When I had my son, I knew my life would change. I just didn't realize my hair would change along with it. The full locks that had remained a last reminder of who I'd been pre-baby, nourished as they'd been by all that extra blood flow and the prenatal vitamins, were literally going down the drain. For the first time ever, my hair felt thin. I'd dealt with the expanded rib cage and foot width, but I couldn't handle losing my hair.
My doctor was unconcerned: "It's just hormones," he said (just!). "Once they settle back down, the hair will grow back."
It did — sort of. But it wasn't the same. My hair was one of the few aspects of my appearance that never troubled me — other than the brief phase when my mother convinced me to get a poodle perm. I fretted about weight, measurements, skin, but my hair was a constant. When I lived in New York City, I worked next door to a fancy salon. The stylists would sometimes come outside and ask us if we'd fill in as hair models. They always complimented me on my hair's condition. I never heat-styled it or blew it dry, and they oohed and aahed over that like I'd made some brilliant discovery. I was smug about my compliment-worthy hair. Now, it felt like it had turned on me — just when I most needed something to stay the same.
I tried different shampoos and conditioners, treatments, supplements, but it was like the pregnancy had sucked the life right out of my head. It was no longer shiny, soft, lustrous. Instead, it had turned dull and frizzy. I didn't know what to do, so I ignored it. I almost never got it cut; I colored it myself, at home. I knew this was probably adding to the issue, but I was so disheartened by the betrayal, it felt easier to disregard it as completely as possible.
I spent most of my time scraping it up into a bun or a ponytail, out of sight, out of mind. I longed for the days when I'd enjoyed feeling it swish down my back. I had been an expert at the flirtatious hair toss. But now I was a mom and I had mom hair. There was nothing swishy or flirtatious going on, hair or otherwise. It felt like the rest of me had dulled as well.
I resisted the cliché of cutting my hair because that felt like giving up. I clung to my damaged hair like a life preserver, the last bit of who I'd been before.
I envied my coworkers with kids and pretty hair. I wondered how they managed to have both and why I seemed to be unable to follow their example. For crying out loud, how could I fail at hair?
I resisted the cliché of cutting my hair because that felt like giving up. I clung to my damaged hair like a life preserver, the last bit of who I'd been before. But I wasn't that person anymore, and my hair wasn't the same anymore either. It was oddly freeing to admit it — don't people say that admitting the problem is the first step? The next step was asking myself, if that's not who you are anymore . . . then who are you now?
It's exciting and terrifying, almost like waiting in line to get on one of those vertical drop rides, to peruse endless options online, narrow down your choices, imagine yourself in this haircut, no, that one, what about this with those highlights? Until you settle on one, you book your appointment, you sit down in that chair, and you pray that you like who you are when you emerge. I'd ended up choosing to go for broke: I showed the stylist a picture of Ginnifer Goodwin's cute crop. Feeling air on my neck was shocking and thrilling. Actual weight lifted off my head. Somehow, it had never dawned on me that letting go of the old hair — and, by extension, the old me — would be freeing.
I loved the short cut. I felt open and vibrant in a way that I hadn't in quite a while. Even better, by cutting off the dull length, the short hair looked shiny and lustrous again. I caught myself touching it constantly and, while I couldn't toss it around, I noticed a new habit of employing a distinctly flirty way of smoothing it off my face. My hair changed, and I changed with it.