For the first time in nearly 15 years, I’ve got a haircut I don’t love.
No, I didn’t freak out at the salon and demand my money back. I’m not wearing a bag over my head to hide my shame. I simply shrugged my shoulders and pulled my hair back into it’s typical ponytail.
So why is my not-awesome-slightly-embarrassing haircut even noteworthy?
Because for the first time in a long time, I tried something, realized my mistake the moment the scissors snipped off too much hair, and didn’t meltdown or freak out. Actually, I realized that the arc of my life, the way I’ve grown and changed as a person, can be seen from how my visits to the salon have changed.
As a kid, my hair – length and style – was dictated by my parents. I was rocking the Pocahontas look with ram-rod straight black hair with the part down the middle (I’m 35, and that damn part is still there.) I also had the straight bangs cut right over my eyebrows.
I was probably eight or nine when I went to a salon for the first time. My dad had always trimmed my hair. This time, all he could do was pace outside, hating that someone was touching his baby’s hair.
When my hair became too thick to wrap my hand around – and I was plagued with awful headaches, my mother took over. The J.C. Penney’s salon was the most glamorous place I’d ever been. Even then, my hair style wasn’t my decision, not at first. I was only 10, after all. Several inches of hair came off that day. I felt 10 pounds lighter.
I kept my hair shoulder-length – sometimes a little shorter, sometimes longer – throughout high school. My dad was adamant that I wasn’t going to have short hair. How ironic, as my mother has had short hair for much of my life.
Towards the end of high school, I had money to burn, and I experimented with color. The fiery, orange-y, red thing I did to my hair was not my most flattering moment. When I sat down in the salon chair, I didn’t think about skin tone. I didn’t ask questions. I pointed to what looked like the “coolest” color and away we went.
I immediately regretted it but had too much pride to say anything. After all, I was the one to blame. The god-awful color was my own choice.
By the time college came around, I was supposedly fully in control of my hair-style decisions. But I was also an insecure kid. To avoid making another mistake, I simply didn’t get haircuts. Once I got engaged to the now ex-husband, I justified my decision by saying I wanted to grow my hair out for the wedding.
That was partly true, but I didn’t want to make decisions about my own hair. It was too scary. Mistakes were too easily made. I went with tried and true – the same reason I said yes to the ex. He was comforting, and I didn’t have to learn anyone else, face rejection, or change much about my life.
A day after we were married, and a week after I graduated college, I found myself back in the salon chair. All that hair had to go. I went short. Boy short. Between the woman cutting my hair and my inability to explain what I wanted (about hair or anything else), it was a bad haircut that I had fixed a week later.
The shitty cut wasn’t significant. The length was.
My reasons were many.
I wanted a no-fuss, no-muss style. I’d spent three years with insanely long hair and the aggravation that comes with it – shedding, tangles, and broken brushes (true story).
My father had just died, and this was in part a rebellion against my grief, a new moment in life, something different. Long hair was a reminder of him, and I was tired of hurting.
It was not lost on me that my very new husband told me he loved long hair, and I chopped it off without even telling him my plan.
I kept the style for a few years. My mother brought me to the salon once a month or it probably wouldn’t have happened. I didn’t care about my hair in those days. For a while, I cared about very little. The loss of a parent and the realization (quickly tamped down never to be considered or admitted again) that I might have made a mistake in spouses can do that to you.
When the ex and I moved away to Florida, I stopped worrying about my hair. I was pregnant, broke, and very stressed out. My hair was the least of my worries. I let the short cut grow out and tried to remember to get a cut every several months or so. I cannot tell you how many times a random stylist has asked, “So…when was your last cut?” and I’ve struggled to remember.
Just before I realized my marriage was over (which was long before I told anyone else), I chopped off all my hair again. This time, sitting in the stylist’s chair felt like freedom. A new direction. A change. I wasn’t afraid to do something bold with my hair – or my life.
After the divorce and my new found realization of what single motherhood was all about (including a deadbeat ex-husband), I stopped caring as much about my own appearance. I let my hair grow out. The next few men I dated, culminating with my relationship with John, loved long hair on a woman. For the first time in my life I was spending time with men I genuinely respected and enjoyed as human beings…and men. I was happy to let my hair grow out and wear it long for them.
Over the past three years, my relationship with the salon has been a strange one. When I’ve gone, I wanted bare minimum. “Just a trim!”
I didn’t want to rock a boat, do anything drastic, or screw anything up.
Then, just after Christmas, January in fact, my mother had enough of listening to me bitch about all the silver in my hair (it’s a stripe down that blasted part…I look like a skunk!). I visited her in Mississippi, and one of my belated Christmas presents was a trip to the salon.
As a kid, she had a say over my hair. When I was in my 20s, she was still in mom-mode, so while I technically had a say, she also shared her opinion of my choices – good or bad. Now, in my 30s, she was happy to give me the gift of a few child-free hours in a salon and a new look, whatever I wanted.
The gates opened wide. I was a new freelancer just figuring out that I really do have some control over my destiny. I was finally out of a corporate-esque world where appearances sometimes matter most. I could do what I wanted.
Purple hair, y’all. I went purple. But I still didn’t change my hair style. Sure, the easy answer is that I prefer this style. And I do. But in life, as with my hair, I can be lazy. I’ll do the same tried and true thing forever simply to avoid making a mistake.
Until a few days ago.
I was tired of the Pocahontas look that has evolved in the past three years – ramrod straight and very flat hair. No body, no lift. Ugh.
I tossed caution to the wind and tried a new style. From the front, it’s kind of cute. From the back? Grown out mullet are the only words I can use to describe it.
The point isn’t the awful haircut. Okay, it’s not that bad, but I’ve been avoiding eye contact in the mirror so I might have forgotten.
The point is that for the first time in a long time I tried something new, daring, bold, and without three months of pre-planning or getting a million other opinions first. One could say that maybe this time I should have. (Cynical!) But on the other hand, as I take chances, try new things, and sometimes fail miserably in every other aspect of life, it’s only fitting it happened at the salon, too. My own reaction to it is probably the best sign of how far I’ve come…no freak out, no tears, no talking about it incessantly to everyone around me. I’m rocking the ponytail and waiting for it to grow out. It is, after all, only hair.