Cutting Your Hair is an Act of Courage
Haircuts and the Courage to Get ThemNever underestimate the self affirming power of a haircut.
We are all familiar with the experience, many of us have even done it ourselves. She broke up with her boyfriend and cut her hair. She took a gap year between high school and college and cut her hair. She lost her job and cut her hair. Hair is strange. Hair has no nerves so it sends no pain signals when we cut it. But it is more a part of our self identity than many other parts of our bodies that do send pain signals at the slightest provocation. I don't ever ask myself, “am I having a good elbow day?”, but I do ask, “am I having a good hair day?”
Our Hair and Us
We have many myths and legends about hair. Hair is power: Samson lost his famous strength after Delilah cut his hair. Hair is horror: Medusa's hair made of snakes turned anyone who looked at her into stone. Hair is salvation: Rapunzel lets down her hair to allow her prince to climb up into her tower.
There are many practical reasons to cut hair. To trim split ends. To make it easier to get ready in the mornings. I have very thick coarse, mind of its own hair. For me, when it gets too long I get tension headaches. But in addition to these practical reasons to cut hair are all the emotional reasons. I have one friend who is famous for saying, “Don't cut your hair!” as soon as someone says they've had a fight with their spouse. But why are we so obsessed with not cutting hair for “the wrong reasons?”
When I was 10 I took a swim class that mandated hair be put into swimming caps. My hair was so thick, and my head so big, that even though me and my mother tried for an hour the night before the first class to fit it all into the swim cap, we failed. My mother, being an eminently practical lady, brought out her old fashioned cloth cutting scissors, and cut my hair off. It had been the length of my belt, and became in an instant the length of my chin. At 10 I was more interested in writing and painting than hair, but I cried.
My mother said, “It'll grow back, it's just hair.” My mother is many things, a brilliant mathematician, a true friend, a brave bilingual storyteller, but she is not a hair stylist. I managed to fit into the swim cap, with a little reservoir tip remaining on top, and my hair looked for the next two years as if I had always just taken off a swim cap because it was chunky and flattened to my face.
In my teens I had bangs. I think every 13 year old decides that bangs would be awesome, I know me and all my friends did. We even did them the “proper” way, brushing hair forward then separating out the would be bangs and rolling them into a pillar of twisted hair then cutting. We were assured by the older girls and the magazines that this would give the perfect natural look, where each hair was slightly longer or slightly shorter than the hair next to it.
At first I loved it, it was an evolution at a time when so much else was changing. If I can have breasts, then why not bangs? Because they were annoying. They shortened my already round face. They moved every time there was a breeze and brushed against my forehead and aggravated my pimples. They flipped up the wrong direction, especially on mornings when I was already late for school and couldn't find my curling iron or flat iron. When the bangs got longer they bit into my eyelashes and tried to poke my eyes out. I used hair spray, I used gel, I used sculpting putty, nothing would make them stay and heel. “Don't worry,” we said to each other, “it's hair, it'll grow back.” Doing research for this article, I looked up best celebrity bangs and almost did it again. But no, I'm not Twiggy and I am not Zooey Deschanel and I am not a girl who can pull off bangs.
My sophomore year at college I went with two friends to a salon. It was what I expected being an adult would be like, girls out in the big city getting our hair done together. Except that I got the worst blunt hair cut of my life. Worse than the one my mother gave me. One of my friends got a terrible all over orange tinge and the other had blonde highlights which were so over bleached that her newly blonde hair developed split ends and broke off. Another friend that year decided to take out her frustrations with a boy by bleaching her hair and dying it a radical color. Unfortunately, she left the bleach on too long and ended up bald. She wore head scarves and bandanas for months after that. We were good friends, we cheered her up, we commiserated, we laughed about it together long before she got over it. I said, “Don't worry, it'll grow out.”
Professional or DIY ?
After that incident I took to cutting my own hair, frequently and a little at a time. It had to stay long because I wouldn't be able to cut the back otherwise! I played instead with color: platinum blonde for 18 hours until the roots began to grow, strawberry pink for 6 weeks after that, fire engine red for a year, honey, auburn, chestnut, fuschia pink.
I didn't see a professional hair stylist again until a friend introduced me to her stylist a few years later. He lives on a Caribbean island and had once cut hair at the Bergdorf Goodman salon in New York but missed home so he returned. He had cut the hair of more than one Miss Universe. In his tiny Roman temple of a kitschy salon decorated with plaster columns and cherubs holding baskets of grapes, I got an incredible hair cut that somehow made my hair beachy yet smooth, symmetrical yet voluminous. There were subtle layers on top that were shorter than the main hair, and shorter layers underneath? It was more magic than anything else. For the first time ever, I could twist all my hair into a bun on top of my head and require no bobby pins to keep it in place. It was easier to french braid and do other updos and styles after that hair cut. My hair did what I wanted it to, every day for six months. I was in hair heaven!
Of course, it grew out and I haven't been able to attain the same look again. But I am also not the girl I was when I got that hair cut. I don't have the same job. I don't live in the same country. But I still have the same hair, long and coarse and with a mind of its own.
I have a wonderful stylist now who speaks my language. When I talked about bangs last year she recommended starting slow. She gave me what we call “faux-bangs”, hair cut to the length of my bottom lip, hair that softens my jaw and looks feminine when I tie the rest of my hair back into a low braid but that doesn't annoy me or get into my eyes. When I want to dress up I will use a flat iron to straighten my hair until it looks like CGI, or curl it with the same hair straightener into tight curls that relax a day later into soft waves. It's not perfect, but it's my hair and I love it.
Hair is important. Hair is powerful. There is no bad reason to get a hair cut, because deciding to get a hair cut is an act of courage. It is a definitive choice. It's hair, it'll grow out. So have some fun with it!
What hair adventures have you had, with cut, with color, with products? Tell us in the comments below!