The Long & Short of It: What I Learned by Cutting My Hair

For as long as I could remember, my hair served as my crowning glory. Often mistaken for Heather O’Rourke (you know, the blond-haired cutie from Poltergeist), my long locks were the stuff of pure spun gold, and by golly, people noticed.

“Your hair is so pretty!” strangers would stop and say. It was pretty and I felt pretty to have it. Of course, such follicular fabulousness could only be achieved by the tireless efforts from my mom. Never did I ever leave for school without the tightest of braids, perfectly formed curls, or most precious hair accessory.

And so, my hair would become my thing. Fast-growing, ever shiny, always voluminous, and inexplicably healthy in spite of hot tool abuse and questionable color choices, my locks gloriously distracted from my adolescent awkwardness, and they did it well.

Through perms, banana clips, scrunchies, chunky highlights, high/low/side ponies, lowlights, messy buns, dipped ends, beachy waves, and even a turban or two, my hair began to embody my definition of self—and why not? It was as good a definition as any. I didn’t know who I was, until the day my hair decided for me.

One random lunch period during my sophomore year, I overheard two cheerleaders chatting about my (MY!) hair. “Oh my god, I wish I had her hair. So pretty.” One said to the other, pointing directly at me. “Oh, I know. I’d kill for that girl’s hair!” the other replied as they strutted by in blue and gold uniforms. It was settled. I dubbed myself the girl with “popular” hair, proving to be a designation that would allow me to be bigger and bolder than I felt inside.

Time passed and hair codependency carried me through higher education, marriage, and motherhood until personal evolution began to change me in a way that—for the first time ever—no hair feather or sock bun could do justice. As I began to uncover and appreciate the qualities that made me uniquely me, I found myself relying less on the comfort of my hair and wondering more about who I was without it.

So I cut it. I cut 10 inches of perfectly good hair right off my head. There was no parade, no pomp and circumstance, just me and my stylist and the hope that my spirit could offer the security and confidence my hair always had.

Was it scary? Yes. But guess what? It was liberating as hell. I didn’t ask for permission. I didn’t hope people liked it. I did it for me. For once. And I felt free, despite mixed reviews.

Why did you DO that?! Honestly, because I could.

You go! I could never. But you could. You really could.

I liked it better long. Um, I liked you better quiet.

I love it! Yes! My hair thanks you.

My husband would leave me if I ever did that. Then I guess it’s a good thing he’s your husband and not mine.

But your hair! It was so pretty! I miss it!  I’m sorry…for your loss…of my hair.

As popular opinion remains divided on the verdict of my short ‘do, I’ve learned that hair is every bit as private as it is shared, possessing only as much power as we’re willing to give it.

As for me and my power, I now know it doesn’t reside with my hair. It never did. It just took cutting it all off to know it.