Sammy Nickalls
May 03, 2016 4:00 am
Sammy Nickalls

I’ve hidden behind my hair for most of my life. In grade school, people would call me “the hair with the girl” because my locks went on for days — literally down to my thighs. I would cry whenever I had to get it trimmed; I’d mourn the inch-and-a-half of my precious hair scattered on the hairdresser’s floor as if each tiny strand was a dear friend. As I grew older, I had to cut my locks shorter because it was just so heavy, but it still cascaded to the middle of my back. Whatever insecurities I had about the cellulite on my thighs or the slight fat on my stomach, I knew I could take pride in my hair.

Fast forward to the evening of April 15th, 2016, when I took scissors to my own hair and chopped six inches clean off.

But let’s back up. After a particularly terrible day, I got the itch. You know, the itch that can only be scratched by a dramatic hair change, one that will reinvigorate your soul and make you feel like a new person. The only problem? I had just paid a big ol’ pile of bills and my bank account was not on board with an expensive visit to the stylist.

So I did something a lil bit ~reckless~: I scoured YouTube for DIY hair-cutting tutorials so I could cut my own hair.

I quickly found a good video by lifestyle vlogger Terryn that seemed straightforward enough: get your hair damp, brush through it vigorously, split down the middle, put your hair in two even ponytails, and then snip. Cutting right above the ponytail holders would, in theory, give you a blunt cut — which was exactly what I wanted.

Pre-cut, back when brushing my hair was an EVENT.
Sammy Nickalls

So I got myself prepared. I decided that I wasn’t gonna wimp out for this. I was gonna cut a CHUNK — this ain’t no trim. I mean, my hair had grown to practically half the length of me and I’m less than five feet tall. I grabbed a beer to nervously sip on and set to work.

My "maybe this isn't such a good idea but I really wanna do it" face

First, I dampened my hair. However, I was too lazy to hop in the shower and thoroughly get it wet, so I kind of splashed water on my head and brushed it through.  (This, I later found out, was a mistake — but we’ll get to that later.) Then I fiddled with my hair ties to get them at the *perfect* level.

GO BIG OR GO HOME, RIGHT?
Sammy Nickalls

At last, I took a deep breath, picked up my scissors, and started hacking away.

You know in the movies, when the action hero needs to shoot someone but really doesn’t want to, and instead s/he shoots up in the air dramatically while bellowing in (what’s supposed to be interpreted as) deep emotional and internal conflict? That was kind of how I reacted. I totally didn’t look at what I was doing and screamed “OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD” the entire time. Sooooo, the left side turned out like this:

Yeah, not exactly a clean cut. Maybe it was the beer, or maybe it was the wild “I-just-did-something-so-stupid-it’s-actually-exhilarating” endorphins, but I didn’t particularly care. I just hacked the second ponytail off, too, and took a look at my handiwork. It wasn’t too bad! My ‘do definitely had its jagged edges and areas where it needed some love, but with some extreme twisting and turning around, I managed to even it out some. By the time it had dried, I was still working on it and took an “in-progress” pic:

Aaaand maybe it was because of the next beer, but I was starting to get *really* excited about my new ‘do. In-between snips, I started playing around with it and pinning it back.

The next day, I got up and gave it another snip or two with my trusty scissors, then straightened it to see how it looked before going out with friends.

Sammy Nickalls
The Professional Opinion

Although I really liked my new haircut, I couldn’t help but wonder whether I did a good job in the eyes of a professional. So I decided to make an appointment with my stylist in New Holland, Pennsylvania — Steph of Tangles Hair Studio — to get her seal of approval (because I’m an OPTIMIST, guys). I’ve been seeing her for years, and I knew that she’d give me the straight truth.

The appointment was for the following Saturday, and throughout the week, my co-workers and friends told me that they loved the new ‘do; I was feeling pretty good about my hackjob when my appointment rolled around. And to my credit, it took Steph a bit of time to discover the most egregious error — that, when my hair was completely wet, my right side was an inch too long. The most likely culprit? Not thoroughly wetting my hair when I did the big chop.

Steph explained that it’s essential to make sure your hair is completely wet or completely dry, but certainly not just damp. Those of us with bangs know that wet hair is considerably longer than dry; when your hair is wet in some areas and not-so-much in others, it’s practically impossible to get an even cut. Luckily, it was easily fixable.

“You didn’t do too bad because it’s fixable without doing a major overhaul where you look totally different,” she explained as she trimmed the inch off the right side and evened it out.

She also added some lovely highlights to give me a warm summer color, and as always, I left Tangles a very happy gal.

The Bottom Line

Technically, I *can* cut my own hair, but there’s a reason why stylists are paid for their awesome expertise. From now on, my hair scissors will only be used for bangs emergencies, and I’m leaving the big work to Steph.

However, I’m glad I cut my own hair at least once. Cutting through all of that hair felt like I was hacking through my insecurities I’ve carried with me my whole life. I’m done hiding behind my hair — and that’s a lesson only I can teach myself.

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