Friday 18 September 2015

A Little Bit More Than Just A New 'Do

"Since the disintegration of her parent's marriage she'd only loved two things. The first was her long dark hair. The second was how easily she could cut it off and not feel a thing" 

- 500 Days of Summer


I'm 7 years old. 

I've been excited to turn 7 ever since I could remember, because my birthday is the 7th October, and it made neat, tidy sense to turn 7 on the 7th in my already chaotic mind.

I loom over those 7 little candles, my friends around me, sing-shouting in the tuneless way children do, and when they finish I squeeze my eyes closed and make a wish before blowing out those candles.

"I wanna be skinny and blonde and beautiful." 

Whether it was from Disney princesses, from my best friend Abbie - who's long golden hair she made a point to remind me daily that I didn't have - or maybe even at a tender young age from already being lead to believe that this is what all girls needed to be happy - I made that wish. And not just when I was 7. Annually, on my 8th, my 9th, my 10th... I made that same wish over and over again.

In fact, I'm pretty sure it was up until I was about 17 that it actually changed - along with some other important things in my life - which lead me to silently repeat I just want to be happy whilst blowing out those candles.

Throughout childhood, teenhood and pretty much for eternity, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that hair is more important to a girl than any man could attempt to empathise with. Arguably because we've been conditioned into believing it's our duty to comply with where it should be left, where it should be removed, and uphold our responsibility to make it look 'good.' But that's a debate for another day.

Personally for me, and no doubt countless others, having the longest hair as possible was always the aim. I'd spend hours researching growth supplements, swap stories in the girls toilets about what homemade hair masks people were using and even went through a stage of dousing my hair with ice water after showering because I once read Eva Longoria claimed that's what made her hair so shiny.

When the time came for haircuts, I'd kick up such a fuss, insisting split-ends weren't a thing and hold up my thumb and forefinger a microscopic distance apart, then watch the snippets of hair pool around my feet with mounting anxiety.

University was the first time I bleached my hair, resulting in an unsightly all-over brass colour that no amount of lilac toner shampoo could correct. With my first dabblings in blogging, my instagram feed was full of ethereal, organic hippy girls happily posing with their acai bowls, post-surf beach waves down to their navels and glamorous fashion bloggers flaunting their pastel dip-dyed mermaid locks, and I was suckered into forking out literally hundreds of pounds on various products that promised to make my hair grow, even spending £50 shipping over some special shampoo from Canada that smelled like burning Plasticine. 

It's funny because I look back on photos from then and I'm like holy shit, my hair was so fucking long, but at the time, I always felt like I had this shitty mid-length hair that never seemed to grow. I think my obsession with having long hair actually gave me a kind of dysmorphia about it.

Overall, what I'm trying to get at here, is that having long hair has always been scarily fucking important to me. Because I needed it so badly. It was my protection. Being able to hide inside this big, thick, wavy of mass around my face was so important to me because underneath it all, I was so insecure about everything else. In my eyes, long hair equaled pretty, and pretty was something I so desperately needed to be.

And it was only as recently as about a month ago, that I realised all this.

Just one of the man life-changing things I learnt in New York City, I looked into the mirror, lifted a strand of hair - the ends of which had probably sprouted from my scalp around that 7th birthday - and letting it fall limp against my face, I felt a sudden and complete liberation of an epiphany that I'd never been able to fathom before.

Not only did I not need it any more, I didn't want it.

'Men won't find you attractive without long hair!' The girl in me wailed, and I smiled with a genuinely thrilling 'I know.' Snip snip. 'It'll make you look fatter because your torso will be more exposed!' Snip snip. 'Oh well, at least I ain't fooling anyone right?' Snip snip. 'But... But... you won't be PRETTY!' She howled, and I paused, scissors aloft as a half-sympathetic smile spread across my face. 'I don't need to be pretty for anyone any more.' I said, grabbing a fistful of my hair. 'I'm ready to regain control of myself now, for me.'  


Before I went away, I never, ever could have imagined being happy with having short hair. Sure, the radical notion to lop it all off came every once in a while, but I quickly shooed away the thought, dreading the instant and irrevocable regret I know I'd feel if I did.

But a month ago, my hair went from just above my navel, to not even touching the tops of my shoulders. I knew it couldn't happen in a salon, it had to be by hand - there was something carnal and ritualistic about amateurishly hacking off my hair with friends in a candlelit kitchen.

  And since then I haven't felt one single pinch of regret. I truly do not think I have ever been more confident and liberated within myself. 

And to anyone reading this is thinking, Jesus Christ how shallow, all this over getting a haircut?

You clearly do not understand the intense psychological bond between one girl and her hair.