Chopped: A short hair story


Back in July I was lounging around our beach house reading InStyle with Anne Hathaway on the cover when I had a revelation.
“I want to cut my hair short,” I proclaimed aloud to my sister.
“Like how short?”
“Like to here…” and illustrated the length that came just below the nape of my neck.
“I think you’ll miss it.”
“I think I want to do it.”
Accustomed to my whims, my sister ignored me. She probably thought I’d get bored with the idea, realize that I love my long hair and let it go.
But I am impulsive to a certain point. The next day on the beach I called my salon to make an appointment.
“Thank you for calling the James Joseph Studio.
“Hi I need to make an appointment for a cut and color.”
*Extended pause where I was supposed to say when I wanted to come in*
“Wh-what time would you like to come in?”
Oh God. Did I really want to do this? I’d been growing my hair for so long!
*Deep breath* “I’ve been growing my hair out since 2003 and I want to cut it short so I really need someone who is experienced with cutting long hair into short hair and I need someone who is nice. And cool.” *exhale*
“Ok hon. Well Kylene is really good. And she has an opening on Tuesday at 6pm.”
“Perfect!” I hung up the phone and basked in the sun, my ponytail drooping over the beach chair.
“Oh, honey, I’m glad you’re gonna cut your hair.” That was my mother, The Donna. The Donna hates long hair. When I was in second grade she had my hair chopped to boy short length. When I went into school the day after my hair slaughter, the kids asked me if I had a sex change operation over night because I looked like a boy. I cried for a month straight.

chopped Chopped: A short hair story

Dance recital circa 1986. My sister (L)
and I (R) rocking out our bowl cuts.

My childhood had been a series of bowl cuts and/or close cut crops. If you look at Polaroids of me you can’t really tell if I’m a boy or a girl. I always imagine the awkwardness strangers must have felt when they came up to me, saw me with my short hair and dressed in a white shirt and brown corduroys and not knowing what gender I was. Sort of when you see a newborn baby dressed in yellow. You ask the parents, “What’s its name?” I often wonder if my mother ever got that when I was around.
I tried to get into the long hair phase but then the curse of Friends arrived and everyone was getting the “Rachel.” Caving to peer pressure, I too instructed my hairdresser to give me the Rachel. Little did I realize that I had a round face and hair that mushroomed in the humidity and not a personal hair stylist to fix it for me. The Rachel shag was a disaster and I vowed that I would never cut my hair again. Until my senior year of college. Again, on another whim I went to a random salon and the guy cut my hair into the shape of a football helmet. That’s when I really vowed to never cut my hair short again. Until now.

Tuesday rolled around. I walked into the studio and immediately felt at ease. Kylene was my age and really cool.
“Ok so, you want to cut your hair to about here?” Her hands hovered above my shoulders.
“Yes. But not a bob. I cannot have my hair be in a bob, do you understand?
She laughed. “Got it. No bobs.”
“Mmmmkay thanks.”
“Ok. I’m just going to sort of rough cut it.”
She put my hair into a little pony tail and *CHOP*
“Holy ****!” I exclaimed
I looked down and saw scattered pieces of my long dark chestnut hair all over the hard wood floor. Oh dear God. What had I done?
She had me turned away from the mirror and I constantly tried to strain my neck to see what she was doing and she constantly had to snap my head back into place.
“I’m sorry. I’m not trying to be a pain in the ass. It’s just…I just… ”
“It’s ok.”
“Ok…but please…just don’t make it too short. I don’t want to look like I have a mushroom hat on.”
She laughed. “You’re fabulous.”
We were in the middle of talking when she flung me around to face the mirror.
“Well? What do you think!?”
I clapped my hand over my mouth.
“I think it looks amazing. It’s so chic!”
“It’s so short!”
I reached to the back of my head and all I felt was air. My hand had to travel a little further up to above my shoulders before I reached actual hair.
She started the blow dryer and I immediately started to cry. (I had always heard stories of girls who cried after they cut their long hair short and always thought how stupid that sounded. Now I TOTALLY got it.) and texted everyone I knew to tell them that I had just chopped off four inches of my hair and that I was crying.
I thanked Kylene for dealing with me and assured her that I loved it even though I felt like I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
I walked out of the salon very self aware of my neck and shoulders. I was so used to the thick mane of dark brown hair acting as a security blanket that I started to freak out. I called a friend and asked if I could stop by to borrow her hair straightener. When she opened the door she shrieked and said how much she loved it and her boyfriend concurred. After a while of staring at myself in the mirror I began to love it and couldn’t believe that I had my hair that long for all that time.
As you can imagine, my mother was thrilled.