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How Cutting My Hair Changed My Life

How Cutting My Hair Changed My Life

It started when Kaley Cuoco cut her hair into a pixie cut. “You know, you could pull that look off,” my sister said to me. I looked in the mirror and quickly dismissed the idea. “I would never be brave enough to do that,” I told her.

Around January, I got my usual hairdo– long layers, cut off the dead ends, use the scissors to thin. I had the stylist go a little shorter this time, so my hair brushed my shoulders instead of my chest. For a moment I flirted with the idea of chopping it all off, but then I French-braided it and remembered I love long hair and thick waves. The next day, I gazed at myself over the bathroom sink at work and thought, “Oh no. I could never do it.”

But the seed was planted, and the thing with seeds is that they are meant to grow.

A few weeks later I was perusing the world of Instagram and saw a picture that shocked me. It was of a sister of a friend, 16 years old with braces and dark-rimmed glasses. All of the pictures I had seen of her before were clearly of a teenager. In this new shot, her hair wasn’t long and blonde anymore; it was short, edgy, and darkly punk. She was stunningly transformed into a woman.

I took to Pinterest. I must have looked at 200 photos of haircuts before I stumbled across one of Anne Hathaway with her dark, razor-sharp pixie cut. She sat at a streetside cafe table with massive black cat eye sunglasses and red lipstick. She is Anne, so of course she looked amazing. But the picture exuded something else — something sexy and confident without being traditional. I craved that look, but more importantly, I wanted that attitude.

So I brought the picture to a hair salon I had never been to before and trusted a man named Vincent with my long locks, safe and boring since middle school. There comes a time in every girl’s life when she is tired of being safe. This was it for me. This was my big risk.

“If you don’t like it, it will always grow back!” my mother assured me. Although kind, this is not a helpful statement when you are about to cut off eight inches of hair. Whether we recognize it or not, hair is a symbol of femininity and identity. We burn, scrunch, comb, clean, and dye our hair regularly— and for what? To represent who we are. To look good. To feel good. If this went bad, part of my style — part of myself — would be difficult for a while. Confidence should come from within, but we are lying to ourselves if we say that how we look doesn’t play a part.

It didn’t go bad. I fell in love with short hair instantaneously, but more importantly, I fell in love with doing something that scared me. As Vincent took the scissors to the inches of my prior female identity, I looked down at my phone, my lock screen background being the quote we have all seen before: “Life begins outside of your comfort zone.” I knew I was ready to begin a new chapter. For some people, a new chapter’s first sentence is about moving out or getting a new job. My first sentence was, “Cut it all off.”

I look a lot different without the inches and inches of big, heavy waves tumbling around my face. I don’t lose hair elastics anymore because I don’t buy them. I haven’t brushed my hair in months because I don’t need to. Sometimes, I blow dry my hair by opening the car window on the way to work. That’s the kind of person I am now.

It is an intense kind of freedom to look at advertisements for hair products that feature perfect, overwhelming curls and know that you don’t need any of that to be a woman. Or sexy or beautiful. It does all come from within, but it takes a risk to open up that door to inside.

When I opened that scary door, I discovered confidence, bravery, and a new way of approaching female identity. I ultimately got what I wanted from that Anne Hathaway picture — feeling like someone new.

Of course, a pixie cut does not a new person make. But taking risks — that does make a new person.

Hair does always grow. But you have to cut it first.

About the Author

Alexandra Caulway

Alexandra Caulway is 23 and from a town in Massachusetts you have never heard of. She graduated from Assumption College in 2014 with a Bachelor's degree in English with a concentration in writing and mass communications. A marketing professional by day, she writes in every spare minute. Alexandra can often be found running, shopping, or drinking green tea with extra sugar. Someday, she hopes to be signing her best-selling novel in a city bookstore.