Hair

Left profile of a woman, with dark blond/light brown hair, with a chin length bob.

I’m sure no one else on the Intarwebs cares, but I am amazed by how much I look like my mother in this picture.

I got my hair cut today. I was across the room — and directly in mirror view — of a girl, maybe 11 or 12, getting her own hair cut. From the looks of things, she was going from quite long hair — maybe skimming the bottom of her ribcage — to something much shorter, brushing along her upper back. At various points during the process, the stylist called the girl’s mother over to get input and approval for the girl’s hair choices. And yes, I could definitely tell from across the room that this girl had her own well-developed opinions about how her hair should look.

Once, Mom came over and said something like, “Too short.” In the mirror, I watched the girl huff and roll her eyes.


When I was young, my mom made me keep my hair short. When I started school — kindergarten or first grade instead of preschool — she made me cut it very short. A layered pixie cropped to my hairline all over, I’m sure it was actually cute enough in its own right — but I absolutely hated it. I was going through a phase where girls had long hair, and short hair meant it was a boys’ haircut, which I emphatically Did. Not. Want. Furthermore, my mother’s rationale — that short hair was easier to manage — made no sense to me as someone who was doing just fine brushing her own hair, thank you very much.

Why, yes, I was an impertinent little child. Why do you ask?

I finally received permission to start growing my hair long when I was nine or so. As soon as I could, I liked to wear ponytails; I liked the swishing, swinging thing they did. My mom didn’t exactly endorse this. She wanted me to wear my hair down now — because she thought it looked pretty, yes, but also because the amount of time my pre-teen self spent trying to brush back the perfect ponytail frustrated her. Understandably so.

Age eleven. Morning. Bad hair morning, to be specific. I was fighting a ponytail that just would not go. In tears, I scowled at my reflection in my bedroom mirror.

“Tori, just do it and let’s go!” Mom snapped at me from the hall. “We’re going to be late.”

“I hate my hair!” I screamed. “I’m going to cut it all off!”

Liking how those words felt — like agency, I’d later realize — I marched down to the kitchen, grabbed a pair of scissors from the junk drawer, and sheared my hair just above the ponytail holder. While I knew I was going to miss my long hair now that it was gone, it did at least feel good that I was the one who made it happen. I was calm.

My mother was not. Emphatically so.


Fourteen — no, fifteen. My hair was long again. And the same old dishwater blond it had always been.

I wanted different. I wanted color — bright color, unnaturally bright color. I wanted people to notice my hair.

I knew what would happen if I asked my mom about dyeing my hair, so I simply avoided that part of the equation. One day — home on spring break, I think — I walked to the drugstore and bought a box of something ridiculously red. Like, dyed with Magic Marker or with Kool Aid red.

I had applied, set, rinsed, cleaned up the bathroom, dried my hair, and done the laundry by the time Mom came home. I had also had the foresight to use the dog bath towels, so even if they were stained with dye — they were — she couldn’t reasonably complain about so very much.

When she saw me — four words, like I was the scolded puppy. “What did you do?”


The conversation with the stylist today.

“Do you want me to blow dry and round brush it for you?”

“No, thanks.”

It’s at one of those places where styling is an extra five bucks on top of the haircut. It’s not that I mind paying for the service.

“Can you just blow it dry without using the round brush? I’d like to see what it looks like when it’s dry, but I don’t have a round brush at home. And I’d like to see how my hair is going to look when I do it.”

She looks skeptical. “Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

Because that, and not any stylist magic, is a better approximation of the hair I’m going to live with for the next six to eight weeks.

She turns on the blow dryer.

And picks up the round brush anyway.

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I'm here. I like stuff. Some other stuff, I like less.

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15 comments on “Hair
  1. This is one of the reasons that I pretty consistently have been cutting my own hair since about 15. I hate that despite pictures, long winded verbal descriptions and whatever aid I can think of, stylists seem to use entirely different metrics than I do. The last time I got my hair cut, I could hear the judgement dripping in her voice as she asked me “who cut your hair last?” Despite my lack of technique, I get the hair I want, and if not, I can only blame myself.

    • Tori says:

      While I’m sometimes frustrated by what I see as genuine miscommunications, I also appreciate that those sort of issues can happen. But I’m not really seeing this one as being attributable to a genuine miscommunication, which is what bothers me extra about it.

