This is a story about finding yourself, and losing yourself again. Kind of on purpose.
I used to LOVE long hair as a little girl.
I wish I could say that I was a cool tomboy that climbed trees and ran around with the boys (because that’s apparently the “cool” way to grow up) but the truth is that I was the biggest girlie girl in the world. Even my brief “I want to be a boy” phase was cut short by the realisation that being a boy was likely to involve short hair. Every summer of my early childhood, my mother dragged me to the hairdresser against my will and gave me a Beatles cut “because it’s summer and it’s too hot for long hair”.
Readers, this was Russia. Not a Mediterranean or African country. It wasn’t that hot. Luckily, my grandmother took matters into her capable hands and conjured up the best French braids I’ve ever seen – no magazine editorial, no hairstylist has since come close to what my grandma was able to accomplish in five (quite painful) minutes. Summer hair problem solved. My life with long hair had begun. And what a love affair it would become.
I grew up with the idea that long hair equalled feminine, glamorous, womanly. Despite my many battles with my hair – for many years I was under the impression that my hair simply could not be curled or straightened. That it was meant to just live its own life and drive me crazy – I never even contemplated going short(er). I loved the feeling of it cascading down my shoulders. I loved the variety it offered. It almost made up for having to get up thirty minutes earlier on the mornings when I had to wash it and torturing myself with an hour of washing, blow-drying and straightening…only for the whole creation to morph into a frizzy mess as soon as I left the house. Humidity, a frequent factor in most countries where I’ve lived, was not a friend of my locks.
As all good things, my love affair with long hair was always meant to come to an end.
If you’ve been following my Editor’s Notes for a while, you know that I’m addicted to change. And sooner or later, this had to involve my appearance. I love tattoos, but they are expensive. I would love to go blonde, but am put off by the high maintenance and once again, cost. But a haircut? Those things can be obtained with a £20 Groupon voucher.
When I first went shoulder-length, I was sublimely happy. About as happy as I was when I got my first (and so far only) tattoo. Sitting down in the chair at Lipstick and Gunpowder in Brighton (plugging the hell out of this salon. They are fabulous) with hair wizard Immy, whom I would go to all the time if only I could afford her, and feeling my new hair swish around my shoulders was a revelation – especially when Immy showed me how to curl my hair with a straightener – she even let me video her while she was doing it. Serious life skills, people. Turns out, I had been getting it all wrong those times that I had whined to my friends that I couldn’t do it – that my “curls” would end up all angular and weird. I had been starting at the bottom – clueless newbie – when you obviously start at the top, and move outward and down. Duh! Finally, the person that I had always wanted to be stared back at me from the mirror, incredulous. I left the salon feeling high on my own looks.
As time went by, I cheated on Immy with other, cheaper hairdressers (not ashamed to admit it – I can’t afford £45 for a trim) but my style remained intact. Shoulder length, breezy, mostly curled but sometimes straight or put up into an effortless bun. Finally I felt like I had mastered my own hair.
So why, I hear you ask, did you go and ruin it, doofus?
The truth is, I have absolutely no idea.
I was sitting in that chair again, at the cheap yet lovely hairdresser’s, two weeks ago, with the idea of just going for a trim. After all, my hair even looked good in a ponytail that day! I had officially reached my #hairgoals. But something took over. Might have been my daredevil spirit again, because as those scissors were snipping away, I could hear myself thinking: why not? Why not go even shorter? Why not try the length I’ve been eyeing for years, and see if I could have another hair revelation? Maybe this is who I really am. Maybe it was me all along.
Turns out…it wasn’t.
The way this kind of article traditionally goes is that the person in question loved their new hair and will never go back to her former long locks. Well, that’s not me. It took me the walk home to realise that I passionately hated the length and cut – it looks like I have a bowl on my head and no matter what I do with it, I look like a matronly Mature Lady. Please note that this was in no way the fault of the stylist – she kept warning me that it was short, and I waved off her warnings in that dumb daredevil mode that had taken over my being (although a part of me suspects that Immy would never have allowed for this to happen).
I wasn’t devastated and I didn’t cry – at my age, you’ve had your share of shallow and profound life experiences that teach you that ultimately it’s just hair – but I do scream a little on the inside every time I look in the mirror.
Comments I’ve had since I cut my hair:
“Hair is not teeth. It grows back” – my mother. This is perhaps the best hair advice anyone has ever given me.
“This is why I don’t go to hairdressers” – friend who is lucky enough to possess the talent of cutting her own hair. If I were to attempt this, I would have to steal my husband’s beanies for a month
“All fascinating women had short hair! Liz Taylor, Audrey Hepburn” – acquaintance who has super-long, absolutely envy-inducing, gorgeous hair (although she does have a point about the fascinating women!)
“Okay, but please don’t go shorter” – my husband, a notorious hater of short hair on women, who not-so-secretly wishes I would go back to past-the-shoulder-blades length
“Stop! It looks great. Why are you complaining?” – the friend who wakes up and does nothing with her hair, yet it looks amazing
“I agree that you look better in longer hair, but you’re brave for trying different things!” – my best friend, whom I wanted to hug after this message. It’s such a relief that I can always rely on her to be honest yet uplifting
“Let me tell you about the time I shaved my head” – my boss, who probably looked as devastatingly cool while growing out the shave as she does in just about any other style
“I chopped my hair off after the US election. It wasn’t ‘me’. Your ‘me’ hair will return” – Vilda’s Beauty Editor Mary, whose comment I carry with me as a mantra right now: my ‘me’ hair will return, and I will never let it go again. Ever.
In the meantime, I will be getting creative with my straighteners – thank you Immy for the skills – and honouring my grandmother by French-braiding what is left of my hair. I am also currently trying the inversion method, and consoling myself with the fact that my hair grows at the speed of light.
Tell me your hair stories! Have you found your “me” hair? Have you had a haircut that you are regretting?
This month I am listening to…the Runaways, to channel a rebellious spirit that I’m trying to apply to my hopeless hair
This month I am reading…Love x Style x Life by Garance Dore – why did I not read this sooner??
This month I am watching…The Good Place on Netflix
This month I am planning...to speak about “Fashion as Activism” at Brighton VegFest – come and see me if you are in town! And don’t judge me for my in-fashionable hairdo.
All photos by David Camilli