Self-Love Through A Hair Cut

I transformed my lengthy, ash-brown locks to a pixie in May 2019. I wasn’t nervous until I sat in the chair because that’s when a stylist usually asks, “What do you want?” And based on what you tell them, things can go just as planned or take a left turn.  But the stylist I chose was fantastic and surprisingly didn’t need too much direction. She didn’t book overlapping appointments, which ensured that her small salon was empty for my appointment, perfect just in case I burst into tears.

The first snip is always the hardest. My hair was sectioned off and clipped in different directions, when finally I heard the shears doing their thing. However, after that first big cut the anxiety simmered and excitement bubbled. I had questions; for example, how often will I need a trim? What are ways I can style it and what  products I should use? How long will it take to grow? As she cut my hair, she walked me through aftercare-steps. She even recorded the process for me to watch as many times as I wanted. When everything was over and I looked in the mirrors, I loved it—I loved it even more the next morning when I realized how little it took to get ready. My feelings about my hair have been wishy washy for most of my life. Growing up, it was a pretty big focus for me. I really became conscious of what my hair looked like toward the end of elementary school Length, very specifically, was important to me. It was a part of my identity, it symbolized something. Popular Barbie dolls, my favorite characters on TV, singers— they all had curly or straight long hair. I couldn’t be a girl without it, at least that’s what I told myself. Little did I know that wigs and extensions were often involved in these looks. People I looked up to were also people playing dress up. 

There wasn’t much room to experiment with my own thick curly hair. My look was plain until the end of high school because I was limited to plaits, cornrows, pigtails or blow outs. The women in my family are very particular about their hair. They experiment in safe zones, natural hair colors, weaves, braids and wigs. Nothing too outlandish. The most important thing is that their is healthy, of course, which means no crazy hair dyes or long wash days, limiting heat contact and much more. To a younger me, that translated to boring. I would see other girls in my classes with hair that was hot pink, printed, straight, crimped or some other eye-catching style, and I wasn’t allowed to try any of them. 

Fast forward to college, I went a little overboard. I took the time to experiment with my hair as much as possible. First, I started with hot reds. Then I moved to bleach and neon colors. Since then, I’ve tried every color imaginable. At first, my sisters weren’t really going for it. They’d voice their fears for my hair’s health, which were valid, but at the time I didn’t care. I was busy exploring. I got to a point where I changed my hair color two to three times a year, and my head felt it. I abandoned most things I learned while growing up about how to take care of my hair. On top of the color, I applied excessive amounts of heat, got regrettable haircuts, razored off strands and so much more. What really did me in was a two-day long process of turning my dark red hair mermaid green. My hair had had enough. 

hair dryer

A great deal of breakage, an unexpected haircut and many tears later, I began weaning myself off of hair dyes and heat. The changes were noticeable, I reverted back to my brown locks in what seemed like no time. But it wasn’t the same. I’d ruined my curl pattern, my hair wasn’t as thick and I still had a big chunk of dye I had to grow out, which I ended up just coloring over again. I continued to wear these big buns on my head, getting box braids and blow outs, but in the midst of work, school and every day life, my hair became a giant inconvenience. Honestly, I didn’t feel like combing it. Thinking of hair styles frustrated me. I tended to just go right back to my ol’ trusty bun. And that’s when the big chop happened. I never thought I would be the girl who would cut off all her hair.  After all, my first big hair cut ended in tears. Even though it was burdensome, my hair made me feel good and secure. I was scared that chopping it off would: 1) make me look like a boy and 2) drop my self-esteem if I couldn’t pull it off.

A big chop  can be intimidating, but coming out on the other end, I felt relieved. I thought I would regret it and feel less like a woman, despite how stupid that sounds. My whole life, my hair was so important  and then I got rid of it, surprisingly with no regrets. I actually feel much more feminine without it. In this past year, I’ve switched up my look and am much less afraid to try new things. I’ve invested more in my hair regime and overall don’t feel overwhelmed with my choices.

Recently, I decided to go for a look similar to Prudence from the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which required me to cut my hair even shorter and bleach it silver. Risky I know, but this time I went to a well-rated stylist and steered clear from box dye. I also asked a ton of questions after researching online.  It took me some time to get my hair back to being this healthy and I wasn’t going to ruin it. Needless to say I, along with the rest of the salon, were very excited to see the end result. 

I have never been so pleased with a choice I made about my hair. I was shocked that it looked great, my hair still felt amazing, and it’s even easy for me to maintain. Don’t get me wrong, I do regret some of the bad hair choices that led me to this but I did get a few lessons out of the experience: 1) the risk is not always worth the reward, 2) my hair isn’t me, and 3) having it didn’t make me any more  or less of a woman than I am now.

Sen is a New Jersey-based writer and poet, who is currently studying for her MFA at Antioch L.A. She is the Social Media Manager and a Blogger for Lunch Ticket. Her hobbies include herbalism, yoga and enjoying iced coffee. Follow her on Instagram at @SenKathleen and check out her personal site at SenKathleen.com