The day after I cut my hair, people wanted to know whether I was gay or was going to kill myself.
For most of my life, my hair reached down to the middle of my back — on the rare occasions it came out of my usual ponytail or bun. One April night during my sophomore year of high school, I tagged along with my mother to see her hairdresser, Cindy. I had grown up knowing Cindy, and it was she who would cut my hair into a short pixie.
We handed Cindy a photo of Emma Watson, whose look I was hoping to mimic, and she was more excited than I thought someone could be about cutting hair. She told the other hairdressers, and some patrons overheard as well, and I saw them all decide to stay for however long it took to change my look.
I didn’t expect it to take two hours, but it did. She spent a good 30 minutes at the very end picking up and cutting what seemed like individual strands of hair to get the perfect style.
“I’ve never seen a big cut like this,” I overheard in the salon.
“Wow, she’s brave. I could never do that.”
By the end, they had all gathered around my chair to watch. I had never felt more in the spotlight than in that moment.
Cindy told me to move my head and look at the different angles to make sure I was happy with it. My neck cracked because I had been holding it still for so long.
Somehow I already felt lighter.
My hair no longer weighed me down, and I suddenly realized I could recognize the person I was seeing in the mirror.
I got out of the seat and walked over to my mom, who was the only person in the whole salon who didn’t watch. There were cries of, “Here she comes! Oh, you won’t believe what you see.”
She looked up from her magazine and smiled.
“You look like me, now,” she said.
“But you look like you more.”
The next day in school, it took my friends a few moments to understand what I had done. They squinted at me, saying there was something different. No one realized what it was until one of them finally screamed that I had cut my hair.
Then came the questions why.
“Because I never use it,” I would reply.
And I really didn’t. It wasn’t thick or a nice color, and it couldn’t hold curls or survive a straightener, so it always sat tangled at the top of my head. But through the rest of the day, I noticed the looks and heard the whispered conversations that people thought were quieter than they actually were.
A lot of people told me I looked like Anne Hathaway, and asked if I cut my hair to look like her in “that musical about sad people.” A few people were rude enough to actually walk up to me and ask if I was a lesbian now. A couple teachers told me to stay after class and asked if I was doing OK. They had noticed my drastic change in appearance and wanted to make sure everything was OK at home.
I told them everything was fine, and I was happy. I wasn’t having any kind of identity crisis. If anything, I was now more sure of my identity. My mom was right.
It was when I started to really feel like me.
Julie Christie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ChristieJules.
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