Until a few weeks ago, I had waistlength hair, and had done as far as I could remember. I’d been thinking about cutting it since I was 18, but hadn’t had the courage to – it felt like a part of my identity, something I wasn’t quite ready to let go of yet. This was strange, because although reluctant even to get it trimmed due to an inexplicable anxiety about it not being long enough, I was becoming increasingly frustrated with it. Despite plaiting it every night since the age of 10, I still couldn’t get it quite right. At a push I could coax it into an acceptable ponytail, but it never stayed neat and didn’t look professional or grown up, no matter how hard I tried. Even left loose and brushed regularly it was a mess, with split ends sticking out everywhere, and it would become tangled again within an hour of being brushed. Even brushing it was frustrating – I didn’t have the coordination or patience to do it properly, and mornings and evenings were becoming increasingly stressful because of it.
Yet it still felt like a part of me, of who I was. People often admired the length of my hair, which made me feel like it was an asset to be held on to. I always hoped that one day I would somehow learn how to make it look nice, and from then on it would be easy. As I got more frustrated, this hope vanished. I would get so frustrated I often thought about cutting it off myself, in a fit of rage. It was when I stood in front of the mirror one Thursday evening, scissors in hand, that I realised there was no point going on like this. The next day I booked an appointment with a hairdresser, and that weekend I got a pixie cut.
At first, I was terrified. I made my boyfriend hold my hand as they made the first cut, expecting it to feel weird and different and scary – something that would take time getting used to. People had told me my head would feel lighter, that I’d have to learn how to do this new style of hair properly (I laughed, I’d not learnt to do the old one properly so that wouldn’t be new). But as soon as my hair was short, it was like a weight off my shoulders, metaphorically as well as literally. I grinned as I watched them shape it, layer it, rearrange it. It was so much thicker than expected, and darker due to this part of my hair having had less exposure to sunlight. Suddenly my hair had volume, shape, character – all things it hadn’t had before. Suddenly it was a style I had chosen, not one that had just occured. For the first time in a long time, I liked looking in the mirror. I felt like I finally looked like myself.
I’d expected to miss my old hair, to feel weird and different and take time to get used to it. But instead it felt perfectly natural, as though it had always looked that way. It felt so right I almost cried happy tears (which would definitely have alarmed the hairdresser). And over the next couple of weeks, it didn’t wear off. My hair no longer needs brushing every morning and evening – some rearrangement is enough and sometimes not even necessary. I no longer have to battle with trying to keep it neat and out of the way, no longer have to spend hours trying to learn to do something which only causes me stress. When I look in a mirror, I see myself and it doesn’t make me miserable. I feel so much happier and more confident.
I think perhaps it has to do with the fact that I was clinging onto something I valued based on other people’s opinions, which in the end was just making me feel like a failure, another reminder of things I struggle with which to other people makes no sense. Now my hairstyle is something I chose, a reminder that I don’t have to meet the expectations of others, and that I can be brave enough to face big changes and love the results.