What I Learned After A Bad Haircut

About two months ago, I got bored and decided to cut my hair. I don’t  mean that I took a pair of scissors to my head, I mean that I went into a salon (Mastercuts, because I’m not rich), and told the stylist with awful hair that I wanted to change my hair style. After seeing some old episodes of 30 Rock, I decided that I wanted to go from my mid-back layered goddess hair a Liz Lemon-styled collarbone bob. The result was a strange shoulder-ish length thing with a bunch of layers I didn’t really know what to do with. I should be more assertive when people (strangers) are messing with my appearance, but I’m not. Out of what I call politeness, I watched while the girl teased my crown and arrange the hair over the matted bump-it to camouflage any semblance of a part.

I liked it for about a week before I started missing my long hair. If I didn’t style the short style, I looked like a confused thirteen-year-old. It’s simply not appropriate for a confused twenty-four-year-old.

My long hair gave my confidence, making me feel womanly and powerful. I felt sexy twisting it into a chignon, only to pull the pin out a few hours later, letting the hair fall down my back in big barrel curls. I turned to Pinterest for inspiration only to find that the latest craze in hair styling was the sock bun which requires longer hair. I decided to try braids which made me look like an elementary school child. I tried a french twist which immediately fell out. I tried a side-ponytail which was a failure. I tried the bang poof which deflated. I tried curling it in smaller curls which made me look like I was attempting a strange white-girl fro. I tried straightening it which only made me look like that stylist.

This haircut has prompted an episode of self-loathing. I look in the mirror and see a chubby-faced girl whose eyebrows need plucking. I don’t see the beautiful college grad who only needs a pair of pumps, a coat of mascara, and a flush of blush to feel ready. I see everything that’s wrong with me – my flabby arms, the pimple on my cheek, the bra strap that constantly falls off my shoulder, the weird spot on my earlobe, and the way my nose is too round.

Frankly this is pissing me off. I look virtually the same as I did two months ago, minus about six inches of hair. Why do I allow one change affect my self-image so much? It’s a haircut. It’s not permanent. I’ll take daily vitamins and wait for my hair to grow. I’ve heard that it takes a lot of confidence to rock a short hairstyle. I always thought that was in reference to pixie cuts and short bobs, but apparently it’s true for the shoulder-length ones too. And the long ones. Was I confident because of my long hair or was I only hiding behind it? While I really liked it, I think I was hiding behind it. Not that I covered up with it, but it was an identity marker.

It’s shaken me up more than I’d like to acknowledge. I think that confidence is closely tied with accomplishment, so I tried to examine when I feel I’ve accomplished something. I started to think of significant things – like completing a draft of a short story, finishing a 400-page book, or biking 20 miles on a sunny day. Then I tried to think about the small daily accomplishments I’ve had – participating in discussions in classes or finishing an assignment before the due date. Since I’m no longer in college, I had to think of other things. These things sort of bothered me. I like baking and decorating cookies. I like to paint my nails. On weekends when I don’t have anything to do, sometimes I’ll sit in front of the mirror, putting on makeup and curling my hair just so my day doesn’t feel like a waste.

So my day doesn’t feel like a waste? It’s like I use my appearance as a consolation. “You didn’t do anything today, but you sure look good!”

I have goals. I want to lose twenty pounds. I want to bike 100 miles. I want to read War and Peace. I want to learn about biological anthropology. I want to publish essays and stories. I want to publish a book. I want to have a successful writing career.

Instead of doing these things, I make myself look pretty. I could blame society and all its evils that tell girls their worth is in their appearance, but frankly, I’m not willing to use that as an excuse. It’s too easy to absolve myself of responsibility. The fact is that I’m not always willing to put in the hard work to accomplish the things I dream about. It’s easier to make my face look pretty than it is to sit down in front of my computer and force myself to write. It’s easier to complain about a bad haircut than to face the fact that I’m not willing to face my writer’s block. It’s easier to give my boyfriend three dozen cookies than to admit that to publish anything, I’ll have to submit work that will probably be rejected by a dozen small presses. I need to constantly remind myself that great things don’t come without a great deal of work. Great things don’t come to those who wait – they come to those who work their butts off.

So instead of having a pity party because my hair is shorter than I wish, I’m going to throw on a headband, and write a draft of that story that’s been bouncing around in my head for weeks.

Read more from Ashley Otto here.

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