When I was little, I used to fall asleep afraid. Afraid that someone would enter my room with a pair of scissors and cut off my hair. I slept with my long waves loose around my neck, a security blanket protecting me from a fear not entirely understood. I didn’t sleep with it in a ponytail because in my mind, it was much easier to snip off a ponytail than it was to cut off inches and inches of unfurled, thick pieces.
My logic, disturbing enough, seemed to be that if someone wanted to get to my hair, they would have to go through my neck. Weird, right? In hindsight, I realize that my little girl self was definitely hyper-focusing on my hair to combat the real issues. Like maybe I wasn’t that comfortable in my own skin. Maybe my long hair was my way of being invisible (yes, I am channeling Mia Thermopolis here). Being painfully shy as a child, I always needed a curtain to hide behind. The books weren’t enough sometimes. Stories were an escape but in the end, I always had to go back to school where other girls were prettier or cuter. They had the Limited Too shirts with the three sparkly monkeys and more Lisa Frank pencil cases than I did. They would sit in groups of three and four and I knew they thought something was off about me. Why is she reading so much? Why doesn’t she talk? Why does she turn so red when the teacher calls on her?
They had the social skills that I just couldn’t master.
In high school, this didn’t change too much. I mean, it did. I grew more confident socially while simultaneously melting into the mass of female teenagers. Hair was either straightened or piled in intentionally messy buns that took way more work than it looked like. I still love a good messy bun. But the reason I was doing it in high school was because everyone else was doing it — and because the bun was a good distraction from my face.
Cue college. My hair was part of who I was now — partly because in college no one cares if you wear it in a ponytail 24/7 and actually, if you have your hair styled for class, you are the one being stared at. Yoga pants and hair elastics for the win. It’s classy to be apathetic about your hair in college — but only Monday through Thursday night. And then Friday it is expected to be in a headband or ponytail because if you’re cool, you are definitely hungover. But Friday night through Sunday morning, that hair has got to be on point.
Mine rarely was. Or if it was, that was a total accident because I am hopeless when it comes to styling hair. I do own a flat iron, evidence of high school (I once burned my chin with it and got a blister. My chin). I have a curling iron that my wonderfully fashionable grandmother gifted me years ago. Do I know how to use it? No.
Nonetheless, I kept my hair long, thick, and impossible. Some days I loved it, wavy and full and totally big hair sexy. Some days I couldn’t stand it. Most days I put it in a bun/ponytail because I was always running somewhere, whether it was on a treadmill or because I was late. I just couldn’t be bothered.
That in itself should have clued me in that I was no longer the type of girl who flat irons her hair because it’s “in”.
The decision really happened because I started picturing myself differently. I started looking at my face and being happy with it, independent of good hair. I started being annoyed with the fact that I loved everything about myself except for the fact that I could never get my hair to do what I wanted. It never looked bad, but it never gave me joy and instant confidence, either. It was time.
So I did the first thing one does when one wants to make a life decision — Pinterest. I spent hours researching until I saw a picture of Anne Hathaway with a short pixie, red lipstick, and over-sized black sunglasses. I thought, That’s the type of woman I want to be.
So I made an appointment and showed the stylist the picture. He said, “Make sure that is exactly what you want, because that is what you are going to get.” I liked him instantly.
Before he cut it off, he said, “Are you sure? You can still back out.”
I said, “Yes, do it.”
He chopped off 7 inches of hair and to the floor fell 23 years of insecurity.
He told me he thought I was going to chicken out. I thought, Sir, you have clearly never met me.
So now I rock really short hair. Maybe someday I will grow it out. But that doesn’t matter, because I now know what it is like to shed something really heavy and feel it float, float to the floor. I have watched part of myself be swept away and away with a black broom on smooth tiles.
The tiles were left clean, and now I can fall asleep without dreaming of strange scissors. I don’t need to wrap myself in anything anymore.