I was in 7th grade, I had just started shaving my legs, and was still comfortable wearing sweatpants to school, under the impression that they were a trend. I was new to middle school, and having moved districts, new amongst my group of friends. The things that I distinctly remember about this time were that I thought was cool to start laughing uncontrollably in class until I fell off my chair, and I wore matching baby blue and pale yellow Nikes with my Nicole, proudly representing that the only two 7th graders on the team we are also best friends. I watched The Simpsons a lot. Every day, in fact, between the immensely weird yet highly addicting soap opera Passions, and The Wonder Years. I hadn’t gotten my period yet, but I would soon, I had a boyfriend that I didn’t tell my mom about but was hardly brave enough to kiss, and I wanted bangs.
I don’t know where the desire to get bangs came from, but I wanted them immediately. This impatience for obtaining things would later develop into my teenage years as I discovered stress shopping, and impulsively but with intention started getting piercings and tattoos.
“Mom, I think I want bangs,” I declared as I got out of the shower that night. She seemed in support of the idea and told me that she would make an appointment for me. “I don’t want to wait, can’t you just cut them for me? Like, right now?” I don’t know if my mom put up much of a fight or raised any concern about her ability to cut hair, I just remember sitting down on the closed toilet seat while she went to get scissors.
My older sister Rachael was over at the time, and gave my mom instructions on how to cut my hair. She was, after all, the one who cut our youngest sister’s golden ringlet curls off when she was too young to protest. This was after a childhood of giving herself her own haircuts in the secrecy of my parent’s bathroom when they weren’t around. She was the artistic child, and she knew how to command a crowd.
Her and my mom disagreed about technique as they stood over me, probing about with my hair. “Just part them here and cut them to here,” Rachael said marking the locations on my head with her hands before storming out of the bathroom, fed up with the lack of control she had over the situation.
I don’t remember what happened next, as I was too excited about the fact that in a few minutes I would emerge a new person. I don’t remember if my mom uttered any words along the lines of “oh no” or “what have I done?” If she didn’t, she should have, because as I stood up and moved over to the mirror, filled with anticipation and fear, I had learned that, due to a combination of lack of experience and wisdom from my sister gone awry, my mom had given me a mullet.
I burst into tears as I was forced to come to terms with my new identity. I might have even called my dad to tell him about the horrible act his recent ex-wife had just committed. I looked to my 8-year-old sister for comfort, as if she possessed the ability to comfort me in a time of such despair.
The next morning as I got ready for school, instead of proudly grooming my new perfectly cut bangs, I put a wide cotton headband on and swooped the botched bangs to the top of my head, securing it with 25 bobby pins on each side. It was dramatic gesture I was hoping would display just how terrible of a situation I was in. My poor mother. I wore that headband with bobby pins, though usually only about 3 on each side, for six months.
You think I would have learned my lesson.
From middle school on, my hair went mostly untouched, apart from a Japanese chemical straightening process and a few too many school dance up-do’s inspired by Taylor Swift’s early career. It wasn’t until after college that I thought about cutting my long hair. But like the mullet and the tattoo on my ribcage, I wanted it immediately. The next day on my lunch break at the retail store I managed in Westwood, CA, I went across the street to the Aveda hair school and paid them $20 to cut six inches off my hair. The result was a beautiful, perfectly cut long bob, or a lob, as it was coined.
While my appearance wasn’t that different, it was refreshing, and it was on trend. Pumped on the adrenaline of change, and seeing people everywhere (Instagram) chopping their locks, I decided to go even shorter. I marched back to Aveda and paid another $20 for a different student to cut my hair. As I was explaining that I prefer not to have a blunt finish to my ends, a teacher came over to inspect the situation, and in one swift motion, misunderstood my request and gave me a sweeping, asymmetrical, undesirable chop.
It wasn’t that bad, and I wasn’t that upset, but I knew it had to be fixed. Instead of going to a professional like you were maybe hoping I would at this point, I had Rachael take a stab at it. Yes, Rachael, the accomplice to my mullet. I showed her pictures, “This is what I want, this is what I want, this is what I don’t want,” as we scrolled through my iPhone library. “Whatever you do, don’t cut it above this point.” I motioned to a length between my shoulders and chin. I had never had short hair.
“Yeah, yeah, I got it” she said. Once again I found myself sitting on the toilet, away from a mirror, while a family member took scissors to my head. This wasn’t the first time Rachael had cut my hair. Over the years she had given me a number trims, all of them relatively uneven, but they did the job, I wasn’t too nervous about it. But 30 minutes into the current haircut I began to wonder with concern and frustration what was taking so long. I hadn’t dare put my hands up to feel the length of my hair yet, but as I turned to ask her what she was doing, I saw a reflection in a picture frame behind the toilet. I jumped up to the mirror only to affirm my worst nightmare. My hair wasn’t just at my chin level, but slightly above it, a horribly unflattering look for thick curly hair on a square jaw line with a natural born double chin.
As I do with most stressful and upsetting events in my life, I burst into tears. I went outside to smoke a cigarette as I sent desperate and emotional pictures to my friends looking for reassurance. I was as nightmarish then as I sound now.
My hair was short, uneven, and I was going to Ohio to meet my boyfriends entire family in two days. With few options in front of me, I grew confident in the mini-ponytail and microscopic bun, these hairstyles imitating the role the cotton headband once played, hiding my regretful decision until it grew out.
I wish I could say that was the last bad experience with haircuts I had. And believe it or not, in the last few years I’ve had a lot of really great hair experiences, like getting it dyed pink, having my boyfriend give me an ombre (which surprisingly worked out really well), and a mature, professional haircut to amend the damage of both of those dye jobs. But just last month, in a desperate act to do away with my split ends, I went into a Supercuts as I was running errands. I don’t even think the woman cutting my hair was looking at what she was doing. The whole experience lasted about 5 minutes, and I thanked her as I left, my shampooed wet hair in a bun, knowing that when I got home I would most likely discover a botch job.
To fix the cheap cut I went to a place called Luxury Cut where, for $15, a girl evened out my ends, and that night I had my friend who was staying with me from out of town make it a little more shaggy and natural.
Besides impatience, I think my impulsive habit of putting trust in the hands of questionable strangers comes from my tendency to over empathize and under communicate. I hate confrontation, so even after the worst hair cut or the tightest updo secured with entirely too much hairspray, I grit my teeth until I’m at least out the front door of the salon and can cry and moan in melodramatic privacy.
Maybe after all of my horrible hair experiences, I’ve simply come to realize that it’s only hair, and as much as it feels like the world is going to end with a bad cut, it will grow back. Maybe I like the excitement or the mystery of how it will turn out, or the adventurous idea of my boyfriend suggesting we take a shot and have him trim my ends. Maybe like all my bad hair cuts, one day I’ll grow out of my over trusting qualities. But right now? I could really use a trim. Wanna come over? I’ll give you 20 bucks.