25: darlin’ don’t you go and cut your hair

I hate the song that I took my subject line from, but I wish that someone had given me that advice a month ago. I chopped off my braids — two braids that I had wrapped around my head in the look that I used to call the bohemian hobo — with my tiny pocketknife scissors. I was in Siena, on the sunny stairs that lead up a hill towards the house of St. Catherine. I used my shadow as a mirror and when I was done I held my braids in my lap and wept. Tourists stared at me and edged by. No one stopped or spoke.

It was a mistake, a fit of madness, not something I ever would have done if I had been thinking clearly. I miss it: when I was little all I wanted was long hair. I begged my mother to let me grow it, and finally, when I hit third grade, she agreed. It took several years to inch its way out of the straight-banged, boyish bowl-cut that my parents kept on me. As it grew it darkened from dishwater to auburn to dark brown. I later spent a year being quite bitter that I hadn’t stayed at the cusp of blonde, but that was a manageable disappointment; I had my long hair and that was good enough.

I’m not pretty. My hair was my best feature, and everyone admired it. When I was bored I would experiment with elaborate styling: the Holly Golightly romantic upsweep, Mary Pickford sausage locks, Scarlett O’Hara southern belle curls, the aforementioned bohemian hobo, french braids, even the gibson girl bouffant. Of course this all took work. Most off the time I did ponytails, buns, or clips backswept from my face. It was always lovely, though.

The bay area made it frizzy, but at home in the midwest it was always straight. Always thick, but always straight. After the hospital, in the months before I turned twenty, it started to curl. It never got to the point of being truly curly, but the slightest change or provocation would induce ringlets or locks.

Now it’s just a few inches beneath my ears. I would have bobbed it, but it’s too thick. It looks a bit like Colette’s did right after she cut off her long hair, which is nicely literary but still not comforting. Right now it’s at one of those awkward lengths, but I don’t want to cut it shorter because then it would take even longer to grow. I might be able to reconcile myself with the change if it weren’t so boring. I can’t do anything with it! I can’t stand hair in my face, so leaving it down is not an option. I am forced to rely on hats, bobby pins, or two small pigtails. And I hate it. I keep trying to think of something interesting to do. An end-flip, fingerwaves, pincurls, rag-curls? And how will I have it cut when it gets a little longer? Maybe I should dye it while it’s short, but I’m afraid I would have to bleach it first to get any effect at all, and that’s just out of the question. I hate the reverse-skunk look of dark roots on bleached hair.

Short hair is much more complicated and difficult than long hair was. Everyone says it’s the opposite, but I’m not finding it to be so at all.

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~ by Not Alice on November 25, 2006.

One Response to “25: darlin’ don’t you go and cut your hair”

  1. As someone who has always had long (or at least long-ish) hair and frequently wears it in braids, I understand your pain. The one time I cut it to just above shoulder-length, it took a month before I got over the shock, and then it took a couple of more months before I figured out what I could do with it.

    The nice thing about hair is that it grows. I find my hair to be most easy to deal with it when I can braid it and not think about it again.

    Thanks again for commenting on my blog – I will certainly be reading yours!

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