Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to cut off, by Deb Katie

Bad Girls Don't DieI have had legitimate hair disasters. There was my boy cut in fifth grade–never trust an $8 pixie cut, is all I can say about that–and there were my perms in seventh grade. These perms were not only perms but layered perms, so when the curl fell out, I was left with a mop of choppy hair. (Knowing what I know now about using a razor to add texture to hair, I’m fairly horrified by the way stylists used to send me out of the salon. And I paid for my ignorance–hair is a middle school girl’s crowning glory, and mine was less than glorious, to say the least.)

But as I have gotten older, I’ve gotten more experimental. I went from very long, very straight hair, which I always wore in a pony tail, to very short hair–my current modified pixie (cut WITH a razor, thank you very much). The funny thing is, the more confident I got, and the more I cut my hair, the more I found that I had to think about cutting my hair.

The first pixie cut is a bold statement. “Look at me, world! I don’t need to buy into your idea of what hair needs to look like! I have short hair and I don’t care who looks at it or what they think!”

Well, that’s totally what you think for the first three weeks. Then you look in the mirror one day and realize you look like a Fraggle. Or some evolutionarily-advanced creature that grows its own bike helmet.

Short hair, like so many things we undertake in an effort to prove our freedom and free-spiritedness, requires vigilant upkeep. With long hair, you can wake up in the morning, pull your hair into a pony tail, and go to breakfast. With short hair, you can wake up in the morning and go straight to the Grace Jones impersonator conference.

I guess the strangest thing to me is that every time I try to exert my independence, it winds up catching me back in the same butterfly net. I cut my hair short to be free of “the hair” and found myself a slave to lipstick, mascara, and some magical yet-to-be-totally-discovered combo of styling product. All those times I felt like I was walking into a room and being noticed as “the girl with the long blonde hair”; I didn’t realize that having short hair is just an alternative version of that. Now I’m “the girl with the short hair and the red lipstick.”

But maybe that’s just how life works. When we’re teens, we long for the freedom of adulthood, only to grow up and learn that the freedom of adulthood is really its own yoke. Now I’m an adult, free to pay my property taxes and worry about termites and free to keep my hair cut in the most free-spirited, heavy-maintenance style I could have possibly stumbled upon.

PhotobucketKathleen Norris, one of my favorite authors (the kind whose book I will pick up and buy without even reading the jacket flap), wrote in her book “The Cloister Walk” about getting haircuts from Benedictine nuns. These were bowl cuts, functional to the nth degree, not pretty or exotic or even ironic. They were just designed to get your hair out of your face and out of your way.

I keep thinking that all my life, I’ve been working toward that kind of haircut. But every cut I get brings with it a new kind of angst. Maybe it’s time to put away the product and the makeup and the demi-permanent dye.

Or… maybe it’s just time I stopped putting so much pressure on myself and blaming it on my hair.

~ Katie Alender

13 Replies to “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to cut off, by Deb Katie”

  1. I love the pixie cut on you!

    I should have blogged about my own disastrous boy cut, which caused me to be mistaken for a boy twice on the first day of school in sixth grade (once by the vice principal who was yelling at me: “Young man!”). That’s why I didn’t cut my hair short again until 2004.

  2. Oh, Kristina, I’ve been there! I was once called “son” while wearing a skirt. It was so crushingly awful for an eleven-year-old. No wonder I’ve developed a complex!

    Thanks, I love this cut too… just wish I could figure out exactly what products to use. The problem is, every cut is slightly different from the last one, so it’s a whole new thing to figure out.

    I know, boo hoo hoo. LOL!

  3. I always thought the straight-haired girls had it easy. Products???? You guys need products? I had no idea. Katie – long or short hair – you always look great!

  4. Eve, if I didn’t slather my head with various sticky products every morning, I would look like a puffball. And I have fine, thin hair. It just all dries in different directions.

    I must say, growing up, my long, straight hair required nothing–I washed it, combed it, and it air-dried itself into perfection. But that was because our city’s carcinogenic water probably had all the hair product chemicals in it already.

  5. I had a disasterous haircut in grade one. On the first day the teacher asked all the boys to stand up and when I didn’t she leaned forward and said “Stand up dear”. I was horrified. So my hair has stayed long most of my life, except now and again when I’ve gotten brave. Then I realized that short hair is actually more work than long.

  6. I can never understand the whole “Ah, My hair!” thing. I really hope it’s not all done to impress us simpletons. For us guys – and I’ve been a member for over thirty years – as long as you’re not bald, it can be straight, not straight, black, blonde, red, purple, greasy, thick, thin, whatever. My point is that if we could find women attractive in the 80’s, I don’t think you have anything to worry about today. Just hope out of bed and start your day; we’re be fine with it! Plus you’d save forty-five minutes… 🙂

  7. Thank you, Jason. Actually the weirdest thing is that my hair only takes like a minute and a half to do in the morning, but I agonize about it all day. Probably because it’s a much “bolder” look, and people tend to comment on it more, I feel like it’s more on the forefront. Oh well.

    LMAO about the 80s. The teased bangs look will be back around before too long, I’m afraid. Everything else 80s is coming back!

  8. My long hair is a security blanket. I cut it from my waist to just below my shoulder blades after my wedding and wanted to cry because it felt like “short” hair to me.

  9. For about three years of my pre-teen life, I had short hair which had to be fussed over daily. By the time I was 14, I was done with that.
    My hair now has hung past my rear for a couple of decades — at one point it was below my knees. And it’s easier than short hair. If I want to fuss with it, I can. If not, I can actually leave the house with it soaking wet and uncombed and it looks like I’ve gelled and tweaked it into waves. Usually these days (since I’m too old to care much), I put it in a long braid.
    You look great, Katie. But you are young and thin, so nearly any hairstyle would look fine on you.

  10. S. Krishna, I know a lot of people who feel that way. I think we all pick our own little security blankets. Mine might be “making smartass comments,” LOL. By any chance are you a Leo? A good friend of mine is a Leo, and she’s always saying that Leos like their manes.

    APW, that’s amazing! When my hair was down to my elbows, it took me ten minutes to comb it out every day… and that was accustomed by a string of profanities and a general sense of “this is NOT how I want to start my day!” Is yours easy to comb out? I must admit, braids are like the one thing I miss about long hair. I think they’re really cute and fun. And thank you for the compliment. Good to see you here, by the way… thanks for commenting!

  11. Wow–it’s true–anyone who cut their hair short had their mistaken-as-a-boy moment! As an adult it would probably be funny, but as a kid (especially 13) it’s totally painful.

  12. I like your pixie cut! I personally could never do it. I had super short hair during most of my childhood and got mistaken for a little boy all the time. Last year I had hair all the way to the bottom of my back and it cut to an inch or two below my shoulder. I thought that I was going to die. I saw all my hair and the floor and felt like crying.

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