If you were a package of coffee filters purchased one week ago…
…Where the heck would you be?!
One of my best features, of which I have been unabashedly proud my entire life, is my hair. It is silky, it is thick, it is so straight not even a professional perm lasts longer than the first wash, and it is ideally suited to my “wash it, brush it, rub it with a towel, and run out the door” lifestyle. It also grows insanely quickly.
I had long hair all through middle school and high school, cut my hair incredibly short senior year of high school and mourned for months, then proceeded to spend most of college with long hair. College, though, brought with it a sense that because I no longer had time to volunteer for things, and because I was paying $63,000 for tuition and couldn’t afford to give money, the least I could do was donate my hair every year or so to whichever group accepted the various lengths I was cutting off. I stopped during grad school and my first few years of working full-time because classy haircuts are ideal for interviews and a sense of professionalism.
Then, 2013 happened. I was so, so busy in my new job. I was so, so tight on cash because of my months of unemployment, my ongoing student loan payments, and the three years I’d spent working at a soulless for-profit college with no cost of living or merit increases, no title changes, and six additional jobs added to my duties that legitimately should have brought title and wage increases. I had no time, no money for nice salons, no energy for anything that wasn’t going to help pay my bills. I managed to afford a couple of trims but, here near Boston, a respectable salon that doesn’t make your skin crawl and make you think you might lose a kidney as well as an inch of hair costs about $30 for a trim and around $50 for anything substantial. I saved up and made a special appointment before my friends’ wedding because I wanted to look my best for it.
Things got better as I settled into my job and started making time for myself again, especially during 2014. I picked back up with volunteering opportunities, I rediscovered a number of hobbies, and I was finally able to move money into my savings account with each paycheck so that my loan payments wouldn’t automatically bounce.
I went in for haircuts periodically over the last couple of years but there was always a reason to not cut it back to my favored length. It was getting colder, I wanted to keep using my pretty new hair clip, I’d already made it this far into the summer so why not keep going…! By July 2014 I’d decided that it was worthwhile to keep growing my hair out and donate it again, just like I had in college.
I learned something in this experience.
I no longer have the patience for long hair. The length of time spent washing it, the tangles in the brushing, the inspections for split ends, the twice-per-shower clearing of the drain!
I’ve been wanting to cut it all off since about last October, but it wasn’t quite long enough then, and winter was approaching. Then January happened, and then February, and Boston was buried under snow and ice and the cold weather stayed and stayed and stayed. I kept getting compliments about my hair, how nice it looked, how amazingly long it was, and I kept replying, “Thanks, but it’s going away.” Unfortunately, I am chronically bad at carrying a hat around and longer the cold and wind lingered, the longer I was glad I had some built-in insulation to tuck into my coats.
Last week, I checked noaa.gov just before leaving work and abruptly realized that the temperature had been above freezing for two solid weeks. Time!! It was finally time!!
This was my hair at 8:30 Saturday morning. I did one last, ceremonial, deep conditioning treatment. I used a blow dryer for the about the third time in a year. I looked at myself in the mirror as I brushed my teeth and I said, “Hair, you’re so pretty. I’m so glad you’re going away.”
And then I sang Fanfare for the Common Man as I walked to the salon.
This is my hair as of 9:45 Saturday morning.
I think I shocked the stylist. She kept asking subtle questions while gathering my hair into tails to cut. “Something just above the shoulder would look nice, don’t you think?” “Should we move the band down a bit?” “Would you like to give eleven inches? We can do the standard ten.”
I finally made an um noise until she met my eyes in the mirror, at which point I instructed (rather fiercely), “Take as much as you can.”
My comfort zone is chin-length. I like the way my hair is short enough to move freely but long enough that it frames my face. Apparently, not many girls and women who cut significant amounts of hair off are prepared for the reality of the change. I, on the other hand, was reveling in it from the moment the stylist first brought scissors to hair. When she asked if I was ready, I responded with a heartfelt PLEASE! Salon employees kept pausing as they passed to tell me how nice the cut was looking and what a good thing I was doing by donating my hair. I kept thinking, “You really don’t need to reassure me, I am so happy to finally be getting rid of it,” but I can definitely understand that some women would need that support. For my part, it just made me even happier!
I’d taken along a plastic baggie to put the donation in but the batch of hair just sat there, on the counter, shiny and pretty and soft-looking, and I just sat there, in the chair, beaming at the pile of hair, for the entire time the stylist was working her magic. I probably would have looked far less maniacal if the hair had gone into the bag and into my purse when it first came off but it was so deliciously disturbing to just gaze at a pile of human hair and realize that strangers would have no knowledge of its origins. Just a supply of human hair. Don’t worry about it. I have my sources…!
After the hair cut, I went and got a celebratory latte. Because I’d forgotten to ask the stylist to measure it, I went and bought a tape measure for that sole purpose. I absolutely delayed going to the post office just so I could maximize the amount of time the words I am walking around with a bag of human hair were applicable.
Fourteen inches of hair. Roughly 19 months since my last real hair cut.
I am incredibly delighted with my shorter hair. No longer will I pull on my scalp every time I lean back in my desk chair! No more shall I wince when I move my head on the bus and my hair gets caught in loose screws and bolts. I will be able to go more than a week without needing to clean my brush! For the last couple of months, I’ve been looking around at other women on the subway and wondering why they were doing this to themselves. Especially girls whose hair is not so straight that an entire bottle of hairspray only holds the work of a curling iron for a couple of hours, whose hair needs mousses and gels and straightening irons and pomades.
My hair is on its way to Locks of Love, in Florida, to be made into wigs for children suffering from diseases and syndromes and medical treatments that cause their own hair to fall out and stop growing. Being a child is hard enough – no one should have to deal with the questions and worries of being the only bald kid in school. I still don’t have much money, I still haven’t got much time, but I have lots of hair that just keeps on keeping on. I will probably grow it out and donate it again, more than once, and help provide a child who is suffering and struggling and fighting for her life with a head full of soft, real hair.
But…it will probably be a while. That or I need to drink a lot more alcohol than I usually do and wipe the memory of the frustration and impatience out of my brain! The good news is: all kinds of hair are needed. All kinds of hair are accepted. Groups exist to help make wigs for the sufferers of all kinds of hair loss, of all kinds of ages. Even groups who don’t make wigs with short or gray hair, like Locks of Love, accept those in donations and sell off what is unusable to help offset the costs off manufacturing and administrative operations. It’s worth doing a little research and deciding where to send my hair whenever I’m ready again.
In summary, I had a Saturday morning exceedingly well spent.
Although…I do kind of wish I could still grin mysteriously at a stranger and whisper, “Want to see my bag of human hair?”