This weekend I did something I thought I’d never do: I chopped off my long hair. I went from having somewhat mermaid-like hair to a textured cut that falls just above my shoulders.
I’ve wanted to cut my hair for a long time, but it had become such a part of my identity that I feared losing an aspect of myself in the process. Long blonde hair was my signature look. It took me forever to grow it as long as it was, and it had become as true a part of me as the green in my eyes or the paleness of my skin. But unlike those other two characteristics, my hair was something I could change. And I thought about changing it often. I’d find myself using bobby pins to see what I’d look like with it short. I had been pinning pictures of women with short hair for months, sending pictures of different cuts to my friends and family members. I imagine I was getting pretty annoying by the end of it, looking for affirmation while being too scared to make a decision I already knew the answer to. The thing about decisions is you always already know what you want; the challenge is coming to terms with it.
My hair represented a version of myself that was now transitioning into someone else. Just as I could feel myself shedding other characteristics of my youth—my penchant for partying, oversleeping on the weekends, eating too much cheese—I began to wonder if my hair too was holding me back. Was it a shield protecting me from revealing my true self? I felt like there was something more to me that maybe my hair was preventing me from reaching.
So I did my research. I started talking to women I knew with short hair about their choice. I wanted to know how it make them feel, if they missed their long hair, and what the change was like. Did they feel different? Did they feel reborn? How did it affect their confidence? Their sexuality? Did they feel feminine and sexy? Did they feel cute? The last thing I wanted was to go through such a big change and end up looking cute, which at 28 is not the look I sought to achieve. I wanted confidence, a confidence my long hair wasn’t giving me anymore.
Women told me different things. One girl told me the experience of cutting her hair forced her to become more confident because she no longer had a “layer of vanity” to hide behind. Another told me the cut had little to no impact on her confidence, but dying her hair its signature colour did. Even my hairdresser, Jesse, a woman my age with hair a little shorter than mine, told me people are more likely to notice the colour than the cut—as long as the cut is good. A discussion about cut frequently turned into a discussion about colour. Briefly, I contemplating changing my hair to a more natural hue, but as soon as I sat in the chair I immediately decided against it. I feel like me when I’m blonde.
Jesse put my hair in a ponytail and held it up to me. “Are you ready?” she asked. Yes, I was. I was ready to truly embrace the change I’d been feeling. I was ready to try something new.
The scariest part was chopping off the ponytail. The rest was easy, if not exhilarating. Once the ponytail was gone and my hair naturally fell to about my shoulders, I was surprised by how much I loved it. I had been worried I’d go home and cry, instantly regretting my decision. But I didn’t regret it at all. In fact, my confidence immediately increased. I felt like my new hair really suited me, and this new version of me. I felt like I had the hair I was meant to have at this moment as I feel myself entering a new stage in my life.
Before, I could only really wear my hair two ways: wavy and straight, and I didn’t so much like the latter anymore. It’s not that I didn’t love my long hair. There are many reasons why I kept it that way for so long. My long hair gave me a confidence nothing else could. It made me feel sexy and womanly, and I thought it was bold and attractive. I liked it. Men liked it. It made me feel beautiful. But I’d become uninspired by it, and bored. I found myself throwing it up in a ponytail more often that I used to. Sometimes I didn’t even bother to style it. I had run out of ways to play with it.
Having short hair unlocked a whole new world of different style possibilities for me. Jesse showed me a few different ways to style it before we settled on a classic-inspired wave that made me feel like Marilyn Monroe. The next day, when I straightened it and sprayed a texturizer into it, I felt like Deborah Harry. Channeling these women and being able to change my hair according to my mood is something I didn’t realize I was missing.
Of course, chopping it off has been an interesting experiment in how others interpret different versions of our selves. Some people love my new hair, while others clearly do not. Some people have asked me if I regret it. I do not. This might have bothered me before, but now I could care less. I didn’t cut my hair to prove anything to anyone, to make a statement or to get attention. I cut my hair because it was time for a change and because I am changing. I wanted to celebrate and commemorate that.
I never expected to find the empowerment I have found in cutting my hair. But clearly I underestimated the power of a good makeover.