When I was 12 years old, I got my haircut. I don’t remember if it was for a party, for example or school pictures or some other important event. But I have in my head a picture of my round little face smiling out at the camera with my once long hair stopping abruptly at my shoulders. It’s always been a pretty color – mostly blondish with golden highlights. The sun lightened it in the summer and it became a darker caramel blonde in the winter but it always fit loosely into the “Blonde” category. So the color was nice, and the length age appropriate. But I have always been on the, hmmm, how shall I put this? The “pleasingly plump” side and I ended up looking like a thick chunk of a girl in a neighborhood of skinny little sorts who ran barefoot in short shorts and tank tops. I hated that haircut. I needed something on my body to be long and thin and that was my hair. When it finally started growing out, it never touched my shoulders again. Well, there was that one time around the mid 70’s when I got that Farrah-cut. You know…the Gypsy shag, which thankfully there are no pictures of. But when you are pleasingly plump (my Swedish grandmother’s description, God bless her) you don’t want too much else to be short and chunky hanging around your body, so I kept growing it longer and longer.
So on I went through high school, college and into adulthood with my short chunky body and my long, thin hair. Still mostly blonde, sometimes with bangs – ugh, I never learned the bangs lesson. My role model was my grandmother on my mother’s side. She was the worlds’ first single parent, I think. She was an artist in New York City in the early 40’s and 50’s. Not the Bohemian, absinthe sipping hang out with DeKooning kind, but the family portraits on the side while drawing for Montgomery Ward catalog kind. As the world’s first single parent, she had my mother to raise, so she had responsibilities. But she also had long hair which she wound simply into a bun and wrapped with a black velvet ribbon. As a child I never saw it hanging down around her shoulders, but I imagined it did. Then, the unthinkable happened. She cut it all off. Right after she turned 65. I remember the photograph she had taken when she cut her hair. The shocking thing wasn’t the way she looked, because since she always had it up in that black velvet ribbon, it looked short anyway, but that she had done it. Wow. She must be a grown up now. Which was wonderful news for me, because I knew I had years to go before I needed to think about cutting my hair. Although I thought about it occasionally, I didn’t really have to consider it because I had more than 40 years to go before that terrifying event!
So, what did I do yesterday, well before the 65 year mark for hair cutting and growing up? I cut my damn hair. Not a trim or even a bold “take 3 inches off!” for me. I gave my hairstylist complete authorization to cut it all off. She said, “Do you want to cut it to your shoulders?” Sudden images of female East German athletes bounded in front of my eyes. “NO!” I think I screamed a little. “I walked in here brave – you might as well take advantage of it”, I replied. “Do you want to try bangs?”, she asked. “Don’t ask me any more questions – just do it!” I shrieked. Clearly in my apprehension I had again forgotten the bangs lesson. Then I closed my eyes, she turned the chair away from the mirror and started cutting.
Now, an important codicil here…my body is NOT any less short or chunky. This is where the crazy part comes. I am not taller or thinner. So what in God’s name was I thinking? I suspect it was the growing up part. I keep trying to make my hair look decent as it lays in lengths below my shoulders, but I just can’t shake the idea that 40-somethings should have a “hairstyle”. Plus there is that graying thing happening too. Gray hair is definitively not long or thin. It is short and annoying. It pokes up from my scalp like so many broken bed springs and the whole effect is just ridiculous. Then of course there is that bad evil influence…the Internet! I found a website called Makeover-O-Matic. Sounds bad, right? Evil? Temptation incarnate. One can upload a picture of themselves and straight away being the makeover. I tried short hair, curly hair, even Beyoncé hair. (I did a little blush, eye shadow and lipstick too, but that’s a whole other dilemma.) With the false confidence of a virtual Before/After shot, I called and made the appointment. And the rest, as they say, is history.
So, now my hair is short. Really short. And not the short that it was when I left the salon yesterday, because we all know that they have some scary magic there that only allows your hair to look that way once. No, I have the short hair of today. The one side goes this way and the other side goes that way short. No amount of headbands, barrettes or black velvet ribbons will help me. I made my choice and now I have to live with it. If that isn’t growing up, I don’t know what is.