I cut my hair on Tuesday. I realize that, for many, this is not a momentous occasion, but I REALLY cut my hair Tuesday in that I chopped a good six inches off the longest hair I have had in at least twenty-five years and emerged with a just-below-the-chin style that barely makes it into a ponytail.
I can say quite honestly that I love my new haircut. It fits my personality and frames my face in a lovely way. However, I also have not been able to stop questioning the decision for four days now, and it’s the waffling on something I can do nothing about that is driving me to want to talk about it. I cannot quite figure out what’s bugging me: Why is a haircut such a weighty decision? Did I think I would feel totally different after the cut and is the issue the disconnect between that expectation and how I do feel (which is the same with shorter hair)? Am I just struggling with the irreversibility of the cut because while hair grows, six inches requires a year (at least) to regain? By the way, I am pretty sure I don’t want all six inches back ever again (I might even want to go a little shorter!), but that doesn’t seem to quell my emotional storm.
Since Tuesday, I feel like I notice every attractive woman with long hair and think: should I have cut it? Only today have I finally stopped annoying my husband with comments like “you don’t have to like it” and halted extensive debate with my daughter about how I should have asked the hairdresser for his opinion before pronouncing that I was ready to chop it off. Each time I see someone who knew me with long hair, I study his or her facial expressions to try to discern a real opinion and overanalyze comments because who doesn’t tell you: I love your new cut.
To find this hairdresser, I spent HOURS down a Google rabbit hole trying to decide what NYC salon would be the best for me. I trolled websites and Instagram accounts and badgered a couple of receptionists to recommend which stylist I ought to book, since I wasn’t willing to wait for the owner. In the end, I went with a lower-key, but still top-rated, salon and the senior stylist who could see me the next day – I wasn’t worried about chickening out, but once I was ready, I just didn’t want to wait. The stylist was terrific: he listened and counseled. And he agreed I should go shorter. But of course, just after the first snip, I immediately started worrying I had acted too quickly.
Men do not understand how much a woman’s haircut matters to them, and to be totally frank, my practical side doesn’t really understand it either. For some reason, I think women see their haircuts as an integral part of their identity. There are attributes assigned to long or short or tousled or crisp hairstyles that mean everything to women and absolutely nothing to men. And so, in some way, a major hair change is supposed to be transformational for a woman. The fact is that so many women see their hair as a key piece of the public face of their personality, and so they consider: does my hair speak sharp, fun, quirky, glamorous…In that light, a major hair change suggests a woman wants to be perceived differently. This truth is sad because it speaks to how our society’s silly and unrealistic norms around appearance influence especially women’s behaviors, but it’s real nonetheless.
Years ago, several months after I married Jim, I picked a new stylist in Atlanta where we had moved post-wedding. Referred by a friend (whose hair was great), I went in for a major change. He obliged, and the outcome was horrendous. I held back tears, and when I reached our house, I collapsed on the floor of the bathroom. Jim showed up soon after and discovered the front door wide open, my bag thrown down and the sounds of sobbing coming from our bedroom. He thought someone had died. To this day, he cautiously asks me post haircut if I like the result. I can only imagine his relief when I mostly say yes, but really, he is just managing the situation. He definitely does not understand why I care so much. Sadly, I don’t either.
I ask myself: have I changed as a person since Tuesday? Of course not. Did I somehow think that, by adopting a new look, I would better portray my true self? Maybe. Am I caught up in some social idea that while shorter hair may be fun and edgier, it’s also less traditionally pretty? Maybe this too. And so, I keep thinking about the decision. That said, in a good sign, I’m thinking about it a little less every day.
I know that my haircut doesn’t have anything to do with who I am as a mother, spouse, friend, or person. Nothing, absolutely nothing. I also expect I will stop thinking about the decision in a couple of weeks. And I really do love the cut. I promise.
An addendum to yesterday's post
This morning, I realized I had forgotten to mention the icing on the cake when it comes to how differently men view haircuts. Jim reminded me that he needed a cut which did not mean he needed to find a new stylist in NYC or to make an appointment at all. I have been cutting Jim's hair since the pandemic started. I watched YouTube videos to learn how. And he still wants me to cut it. Yes, Jim is fully vaccinated. Yes, he has time now that he is retired. He clearly isn't seeking great expertise or debating how his cut will impact his emotional state. Do you think he wants the average out the costs?!