I’d love to pretend that I cut my hair for the first time in desperation amid the COVID-19 crisis. How romantic? Pandemic punk. A show of bravery and strength to preserve an inkling of dignity in these trying times.
Unfortunately, I have been cutting my hair since 2018, except for one trip to the salon in January and a free cut I got for being a Bumble and Bumble University hair model. Takes some of the glamour out of it, huh?
The “habit” started on a hot, July afternoon. I was lured, at first, by the immediacy of a style change. Yet, my motivation to continue this practice has been two-fold. The first is that I haven’t been able to commit to a look or an aesthetic identity as I awkwardly stumble from my mid- to late twenties, a dance for which there is neither rhythm, choreography nor leotard that doesn’t make you look like you are trying to be 19 again.
I awkwardly stumble from my mid- to late twenties, a dance for which there is neither rhythm, choreography nor leotard.
Secondly, in 2018, I entrenched myself as a starving artist, teaching voice lessons and singing full-time. I quickly discovered that in choosing a more fulfilling life, I had lost my powers of paying for a fancy haircut. The problem only worsened when I moved to New York. Salon prices were double what they were in Detroit. Yet, my tools improved when my boyfriend ordered himself a set of clippers that happened to come with a decent pair of shears. Score.
The COVID-19 crisis, however, gave way to the most dramatic self-cut I have ever performed: a chin-length, chunky bob with long bangs. It can be styled sleek and 90’s as it swoops behind my ears and adheres to my scalp or 80’s punk as it piles to one side, exposing the ever-growing dirty blonde roots. This is, in truth, the edgiest haircut I have ever given myself. After a week, I can say with certainty that I hate it. Why? The answer is one I fear. It is most suited to who I truly am.
The COVID-19 crisis, however, gave way to the most dramatic self-cut I have ever performed.
Let me explain. As a kid, all I wanted was to be a grown-up. I lived a charmed life, but one filled with impatience. I lived in daydreams of becoming a famous actress, a 19th-century-esque opera singer, a badass lead of a punk band or Holly Golightly, Satine from Moulin Rouge. Basic little girl stuff, I know.
When you are young, it is right and good to try on different personas because no matter what, the glow of youth is accessible to you. You can wipe off that makeup and run around in the dirt. You’re instantly transformed back into that imaginative, energetic, blue raspberry tongue-stained kid. In other words, the essence of yourself.
As I have grown, I have organized my life by my style and perfume choices (think Picasso’s blue vs cubist period), which helps me, in some way, to feel as though I am progressing. I vary my products, clothes and routine just to brand each phase of my life with a corresponding aesthetic.
Diptyque and drinking PBR reminds me of Sunday night karaoke, for example. Sea salt reminds me of when I was loading my tresses with Bumble and Bumble beach spray and wearing silk scarves as headbands. That Blondie song reminds me of when I used to play Parallel Lines on repeat and make Trader Joe’s goat cheese ravioli slathered with creme fraiche and basil twice a week while wearing nothing but vintage sundresses and my dad’s blue hunting sweater. You know, the basics.
Now, as I am approaching my late twenties at the speed of light, I fear that certain phases are growing into permanent appendages, lodging themselves firmly in my identity. With a cropped, edgy, sleek and sophisticated haircut, I lose the ability to throw my hair into a ponytail and look like I’m 21. I lose the ability to blow it out into a bouncy, Betty Draper bob or to let it air dry in waves like a flower child.
An adult, more mature haircut denies me the chameleon-esque ability to try on different personas. It nestles me firmly into one aesthetic and that scares me. It scares me to swap the glow of inexperience with the confidence that comes from self-knowledge.
Have I accomplished enough to warrant a distinct sense of self? Have I experienced enough? Am I on the right path in life and is it too late to return and become someone else? To grow out my chunks of bleach-blonde locks and exchange them for the shine of my untouched, dirty blonde ponytail?
It scares me to swap the glow of inexperience with the confidence that comes from self-knowledge.
Yet, during quarantine, chopping my tresses was one of the few things that gave me confidence and purpose. So what gives? Is it time to simply accept my mature and slightly artsy aesthetic whether or not I’ve created enough edgy performance art to deserve it?
This the essence of adulthood: moving through uncertainty with just enough certainty to get you through the day. Making decisions not because you are sure they are perfect but because making decisions is what makes you alive. Finally, having the confidence to admit that you can’t be everything, but that you also aren’t just one thing, and that’s OK.
Whatever it may be, I highly recommend the existential quandary presented by the at-home haircut.