      • Jessie says:

        I totally relate to this. When I was trying to cut my bob into a very short pixie, I must have paid for three different hair cuts where the stylist didn’t seem to believe me that I really wanted it short. I ended up with multiple too-long cuts that were neither edgy nor flattering. I swear I wanted it short! It led me to cutting my own hair which has been endlessly creative and satisfying.

  2. G says:

    How frustrating! I hate being in that situation where I ask the stylist to do something or not to do something and they don’t do/do it anyway and it’s like “Thanks for not listening to me! Now I have to live with what you did for 6 weeks.” (Like Jessie above, I always had problems with random stylists giving me cuts that were too conservative– I called it “mom hair”, no offense to moms…)

    Anyway, I gave up, and got a recommendation for a fancy salon with trendy stylists. It costs more, but I have a regular stylist and she knows my hair, and she cuts it so that it looks good no matter how little effort I put in. It’s amazing.

    But it’s one of those things where there is an “expert” and it’s hard to speak up against their authority if they’re doing something you don’t want…

    • Tori says:

      And also one of those things where it’s difficult to shop around. I mean, it can be done — but it takes time for the hair to grow back and to find a new place. And if the next one still doesn’t work out — well, I think it’s probably awkward to leave a salon mid-cut. ;)

  3. My childhood hair issues were exactly the same except I was forced to keep my hair long when I wanted it short. I was raised in a very strict patriarchal religion where conservative hair and dress were required. Yesterday, I died my hair in layers of pink and blue. I’m planning on dreads in the future. Agency!

    • Tori says:

      I’m always jealous of people who manage more intricate dye jobs like tips and layers. Swathing my whole head in the stuff is the best I could ever do!

  4. canbebitter says:

    I really hate getting my hair cut. It actually looks much better once I’ve managed to get out whatever product and styling they do to it on the day!

    • Tori says:

      Sometimes I like it; sometimes they go overboard for my taste. But yeah, it’s why I’ve started asking them a lot of the time — and always with a newer style — to limit the product/styling techniques to what I will actually do at home.

  5. Constant battle with my hair. It’s currently henna ginger, but it hasn’t been cut in about 9 months and that was by my sister! I’m always jealous of people with wonderfully dyed hair, like you I can only dye it one colour all over. I miss having turquoise hair, but it frazzled my hair so I went natural again.
    I had a hairdresser back at my parents who was amazing and could cut my hair brilliantly, but now I can’t afford her! Or to go to a decent salon, so I trim it myself and hope one day to find a decent hairdresser who isn’t going to cost the earth.

  6. Lindsay says:

    Your haircut is really cute!

    Hair was never a huge battleground for me, but I do relate somewhat to the part of your story where you always had to have it cut short as a child and being able to make your own hair choices was kind of a big deal, and very welcome. My childhood haircut was a shoulder-length pageboy, so the first thing I did was grow out the bangs, then grew out the whole thing to Ridiculous Length. Which is where it is now!

    (I always feel weird when I hear from people who equate long hair with childhood and short hair with maturity, because for me it was the opposite! Even though I know this is entirely a function of what kind of hairstyle/hair length your parents chose for you as a child, I still tend to read Very Long Hair as womanly and short hair as girlish. All the girls I admired and thought were beautiful and glamorous as a child had long hair.)

  7. Darcy says:

    In kind of the opposite story form yours: When I was 12 or so I got my fairly long hair chopped off and the stylist asked my mom for confermation that that was ok. My mom was all like “umm it’s her hair. She can do what she likes.”

    As I now keep my hair even shorter I always have to convince the stylist that yes, I do want the #2 clipper gaurd and yes I realize that I do not get the most feminie of hair cuts. On the other hand I do realise their caution because I’m sure peole will ask for things and then get mad at the hair cut. That being said, when you explicetly ask for say, not a round brush or the #2 clippers there is not excuse for them to not listen to you. Not cool.

    • Tori says:

      Yeah, I definitely get the caution and double-checking beforehand. Miscommunications do happen, and a lot of them — those involving scissors, clippers, or dye, especially — are not readily correctable. It makes sense to be sure of what the customer is asking for and to make sure they know what that will entail.

      It’s when communication is clear but disregarded that I’m not okay with it.

  8. mavenzelle says:

    I hate it when parents control their kids’ appearances. Teaching your daughter bodily autonomy starts with YOU. If she can’t say no to YOU, how is she ever supposed to say no to a guy? If her own HAIR isn’t hers, how can you argue that her body is?

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