Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A slight trim...

When I was small, my mother would let mine and my sister's hair grow out during the summer. We'd go running around outside with white blond ponytails that never seemed to stay up or free of twigs and tangles. Before school started in the fall, my mother would take us in to get the three months growth trimmed into easily manageable bobs. The first woman who cut our hair, a friend of the family, would sweep up our fine blond scraps and tease us by saying that they should be used to make Barbie dolls. For the next fifteen or so years, my hair followed the same pattern: start with a bob, grow it out until the knots or length becomes intolerable, chop back into a bob. There was a brief dalliance with "not quite a boy" cut towards the end of high school, but after that initial cut I could never seem articulate what I wanted. Thus the bob reigned.

This pattern remained unbroken until a November Sunday in London four years ago. Frustrated by the lack of water pressure in a fifth floor bathroom and the state of my greasy hair, I walked into a salon near Paddington Station and asked the taciturn Russian stylist to chop it all off. She gave me hair that was short, spiky, and slightly terrifying. But it's also exactly what I needed during a new grad program in a new country. I couldn't hide behind hair that was only half an inch long. I was out there, for better or for worse.

Back in the States, my hair returned to its former pattern, primarily at the behest of my husband and his preference for "girl hair". I've moved between bob, angled bob, nearly shoulder-length, and back to bob over the past four years. Recently I felt the need to chop it all off again. My current emotional state flows between relaxed with a novel to neurotic and up all night with a laptop wondering why I cannot seem to channel this continual creative urge. I started falling back into old habits of avoidance (my primary procrastination manifestation). I started to hide from people and emails. I needed to change something and, honestly, a haircut is the fastest solution. It sounds trite as hell - the image of a girl with a tear stained face slipping into a salon while simultaneously erasing a boy's phone number from her phone comes to mind - but it works. My hair is shorter and I feel more ready to take on world.

It's funny how a new haircut can bring about that sort of change, that the simple application of scissors can suddenly increase ones confidence and internal sense of badassitude. This past Sunday I walked back to the bus with funky cropped, chopped hair. The stylist spent a good fifteen minutes inspecting my hairline, my face, the texture and fall of my hair. She worked to "open up" my face, broadened the bangs, and essentially razored off the rest. I missed the tug of the razor, the sudden exposure of the back of my neck. I love the feeling when, washing newly short hair, my hands go too far back, searching for all of the hair I left on the salon floor (and, as my stylist complained to her coworker, in her shoes and her shirt).

Since I'm blind as anything, the process of the haircut itself was a complete mystery. In a way, I've grown used to this and rather prefer it. Instead of staring at myself in the mirror, a hated activity to start with, I close my eyes and try to see if I can feel how the haircut is going. I notice the weight of my hair start to subtly shift while watching handfuls of the stuff fall to the ground. After all these years I've developed a pretty good sense of what the final product will be before I can see it properly. However when I put on my glasses this time, I admit to being shocked. It's been so long since I've gone this short. It was strange to see my face in the center of that hair, all the trendy angles and my bright red face staring back.

I'm out there again and I think it's exactly what I need.

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