By Abigail Beck
My hair has not remained at a consistent length since my sophomore year of high school. After years of long, dead hair, I decided one day after school to go to a Great Clips and have them cut off nearly all of my bleached ends. Prior to cutting my hair, I remember texting my mom and asking if I was allowed to, as if cutting off a few inches would fundamentally change who I was as a person. My waist-length hair now rested against my collarbone, a tiny moment in my descent toward an inescapable haircutting frenzy.
A few years ago, I went into a Fantastic Sam’s and showed my hairdresser a picture of a girl who I wanted to look like. Unfortunately, the haircut ended up looking like a slightly grown-out bowl cut. Coupled with my high school uniform of khakis and polos, I looked fairly similar to the stereotypical British schoolboy.
No matter how many people told me they thought the haircut looked beautiful or fit my face shape well, nothing anyone said would bring me solace. “They must be lying,” I would think to myself, so sure that everyone pitied me and were only being kind to me because they felt bad for the girl with the terrible hair.
In the beginning, cutting my hair felt freeing. Now, it felt like a sort of prison. I told myself that if a haircut couldn’t make me feel pretty, then there must have been something fundamentally wrong with me.
Was I too loud? Too quiet? Too boring? Too passionate? Not passionate enough? Was I trying too hard? Was I trying too little?
These interrogations of myself were suffocating. Nonetheless, they became a part of my daily routine. At every opportunity, I would look into my bathroom mirror and relentlessly criticize myself. I came to one conclusion: nothing I do would ever be enough.
People joke about hating themselves all the time, but true self-hatred is something that is nearly impossible to understand unless you’ve felt it before. For me, although the hatred came from within myself, I blamed it on the haircut. It was too much to carry that I just hated myself for the sake of it.
The summer going into junior year, I started to grow my hair out. For a long time, I was convinced that the summer of 2019 was the best summer of my life. I worked at a smoothie shop with my best friend, I exercised every day and I was happy. I now understand that I was conditioning myself to feel happy to distract myself from my own harshness. In truth, I was exhausted all the time. If I wasn’t working, I was at the gym. If I wasn’t at the gym, I was staying up to the point that I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore. I was pushing myself far past any reasonable limits because I couldn’t stand the idea of being alone with myself.
Of going back to the bathroom mirror.
Of repeating the same mantras.
Of coming to terms with the fact that I completely loathed myself.
The next time I would cut my hair would be in the spring of 2021. I’d left it alone for a while; I let it grow, I let it heal. For the first time in a long time, I loved my hair. I was starting to like the way I talked to people. I was starting to feel love from others and, most importantly, love for myself.
Every time I revisited my bathroom mirror, I would take myself in, little by little. Take in my arms, my legs, my waist, my jaw, my eyes and, finally, my hair.
Strand by strand, and day by day.
All images from Pinterest