Life Lessons (And A Panic Attack) From Cutting My Hair Short


I’ve been thinking of cutting my hair short for a while now, and finally had the balls to do it two weeks ago. At first, I was terrified to do it because my long hair has been a huge part of my identity for so much of my life. I’ve pretty much had the same haircut since the 1st grade. It was classic long, brown, good-girl hair that I could always depend on. I have to say, I didn’t realize until after the fact that it didn’t suit my personality. I thought about cutting it off all the time in university, but chickened out because I was attached to my long hair as something that made me pretty. People always referred to my hair when I was a kid as “beautiful” and my “best feature,” and I guess that sort of got stuck in my head.

All of the reasons I’ve made up in the past to not cut my hair have been total bullshit. They also don’t make sense. Mostly they had to do with the fact that I was attached to the image of my long long brown hair because I thought it made me who I am—which it didn’t. I was hiding behind it. Add that to the fact that it would get knotty all the time, and that it was always in a nob/bun on my head that made me look like I had some sort of growth if I tried to wear a hat—well, you get the idea. It was time for it to go. (Also, if you have curly short hair and wanna make it straight, check this list of straighteners for men’s short hair).

If you want to get an idea of the texture of my hair, take a look at this painting:

The Russian Bride’s Attire, Konstantin Makovsky, 1887

I saw it when I went to San Francisco at The Legion of Honor Museum, and immediately felt the Russian Bride’s pain.

I’m not entirely sure where the itching to chop my hair off came from, but the bravery to do it this year I think came from watching Jennifer Lawrence lop hers off in Joy, right before she’s about to kick ass, screw everyone, and win everything she wants and has worked for. Now, I know that there isn’t an exact correlation between kicking ass and cutting your hair, and there’s a lot of work that needs to happen in order to really kick ass in life. But regardless, I was ready for my very own Mulan moment. This happened to coincide with me moving to Italy for three months to do physical theatre, which I figured was the perfect time to try it out.

When I had finally decided, I do what I do when I come to all decisions, which is have some sort of dramatic panic attack because I can’t figure out whether or not my decision is good or bad. Spoiler: It doesn’t matter. During this silly decision panic, I googled tons of hairstyles on other girls, and tried to figure out which celebrity I kind of looked like with short hair so that I could copy them because celebrities know what’s up (or at least their stylists do). In addition, I asked pretty much every single member of my family who was a female to approve my decision before I did it—which is something I’ve sworn to stop doing now.

I was so indecisive even though that I really wanted to do it, that finally my friend said, “Hey, this isn’t this big traumatic thing. It’s fun.” Right. Fun. Duh. I don’t need to have a massive freakout every time I decide to do something, like cut my hair. No one is making me do it. And even if my female family members hate it, who cares? Do I really want to live my life trying to get approved for every single tiny little decision by mother, sister, my grandmother, and my aunts? There’s six of them all together, so that’s a crazy long approval process. And I was doing this with hair. Can you imagine how many other stupid things in my life I’ve done this with?

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Basically, what I’m trying to get at is, if you’re struggling to decide on cutting your hair short, it’s just not a big deal. It’s just hair. I’m lucky enough to be able to have healthy hair to cut. I’m lucky to have the freedom of choice at all.  

Who needs the fake trauma and panic that goes along with it? So go for it! I do however, highly recommend that if you go to a foreign country and decide to do it, you learn how to say “please don’t shave me” in whatever the native language is. I am fluent in Italian, and even have a part of my undergrad degree in Italian literature, but I never learned this phrase. And I must admit, it’s a little shocking to have an Italian hairdresser just sort of take a razor to your hair. After he did it, he said “Wow you have a lot of hair” and told me to look at it on the floor, which I could not do. Now I have an undercut in the back of my head. (It’s underneath all the rest of my hair though, so you can’t really see it unless I wear a ponytail.) First I freaked out, but then I remembered my new rule about not freaking out, and checked it out in the mirror only to decide it’s cool. I love it, even though I probably would never have entertained the notion a month ago. Short hair for the win.

So, in conclusion, if you’re thinking of a hair change, and your gut tells you to go for it, do it.  You’ll look and feel great, and if your instincts tell you to do something for a reason. Who cares what your mom thinks. She’ll probably like it in the end anyhow. Don’t panic, you probably don’t need to, if you want to change your hair you don’t need everyone else’s permission. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go get a tattoo. (Just kidding).

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