Following an affair with peroxide that left my hair ragged and its texture closer to steel wool than actual human hair, I was faced with no choice but to lose several inches of the sorry stuff to the salon floor. I’ve always considered myself to be someone with pretty good self-esteem, so I did not anticipate the confidence-shattering shock that would occur as a result of, of all things, a haircut.
It wasn’t that the cut itself was bad; it was just that my hair was significantly shorter than I’d grown accustomed to. I emerged from the salon totally cool with the situation. It was nowhere near the middle-of-my-back length I’d worn for most of my life, but it wasn’t that short—it still brushed my shoulders. Besides, how vain am I that the length of my hair could possibly affect my quality of life?
As it turns out, very vain. Very vain indeed.
It didn’t dawn on me immediately that the timing of my big chop happened to coincide with the point in time when I stopped feeling “like myself.” My once extraordinarily high-maintenance hair now took only 20 minutes to wash and dry, but all of my clothes looked bad on me, and I felt like I’d gained ten pounds and become significantly less charming. Nothing had really changed—not my wardrobe, not my weight, not my personality—except for my hair, but it wasn’t until I started waking up in a cold sweat after dreaming about my long hair that I put two and two together.
Yes, it was a blow to my faith in myself as a grounded and reasonable person. But it was also a revelation, and I needed to do something about it. So do I seek therapy for my inappropriate degree of attachment to a bunch of dead cells that once hung off my head? Absolutely not. I get extensions. Duh.
With my tail between my legs, but my optimism and hope for the future fully restored, I haul ass to RPZL. Most salons make you do a consultation weeks in advance before they special-order your extensions, but RPZL keeps options in-house, which means you can walk into the salon and have a full head of extensions within a couple of hours (yeah, it takes a while), no prep necessary. I’m a big fan of instant gratification (read: a person unable to wait for anything), so this was a huge coup for me. You can even order some of their offerings from the comfort of your own couch, which is ideal for anyone who doesn’t live near the salon or who just wants to receive a bunch of human hair in the mail.
My lovely stylist, Sammy, sits me down with an iPad and a glass of red wine and proceeds to use something that looks like a hot glue gun to attach 110 individual sections of hair to my head. The advanced keratin extensions take nearly three hours, but I love iPads, sitting down, cab sav, and people touching my hair (so soothing!), so the time is a non-issue.
When I finally leave the salon (after thanking Sammy profusely for giving me my new lease on life), I have 14 new inches of gorgeous, wavy, voluminous hair … and I feel insane. I feel like a pageant queen. I feel like a Kardashian. I feel like a porn star. I feel like Farrah Abraham, a failed porn star. But the over-the-top, oh-my-god-I-am-so-ridiculous feeling fades quickly, and I start feeling fabulous. I have something I can twirl and push coyly over one shoulder and flip dramatically. I feel like a woman again, and it is totally all in my head. “You look amazing!” my boyfriend tells me enthusiastically when I meet him afterward, in a bar where the lights are way too dim and where he’s been drinking beer and playing trivia with his friends for four hours.
Still, I think he’s probably right.
I can’t speak much to inner beauty or how it’s bad to be vain (is it really?), but something as simple as hair extensions has had a real and positive impact on the way I see myself—and the way I see other people seeing me. Feeling good about the way you look is such a fickle thing, especially for women. If having long hair is what it takes for me to feel fully confident with my appearance at this point in my life, shallow as it may be, then why the hell not have extensions?
Besides, it’s totally been a learning experience: I now know that I will never cut my hair short again. Please quote me on that.