I've been looking for reasons to cut my hair short for years—a dramatic breakup, a new career path, a cancer fundraiser—anything would do, but it never seemed appropriate. Every few months when I went in for a haircut I would bring two sets of pictures: a set of pixie cuts and a set of in-case-I-chicken-out lobs. And every few months I would leave with another freshly trimmed long bob.
It's not that lobs are bad—Alexa Chung's is legendary—but they didn't give me the woman-on-fire feeling that I wanted. For years, my hairstyle was safe and underwelming. And from inside my hair comfort zone, I looked outward into a sea of bold lavender dye jobs, undercuts, and blunt bangs. My Pinterest board was full of pixie cuts, but my hair said otherwise.
I don't look like a pixie, I convinced myself, pixies are delicate and petite and blonde. You'll look like that mean lunch lady, or a voluptuous little boy, or your dad.
What can I say? I was scared. I was scared of not being attractive or the vague notion of "not pulling it off." And other people didn't help. Little comments from friends and exes kept my fears fresh in my mind: "Don't cut it off, you'll look like a lesbian;" "Keep it long while you're young. You can cut it when you're older;" "But your hair is so pretty!" Over and over again I was reminded that long hair means beauty and youth and femininity.
But every few months, when it came time to make another hair appointment, I was drawn to pixie cuts. I would slip short hair into conversation, hoping for affirmation. (See comments above.) I piled my long hair onto my head, arranging it in a makeshift pixie. (This does not work.) I even tried on celebrity haircuts with virtual makeover apps, which only proceeded to scare me more. (Reminder: Your hair is not like Michelle Williams's, no matter how badly you want it to be.) But nothing gave me the confidence to finally bite the bullet, until I got my hair stuck in the seatbelt—again.
I moved to a new city about six months ago. It was far from my family, far from my friends, and well outside my cozy Midwestern comfort zone. For a while, I didn't think about my hair at all, until it was all I could think about. Suddenly, it seemed like all I was doing was cleaning hair out the shower drain and styling my hair and vacuuming hair off my bedroom floor. And then I tugged on my seatbelt a little too quickly and it yanked my staticky strands back painfully. That was it. I was cutting it off.
In a new city, finding the right hairdresser can be tricky. I lucked out. One of my wonderfully and impossibly hip friends gave me a recommendation. I made an appointment a week later. And, this time, I only brought one set of pictures.
My stylist—who sported a cropped cut of her own—was exactly what I needed. She was enthusiastic and pragmatic and explained everything as it was happening. "You're going to feel amazing," she said. (Denver babes, call Ashe Atelier, ask for Dani Bee.) And as my shoulder length locks fell away, I did feel amazing.
At first, I was surprised by how light my head was. Then, I realized I didn't need to carry hairties all the time. (Seriously, the best part.) And finally, I saw my face, my whole face. With short hair, my eyes looked bigger and brighter; my cheekbones were more prominent; my neck seemed longer. Without a mane of hair, my features weren't just on display, they were amplified. It's like I went in for a haircut and came out with a new head.
There are a few things I haven't figured out yet, like taming bedhead or keeping the longer bits in front from drooping in my eyes. I often think I have to compensate with more feminine accessories and makeup. I wear a lot of bold lipstick colors. But I feel amazing.
Cutting your hair short feels like taking control. It feels like breaking the rules. It feels powerful. These days, I love looking in the mirror, because it reminds me that I can do scary things, that I can be brave and strong and different. Sure, I might not look like a pixie, but I feel like an Amazon.