I can't believe I did it. The last time I let this happen, I hated it so much that I swore I'd never do it again, and I stubbornly kept my word for almost thirty years.
But on Friday, I chopped off my hair. Well, *I* didn't chop off my hair. I entrusted the job to Mae, my hairdresser of... fifteen or sixteen years, maybe?
I wasn't walking around sporting the Crystal Gayle look or anything. I've just preferred to wear my hair on the long side. It always fell below my shoulders except for a brief period last year when it was just at shoulder length. When The Oracle and I met, my hair was almost to my waist. It was a major event when I permitted my former hairdresser to lop off that length and layer it up to my shoulders.
For seventeen years, The Oracle has been suggesting that I shorten my hair, and I've emphatically refused. Every time I've worn my hair short, I've hated it. Even nastier was the awkward "growing out" transition back to long hair.
I am blessed with thick, wavy hair. My mother used to put my hair in long braids for everyday life in general, but for some special occasion, my hair was worn free. I vaguely remember playing outside with the neighbor's kids, and during that time my hair got so horribly tangled that my mother, driven to frustration by my shrieking and crying as she tried to comb through it, lopped off my length. The next day she saw the error of her ways and sent my seven-year-old butt next door to Mrs. W. for a "shag" cut. The cut was cute, but mom never bothered to follow through with subsequent trims, so my hair grew shaggy and long and unruly.
In the eighth grade, I hid behind that hair. I've often said that if God sent me there, hell would be reliving my eighth-grade year for all eternity. I was the kid everyone perpetually harassed and teased, and I spent my middle-school years trying to make myself invisible so nobody would trip me or dump my books between classes.
One horrible day in May or so, some evil classmate stuck gum in my hair. I had no idea it was there until the next day. By the time I gave up trying to remove it myself and asked Mom for help, my hair was so badly matted that Mom simply whipped out her shears and chopped it all off. Uh-oh.
My mom was no hairdresser, and I guess Mrs. W. no longer cut hair because she wasn't asked to do a repair job this time around. Either way, what resulted was the most wretched haircut ever afflicted upon a kid. Mom simply hacked it off at my neck -- one level, not a layer in sight -- and she cut bangs into the front. My hair's thickness and curl pushed itself out to the sides, and I looked quite a bit like Rosanna Rosannadanna, only I didn't have Gilda's confidence to pull it off.
Mom, seeing the problem, made a valiant attempt at "fixing" the damage. She whipped out her skinny purple rollers, the kind with the plastic cover thingies that snap over the roller, and she painstakingly dampened and set my hair, parked me under her old-fashioned hair dryer (the kind with the shower-cap bonnet and plastic hose) to dry.
When those rollers came out -- oh, my -- the results were indescribable. My hair has never had trouble holding a curl (except for those stubborn parts that have gone grey), and I looked like a deranged poodle.
But wait! Mom wasn't finished with me yet, nosireee. She combed and brushed and pushed and sprayed, and my first look in the mirror left me damned near suicidal. My hair looked exactly like the hair worn by Carol Burnett in her Eunice, Ed, and Mama skits, with a French poodle ball of curls for bangs and a gigantic wad of curls running around the back of my head from ear to ear, if that makes sense. Thankfully there are no photos documenting my humiliation, but I suffered a great deal at the hands of my classmates during those last few weeks of school.
Sometime during the summer I went to a hairdresser for damage control, but I was permanently scarred. That was the last time I wore short hair. I let it grow out after that, and I eventually did get a shoulder-length cut when I was sixteen or so, and I've pretty much worn it the same way, in varying lengths, ever since.
And, now, here I am, with what I feel is actually a flattering short cut. After so many years with long hair, feeling the breeze on my neck is strange. I gave myself a wretched sunburn on Saturday because I forgot to slather the back of my neck with sunscreen. I haven't had to think about that for decades. When I wash my hair, I still go through the old motions of trying to sweep it up into the lather or run my hands down it to squeeze out the excess water.
Even more fun is that I can wear earrings again. I got out of the habit of earrings when my kids were babies and grabbing everything in sight. I'd wear earrings once in a while for something special, but you couldn't see them under all the hair, and they often got tangled in it.
So, okay. Maybe I should've done this a few years ago.