I went to my hometown salon this week, to see the stylist who had been taking care of hair (owning it, in his words) since I was in junior high, and we did something we’d never done before:
We cut my hair.
Now, by cut, I don’t mean a trim. Of course, in the many years since he’s been the owner of my hair, I’ve had many, many trims, every 12 weeks or so. I’ve had some major trims where it’s gone a little past maintenance. And one *closeto* if you squinted ‘cut’ where we lopped off an inch and a half, all-around.
I don’t have long hair, not even shoulder length, but I’ve always been able to at least put my hair in a ponytail.
I’ve been shorn, freshly shorn; the back is short, not even curling around my littlest finger, and the front is longer, a solid impression of teenage boy band. I can flip that over and pull it into an obnoxious Williamsburg hipster man-bun / pigtail type deal (I will never do that).
And, it feels good. We all know hair is not just about hair, right? First obvious target: breakup. Sure, while I went through one recently, this fresh cut is not about that. Second target: identity crisis. Nope, I’m all good in that territory, sorted that one out a few years ago.
Now, there are practical reasons. All of the swimming, or maybe too many ponytails, or possibly the terrible hair treatments I’ve had at these not-so-great salons in The District, damaged my hair. I’ve had breakage that I have not been able to recover well.
However, let’s get to the other reasons, the ones for which you’re reading this. 1) I’m turning 35 in a few weeks – according to some parts of society, as a single woman, that makes me part of the walking dead. 2) I’m moving: that’s a big life change and prone to cause deep anxiety.
Still, those aren’t quite it.
While my world is turning, shifting yet again, the reason I was compelled to get a fresh cut was because it speaks to something that I’ve been wanting to do, but haven’t been able to follow through on. We all have images of ourselves in our minds. There is one of myself that I’ve held onto, sometimes boldly, but mostly secretly, of what I look like, of my physical value, of my femininity, and of my youth.
Ten years ago, I was a size zero, business skit suit wearing banker full of brass and distemper. I had the heels and the boots, the watches and the glam, and my hair was always freshly done (I had an intense blow dry bar stage, too), and when I looked in the mirror, I saw what I expected to see.
Over time, however, that image started to change. It’s not a bad thing. I’ve gotten older. I’ve put on some weight. My style of dress has changed and adjusted. My sense of self, the solidity of it, of where I put value… that has all changed, too.
Do not mistake this: I enjoyed the earlier part of my youth. I worked hard, I played harder; not an exaggeration. I partied, I drank, I traveled, and I had outrageous nights with friends, and I really just lived it well… well, “well enough” as one thinks they do at that time. There are things that while I don’t regret them, I see now how they could have ended so badly. I was fortunate.
Yet, I don’t need to cling to that past or that image of who I used to be. While I don’t hate that version of me, as my best friend pointed out: we need to keep making new memories. The old stories are great, but if we’re not careful, that’s all we’ll have.
The person I see in the mirror has changed. I wanted something that reflected that change, something alive and active, and in the moment on Thursday, sitting in that chair, with someone who has known me for almost 25 years, when we looked at each other, I knew. I said: “Let’s do it. Chop it off. Let’s go!”
And he did.
And it felt amazing. It feels amazing and it looks like me. Now, I look in the mirror, and I see me, the woman is so ready and eager to continue following on this new path she has built for herself.
I run my fingers through my hair, and it stops short in the back, and I smile.
I’m right here. I’m here.