Haircut Hindsight

Design by Sara Offer

The lockdown of 2020 was a time for transformation. As my friends took it upon themselves to enter new hair phases, I recognized how one’s hair reflects something to the outside eye. A slicked-back ponytail expresses a sense of professionalism, colored layers serve as an artistic canvas, braids can carry cultural heritage. But, for me, what conveys the greatest sense of power is short hair. Not only is it a convenient choice, it is also a fashion statement. Short hairstyles tie an ensemble together, showcase one’s expressions, and exude confidence.  

I strove for that effortless attitude. On me, however, my overgrown, stretched-out curls were shouting “effortless” in a “I put in zero effort to look presentable” way. It was time to make a change. I entered the hair salon, accompanied by my mom for support, determined to take action. The hairdresser fed into my delusions by showing me pictures of curly haired models and saying “Look at that volume. If you want to look like that, 2 cm is not enough, you must cut here” he gestured above my shoulders. High off the thought of my transformation, I gave him free reign. 

As I heard the snap of the scissors and witnessed the first lock descending on the ground, I came to my senses.  Panic. I forgot to consider that the length he pointed at meant double on my hair scale. My frenzied eyes met with my moms’ through the mirror and I tried expressing my alarm by stammering in elementary Arabic. She only responded with a what-the-fuck-are-you-trying-to-say look. Great. 

All I could do was freeze and watch as the hairdresser shred the last bits of my self-esteem apart on the blades of the scissors. As he revealed my new haircut, hair bouncing back up right below my ears and two corkscrew “layers” awkwardly framing my face, I had to summon all the remaining strength within me to muster a crisp smile. My hair did not naturally possess the volume that makes a short haircut frame the face like a graceful halo. In fact, the flatness was inherent, which made the haircut look disastrous.

I was subconsciously expecting a wig to come off.  Despite the fact I looked sheep-like, my curls never allowed me to partake in gregarious long-haired fun like brushing long locks (quadruple in volume) or sporadically cutting bangs (they would just retract). Cutting my curls short was no exception to that list of hair impossibilities. 

I believe that even though I secretly knew the possible repercussions, part of me wanted to have control over my curls. My hair always had a mind of its own, and it often felt like it was making the decisions rather than me. One day, there could be perfect ringlets. The next, frizzy strands and unpredictable volume. My hair defied my attempts to tame it, to shape it into something I could handle. It was strange to realize that while everyone else seemed to understand their hair’s nuances, my curls remained an enigma. I envied those who could effortlessly change hairstyles without being concerned about hair rebellion. Cutting my hair meant taking a stand against my strands. But the outcome further proved that my hair would not stop baffling me. 

From my current perspective, I could say that my awful bob was a great way of challenging myself; but, honestly, if I could go back and snatch the scissors away, I would in a second. I don’t need a haircut to make a statement with my hair: the curls do that already, even if I will never know what they are trying to say.

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