Something As Simple As Hair

It’s funny, I went almost forty years without thinking much about certain tasks in life. In this case, haircuts. I mean, I remember fighting with my old-fashioned (but totally amazing) dad, who thought girls should have long hair. I didn’t want long hair, but the number of people who complimented me on the fact my hair was both white-blonde and super thick only helped justify his argument. When I was twelve, he finally agreed that I could cut it. To the bottom of my shoulder blades. None of us realized my hair (remember, I told you it was thick) was naturally curly when not weighed down, and it immediately sprung up to my shoulders. That was the start of another battle.

When I was sixteen, a friend I looked up to as a total badass and the type of person I wanted to be took me to get my first short haircut. I loved it! My dad hated it, but he supported me because he’d realized by then that it wasn’t a fight worth having.

When I was eighteen, I colored my hair for the first time. That, unfortunately, was an act of rebellion that backfired when my light blonde hair didn’t hold the dark burgundy dye, and I wound up with a puff of cotton candy on top of my head.

Some cuts and styles have worked, others have not. But I’d never had true anxiety about getting my haircut until this year…

Earlier this spring, I found a style I loved. We’re talking I wanted to take this dude’s entire head and transplant it onto my body, because I wanted the scruff that went along with the awesome cut. I stared at the picture for days, knowing it was risky to take that picture to my local salon. Me, someone the world still sees as the straight wife and mother, walking in and holding up a picture of a beautiful man with his perfect hair.

With the support of friends online, I did it. I walked in there, sat my happy ass in the chair, and pulled out my phone. I knew right away this wasn’t going to be a fun adventure. “Mmmmhmmm” and “Okay then” aren’t things you want to hear from the person about to take a clippers to your head. It was the most awkwardly silent haircut I’ve ever had. Until then end, when my stylist found her voice.

“Okay, so this is how it looks in the picture,” she explained as she styled my hair to perfection. I was about as radiant as I could get, looking at the transformation in the mirror. And then… she ruined it all with the next words out of her mouth. “But since you’re a woman in my chair, you need to style it like this.”

Yeah. No. Eff that. In hindsight, I wish I would’ve had the courage to stand up to her, but I was so deflated by that single sentence, I paid and left. And let my hair grow for months, because I couldn’t stand walking into a salon, that one or a new one.

Fast forward to this month.

Unable to stand it anymore, I scrolled back to that beautiful picture. I checked in online, then sat in my car in the parking lot for a few minutes, telling myself this time would be better. And it was. Mostly. The stylist had her own funky, super short style. She seemed excited that I wanted such a ballsy style. We chatted through the cut, and I felt even better when she told me I was using the perfect products for my style, but if I wanted to try something different, there was a great sale going on.

It was the type of interaction that had me wanting to put a reminder in my phone for the next cut in 4-6 weeks (because the downside of this hair is it grows out fast). And then, she made a simple comment that threatened to ruin it all. “Your husband doesn’t mind you having short hair?”

I get it. Men can be opinionated about hair. Remember, I had ass-length hair until I was twelve because of my dad’s views on hair. But I have two huge issues with this question.

  1. Again, I was shoved into the “you’re a woman” box when I had started to crack the lid open to crawl out. No, that’s not on her, but even if I did identify as a woman, I wasn’t wearing a ring, hadn’t mentioned a husband at all, and yet she assumed there must be a husband at home. My snark, once again, was stunned silent or I might’ve tried to shock her into shutting her mouth.
  2. Even if my husband was sitting in the lobby waiting for me to get done, he wouldn’t say a word about it. Why? Because he’s never believed it’s his place to tell me (or make his opinion known unasked) what to do with my hair, clothes, or anything else. Questions like this only reinforce the belief that women should defer to their husbands and that their own comfort should be weighed against his desires.

It took forty years for me to really think about something as trivial as going in for a haircut, but now, I wonder when I’ll go again without worrying how I’ll be read when I’m in that chair or if they’re going to say something that’ll unravel the work I’ve done on me. Luckily, Mack got her hair cut later the same week, and her stylist was horrified by my tales. A few days later, we went for ice cream next door to where we took her, and the stylist came out between clients to say hi and see how Mack liked her hair after the initial shock wore off (it was a huge change for her). Next time, I fully intend to walk in there and sit in her chair, knowing that, at the very least, she knows what she’s getting into ahead of time.