Haircuts: A Personal Essay


Ever since I was a little kid getting my haircut was a HUGE deal. Back then it was a huge deal because I was a length queen. I remember as early as pre-school having hair length competitions with my best friend — she was one of those small children with soft, butter colored tangles, the kind of hair moms dream their daughters will have.  We had actual length competitions and hypothetical length competitions. I.e. we would debate about whose hair was the longest and whose would grow the longest in the upcoming year. Arguing the improbable, we would gesticulate wildly to show each other exactly where on our bodies our hair would hit at its full and complete length.  Sometimes our hairs were going to reach down to our butts, other times we would get really carried away and insist that the hair would somehow be so long that it would fall below the floor. Or maybe it was into the floor? Down the hall? It got ridiculous.

During these tender years, the haircut was a necessary, but anxiety provoking event. The anxiety, naturally, had a lot to do with these competitions. My friend couldn’t notice when I got it done. My cut had to be so slight that it looked longer when it was finished. I never wanted a trim because I never, never wanted my hair to be shorter, even though the knot removal process used to bring tears to my eyes and caused little tiffs between my mother and I. This went on for years, even in middle school, and sometimes in high school, I would hold my breath when getting my haircut. I was a long hair girl, and that long, silky, and thankfully thicker shock of hair on my head was a part of my identity. Even though hair is really just a collection of dead skins cells cascading from the scalp, these little follicles meant a whole lot to me (they still do) and ultimately defined my physical aesthetic.

My relationship with haircuts has since changed at least in some ways. Nothing makes me feel quite so fresh and flirty as a hair cut. I still get stressed about trying new do’s but I am also much more willing to make substantial changes. However, if you know me, you know that I am the most annoying person before, during, and after having a haircut because the cut is not just an hour-long thing where I sit in a chair and give someone the control to change my look. No, no. Getting a haircut is a long and complicated process that goes something like this:

The Initial Decision – I am walking along and I notice a few split ends as a zone out and pick at my hair.

First I ask myself, when was the last time I had a haircut?

“Maybe it was a month ago… no, it was probably October, but was it the beginning of October, or the end of October? The beginning of October would be three months, but the end would be two… hmmm it was probably the beginning. I think I could go for a new haircut.” This little internal monologue is typically followed by a phone call.

The Date is Set – I set up a hair appointment, they are booked up for a week, but this works out. This gives me a whole entire week to think about how I want my hair to look.

At first, I think, “Nah… I don’t need a new look, maybe I will just go with a trim, or neaten it up. Then I open my Pinterest app. and behold, a world of possibility.

Ok. I am definitely getting five inches hacked off. I need a whole new look. 

The Thrill of the Hunt – I desperately pin picture after picture of celebrity after celebrity seeking the most perfect haircut. Lob, bob, pixie (too short, but I’ll pin it anyway), oooh but that long layered do’ is to die for too. The struggle is real.

People Talkin’, Talkin’ Bout Haircuts – Not only do I pin a million photos, but I ask anyone who will answer what the best look would be. This goes on and on until it’s actually time to get the cut, really it lasts until the moment the stylist starts chopping.

In the Cut – When I get to the appointment, I feel terrible for my stylist. The actual cut can’t just be any old cut. I have to pull out my phone (sometimes I even print pictures) and show the stylist EXACTLY what I want …but maybe a couple inches longer…

I ask at least three times how many inches shorter my desired cuts are, I clarify the cut even though the stylist is confident they know what they are doing… then it begins.

And I seize up, my stomach knots, and I wait while the hair stylist carefully shapes my new look. I sweat like a pig. I try not to look, I look too much, I try to touch it, I look at the hair on the floor, there’s definitely more than 4 inches on the floor…

Check yourself out – Then as quickly as it all started, it ends. My hair is chopped off, I have a new look, and I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I can’t stop touching it. I look in mirrors at the mall; I want to buy a new outfit – to match the new aesthetic I’ve achieved. I love it, I hate it, I want to style it on my own to see how it will really look… we all know it will never look as good as when I left the salon.

Did you cut your hair? – Next comes the first day back to work or to school, those who knew about the cut (which is most people since I can’t keep my mouth shut) are excited and love it. Those who didn’t (don’t often notice in my case because a BIG change for me is a small change for everyone else), and some who didn’t know about the cut ask the best question ever – did you change your hair? It looks awesome!

People Talkin’, Talkin’ Bout Haircuts II – This lovely observant being who noticed my new hair without being told gets to hear all about the long process that led to the cut… and then inevitably, they have a haircut story of their own and sometimes, if I am really lucky, the person who noticed without being told that I cut my hair, is thinking about cutting their hair too! And I get to help them pin their pics and decide on a style (and the cycle continues). Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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