For a long time I joked about Lady Gaga's "Hair" being my anthem. I proudly told people that "I am my hair," yet I didn't realize how deeply I felt that until I cut it all off last year. I had just moved from California to New York and wanted to try something crazy and new, so my first thought was to change up my mane. I had already tried every color of the rainbow, so naturally I decided to go for broke and just cut it all off into a pixie. It's only hair, after all, right?
I liked my new cut initially. It was short and fun and so, so different from what I was used to. It took approximately three days for me to realize what a grave mistake I had made. I just kept telling myself, "It's only hair; it'll grow back."
I quickly learned that, despite thinking shorter is easier, it was actually a huge hassle. I had to wash it every morning, which is super unfortunate for someone who values sleeping in until the last possible second. I couldn't throw it in a ponytail when I was feeling lazy. It was impossible to keep it off my forehead at the gym. I tried bandanas and headbands, but I guess my head is too round for them to stay in place. And because my strands were short and just hanging out on my face all the time, it made my scalp really hot and made my forehead break out. These were all things I didn't even think about before chopping off a foot of hair.
But it's only hair; it'll grow back.
Before I knew it, I was in a downward spiral of hating my cut so much that I avoided even leaving my apartment. I worked from home a lot, stayed in on weekends, and ordered takeout many nights for dinner so I wouldn't have to go buy groceries. I invested in new hats that I was wearing almost daily, which gave me headaches, and I tried every possible method of bobby-pinning everything out of my face. I got highlights thinking it would help. It didn't. I dyed it darker thinking it would make me like it more. Wrong again. I still kept telling myself that my hair would grow back before I knew it, but I was having trouble believing myself anymore.
I have always loved my hair. As someone who dealt with problem skin and body-image issues for many years, it became the one thing I truly always appreciated about myself. As long as I had my hair, it didn't matter if my skin was a bit broken out or I felt like I was having a fat day. I was blessed with a good mane, and that was what gave me comfort. And with that mentality of loving my locks so much, I never thought I could do anything to it to make myself hate it. Style changes are fun, and if they suck, hey, guess what, it'll grow back. I was that person who would watch America's Next Top Model and laugh at the girls who freaked out on makeover day about making a drastic change. That season where the one girl cried profusely over cutting off her long length in favor of a pixie Tyra had chosen? Yeah, I laughed at her a lot. When she left the show and got extensions to feel more like herself? I laughed some more. Girl, it is just hair!
But now . . . girl, I feel you.
I spent eight months hating my hair. Cutting it all off wasn't empowering. It wasn't freeing. It didn't give me new perspective. It made me sad. So unbelievably sad, and truthfully, what was the hardest for me was feeling like I lost my femininity. I constantly felt like I needed to wear really girlie clothes and a good amount of makeup so that it was clear that even though I had a supershort style, I was, in fact, a woman. Basically, I felt ugly. I didn't feel like me.
But you know what? It's hair, and it grows back. Slowly but surely it does. The regrowing process has been more of a chore than I could have imagined. If I'm not careful, I end up with a weird little mullet. The day when I was finally able to get my strands into the tiniest of tiny ponytails I may have actually shed a tear or two of joy. I was finally on my way back to having my old look. I kept telling my poor mom, who had to listen to me complain almost every day this whole time, that once my hair was at a length I liked, I was going to have fun with it in hopes of truly loving it again.
I'm firmly on the path to being in love with my hair again thanks to some TLC from my new stylist. Am I well-aware that having such a meltdown over a haircut is a first-world problem? Absolutely. But am I allowed to have that meltdown? Yes, yes I am, because even though I always thought it was just hair, I now know that it means much more to me, and I will never, ever cut it all off again.