.
I’ve always heard of women changing their hair after a breakup or divorce, college rebellion, or motherhood, but I’m as stable as ever in my personal life. Maybe, just maybe, being good and happy and confident in my own skin as I get older is the reason for this. Maybe, what people think or don’t think matters less now than it ever did.