With no one to blame but myself, I am suffering from the worst hairdo in, nearly, my life. Every day, I walk out the door with a wince, wondering to whom I might run in. Every morning, I brush it knowing that, no matter what I do, it will explode when it dries, leaving my head looking like a peony.
To be clear again, there is no one to blame but me. Certainly not my beloved hairdresser Kathy, who, for nearly a year, gently tried to talk me out of cutting off all of my hair. But six weeks ago, I was firm.
“Let’s do it,” I said, sounding disturbingly like Tone Lōc.
“Are you sure?”
“I’m too old for long hair.”
“I hate to tell you this, but you don’t have long hair. You have a bob. A short one.”
“What am I waiting for? Life is short.”
Finally, she began to snip and at the end of an hour, there was a mess of locks surrounding the hairdresser chair. Looking down, I felt the pat satisfaction that comes from making an unyielding decision. One that you don’t yet regret because my hairdresser Kathy can make anything look beautiful. Even me.
For those of you who know me or have read my blog for years, you’re aware that I have not been gifted with pretty hair in any way. But, as I’ve gotten older, it has become more and more curly. It’s also incredibly grey, so much so that if I don’t get it dyed every five weeks, I have a silver line that forms at every part, looking like the firm turn of a waterfall.
I’ve tried to see the good in both of these things: the curl gives it volume, making it look less defeated and lifeless. The grey, at least, is thicker than my regular hair, so I can finally put my fear of going bald nearly to rest.
However, both of these mid-life changes made it unusually difficult to predict how my hair would look when I cut it all off.
If I had to blame anyone for the Mistake, I would handily put the onus of responsibility on my best friend Kristin. She has been gifted with gorgeous hair but nevertheless cut it all off within the past year, saying that, at age 43, it was time. Needless to say, it looks fantastic. Severe, yes, but so hip, so cool, so European.
It’s the hope of looking European that will always get me. In fact, running briskly after this ideal even got me at the tender age of 14 when I again chopped off all of my hair. That time, I traipsed to the hairdresser with a picture of a Romanian woman cut out from “Sassy” magazine.
She had sparkling blue eyes (mine are brown), olive skin (mine is just white), eyebrows that arched more provocatively than St. Louis (mine just kind of sit there) and a jawline that you could cut glass with (my chin has the propensity to double).
But she had this black hair (mine is brown) that was choppy and short and sassy, of course, and I thought she looked smart, insightful, beautiful.
Needless to say, I did not come out of the salon looking like her. And needless to say, I did not magically become popular with the boys with my boyish haircut.
Speaking of boys, my disgust with my recent decision became most evident when I was in Detroit airport a few weeks ago. I was buying a sandwich and feeling pretty good about the mozzarella and sun-dried tomato panini I’d found. As I handed the female cashier over my credit card to pay, she politely said, “Thank you, sir.”
Since I’m Canadian and prone to automatic politeness, I actually said, “You’re welcome.”
At any rate, there is a whole lot of waiting in my future. And waiting, I’d rediscovered, is weighty. Not weighty like a long, thick head of hair, mind you, but heavy on one’s mind nevertheless.
While I wait for my hair to grow back (and already I’ve entered one of the many in-between stages so that I look like Julia Roberts when she played Tinkerbell in the movie Hook — feel free to look it up and have a laugh), I’ve made the mistake of looking at older photos of myself. You know, ones from eight weeks ago where, I suddenly realize, I loved my hair.
Does that ever happen to you? Time heals all wounds but the present when it comes to photos. Even if you took the picture hating your hair and feeling bloaty and unfashionable, go back to it in the present and experience the feeling of, “Man. I looked good then. Much better than I do now.”
It’s not fair, really, but such is life and self-hate, I suppose.
Anyway, if you’re looking for me for the next three months, I’ll be tucked in the basement as much as possible waiting for my hair to grow out. Unlike Penelope, I don’t anticipate being any good at it. However, I can say I’ve already made one philosophical discovery.
Life may be short, but when you’re waiting for your hair to grow, it’s not short enough.