Active Voice Column: The Experiment That Just needed to End
by P. Kristen Enos
(All rights reserved)
I don’t remember the exact date of my first real haircut, but I remember the circumstances. I was eight years old and up until then Mom controlled my hair length and fashion sense, which was as girlie as possible. By then I had foregone wearing dresses on a regular basis, but my hair was still (relatively) down past my waist.
Mom had dropped me off at the salon and went off to do her errands. So that meant that I was in a position to tell the hairdresser how I wanted my hair cut. I walked out of the place with a Dorothy Hamill cut, and the rest was the personal history. I don’t remember Mom’s reaction but she probably wasn’t really pleased, with that cut and the fact that I continued to keep it short.
However, if that haircut hadn’t been then, I’m sure it would have happened when I had started my hard-core involvement in sports a couple of years later.
Apart from one time in high school where I grew my hair long enough to have a body perm as an experiment that made my mother break down in tears of joy, I pretty much kept my hair short and practical. I would regularly get my cut every month or so, with the longest intervals being two months, before my hair would just drive me nuts.
That’s not to say I’ve had constant comments from people (i.e., usually parents) about how I should grow my hair long (and wear make-up) but my stubborn and practical nature dictated the shortness. And being mistaken for a boy, and then eventually a man, didn’t deter me. It happened so frequently that I let those moments roll off my back with nothing more than a moment of internal amusement and responding politely as appropriate which was usually a “thank you”. In fact, I was even more entertained if the person realized they made a mistake and how they reacted to that. Ironically, 9 out of 10 times when I’ve hit the two month interval and decided to get a haircut, it would be the next day (before my actual cut), where I would have a public encounter with someone calling me “Sir”. I realized that it doesn’t matter to get upset about such encounters because I certainly wasn’t insecure in my female gender.
I loved it when I finally found a hairdresser at Supercuts who was appalled when I had longer haircut intervals and promptly gave me the cut that usually had to argue for: number 3 clippers on the side, bangs ending just above my eyebrows and everything else just blended in. I came to jokingly refer to it amongst me and my friends as Dyke Haircut #2.
So around Fall of 2009, I was struck by the thought that now being over 40, I was accepting the fact that my handful of gray hairs would no doubt increase sooner rather than later. With the acknowledgement of aging, the idea of growing my hair out again for one final hurrah slowly grew into a personal challenge.
After one attempt to get a haircut that would accommodate a longer look and still keep out of my face (yes, going into mullet-land), I simply stopped cutting my hair. And what followed was simply a year and a half of self-inflicted masochism.
The biggest reason why I always kept my hair short was that I simply hated having something on my face – which is also the reason why I never wore make-up. As the hair eventually grew longer and started to prickle my eyes, cheeks, mouth, etc., I became very agitated. This was especially torturous as a former hives sufferer who had haunted feelings of a break-outs that would make me itch like mad.
I also don’t put any product in my hair to keep it out of my face or to bother with any fashion effort because that just isn’t my thing and I wasn’t about to spend the extra time in my daily routine. When around the six months’ mark of my hair growth, I remember walking into Target to buy hair accessories (mainly to keep my bangs out of my face) and realizing that I had no idea how to use most of them.
So as my hair grew longer and longer, more and more I wore a hat in public (but not at work because that violated corporate dress code), and a headband once I got home. I begrudgingly marveled at the fact that my hair actually had weight to it, and combined with the trying to keep the bangs out of my face at work, I noticed I started to keep my head tilted to the side.
And frankly, the hair only looked really good one random day a week that I could never figure out the cause or circumstances, which made the whole thing not worth it in my mind.
Once the one year mark finally passed, I was determined to take commemorative photos just to prove that I did it. Plus, I knew they could be handy for publicity for my self-publishing projects. Unfortunately, because of the idea of using them for formal pictures, I then had a limited circumstance: hair looking decent, nice setting indoor setting like a fancy hotel room, and I would be the one to take the pictures via self-photography means.
And every time those circumstances would come around – about once a month or so, I would be struck by a facial blemish. Pissed me off every time!
So months and months kept going by until I had reached the year and a half mark. I always threatened that my hair would be gone to those people who would comment about how long it had become. It happened so often that I’m sure people were thinking I was joking.
In an extended weekend in Vegas in March of this year, I finally told myself that I needed to end this madness before I just pulled the hair out in fistfuls. Since no zits appeared, I spent a half hour in my hotel taking my commemorative shots, and then searched the internet for the nearest Supercuts.
When I approached the salon, I remembered my usual battle of arguing with the stylist over how short to cut my hair. This time, I wasn’t going to take chances.
As soon as my stylist walked me over to the chair and asked if I wanted to take advantage of the complimentary shampoo they were currently offering, I stopped her and told her that she needed to see my driver’s license. I whipped out from my wallet and handed it to her. Despite being a woman who dressed in black with tattoos and not having natural blonde hair, her eyes widened at my picture.
I said simply, “I want that haircut back.”
She looked momentarily hesitant and then said with a swallow, “All right, we can do this… Yes, we can do this.”
So when I sat down and watched her put the apron on me, I noticed that she had detailed tattoos of salon scissors on the inside of both forearms. Normally I take such things in stride but this time I was compelled to ask “Are those real?”
She answered that they were and she had gotten them when she had attended salon school.
I was somewhat comforted by the idea that my stylist was a woman so committed to the art of haircutting that she wanted it permanently advertised on her body.
So she grabbed the entire back of my hair and executed a swift and smooth cut all the way across. After she unceremoniously dropped the locks on the floor, I noted and commented that it looked like something had crawled there and died. As poetic as that was, I was briefly concerned about making someone really laugh when they’re holding scissors centimeters from your head.
Now as the hair was cut away, I literally felt this weight lift from my head and shoulders. My entire posture felt completely relaxed and normal again. When it was over, I was beaming with a smile from ear to ear.
I gave her a larger than normal tip and thanked her for not arguing with me on how short I wanted the cut.
She actually admitted that if I hadn’t shown her my driver’s license, she would have been a lot more reluctant. With that, she gave me her business card at which point I found out her name was Brittany and that she was actually the manager.
After that, I felt like I had survived a year and a half of hair drama. And I made sure to go for my haircut at the two month interval at the most.
Brittany also did my second haircut and she asked if I had given up on the idea of growing it out. I simply stated that it was an experiment that needed to end.
Though, the final irony of all this is that in the following two months of short hair again, I was never referred to or mistaken for being a man.
However, after my getting my second short haircut in row, I was at the Orange County airport two days later going through the security checkpoint. A TSA agent had just validated both my driver’s license and my ticket before wishing me “Have a safe flight, sir” at which I replied politely thank you. No response at a possible mistake.
. . . Yes, I know. The comments are just so obvious.