Rite of Passage – Shea
So here’s what happened…
I had been plotting this hairstyle change for a long, long time. I bought hair magazines, studying all the styles and imagining how they’d look on me. My hair had reached mid-back, and I liked it that length, but I also relished the idea of chopping it all off. Of course, it was my secret desire to just take it in a ponytail or braid and whack it all off. But I knew I couldn’t do that. The thought of short hair was horrid. I was the sort of girl who’d worn her hair long all her life.
Of course, I never brought up my desires to any of my friends. I liked to talk about hair. I liked to discuss other people’s changes in hairstyles. But I never mentioned my feelings. I think I had justified it to a desire to just be in that chair, with those scissors. I don’t think I actually wanted to live with the hairstyle. Maybe it was my own personal version of sadomasochism. I wanted to cause myself this trauma because I knew that in the few seconds that it took for the damage to be done, I would feel incredible.
So I never told my friends about my desire to cut my hair, for fear that they would actually make me go through with it. I tied it back all the time and kept it out of the conversation.
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It was the start of a new year at school, and I was visiting my friend Lisa in her brand new apartment, along with my other good friend Megan. We had a bit of wine, and were gossiping about some of our friends at school, when the topic turned to this new shorter haircut that a girl we knew had inflicted on herself.
“I think it looks horrible,” I said. “You have to have the right face for short hair.”
“You’d look good with short hair,” Lisa said.
“No, I wouldn’t,” I argued, sheepishly, avoiding eye contact. The problem was, I didn’t want them getting any ideas, but still I thrived on the conversation of hair. Especially cutting.
“Yeah, you’d look great,” Megan agreed. “You should try something new.”
“Yeah, ditch the ponytail,” Lisa chimed in.
“I don’t know,” I mumbled. Secretly, I was enjoying the thought of a chop, but I didn’t want them to think I would seriously go through with it.
“Why don’t you let us give you a haircut?” Lisa asked.
“I don’t know.” This was going a bit far.
“Come on, you can cut mine after,” Lisa offered. Of course, hers was cut in a short pixie anyway, so she had little to lose.
“No, I don’t think so.”
“You’d look awesome,” Megan, the less pushy one, pushed.
“Why don’t YOU cut your hair?” I asked, redirecting the attention.
Megan wrinkled her face. “I’d look horrible with short hair. I’m definitely a long hair person.”
Lisa nodded, “Yeah, she’s right. She’d suck with short hair. You, on the other hand, would look great.” She moved up behind me, and tugged the elastic out of my hair, running her hand through the locks. The motion was soothing and I was captivated. How often would I get an experience like this?
“Well…” The fingers running through my hair could answer the question alone.
“Yeah, you want to do it,” Lisa prodded.
Not letting my better judgement get in the way, I said, “I guess so… but just a trim. Not too short.”
“Awesome!” Lisa exclaimed. She jumped up and rummaged through her desk drawer for a brush and scissors.
“Maybe a couple inches below my shoulders,” I offered, vaguely coming to my senses.
Megan began running the brush through my hair, taking long, smooth strokes. She moved politely through the tangles, and set into a periodic motion. I closed my eyes, and got into the rhythm.
I felt Lisa come up to my other side, and thought nothing of it until suddenly her hand was steadying the top of my head, and I heard the scissors crunch through the side of my hair. And I realized they were at a level even with my chin.
“What are you doing?” I screamed, jumping up suddenly.
“Relax,” Lisa replied. “You’ll look great.”
I glanced over at Megan for help, but she just smiled and nodded.
Frustrated, I just sat there, consigned to letting the haircut finish. Lisa had already removed the right third of my hair. She’d have to even it up.
She grasped the majority of my remaining long, long hair into her fist at the back of my head. Before I had the chance to ask how accurate she could be with that method, I could feel her gnawing through the tight ponytail at the base of my hairline.
“Lisa, please,” I whined, “that’s too short!”
“Give me some credit! You’re going to look awesome!” She moved over to the other side of my head, to the remaining strands of marvelous long hair. She picked them up with little procession and snipped right through the hairs. Again, I was even more nervous as the hairs fell down and ended on my cheek above my chin. Yet at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel increasingly excited.
“Lisa…” I muttered.
And she was moving all around my head, randomly cutting the hairs shorter and shorter. I could feel locks piling up on my neck, which was obviously bare. Her fingers were running through my nape, and barely grasping onto short pieces of hair. Then she moved up to the top of my head, and picked up random hairs, cutting them close enough that I could feel the rasp of the scissors slicing through my hair. She cut the sides short above my ears, and proceeded to cut individual locks down to an inch or so.
Then, when I thought she was finally done, she started to comb the front regions of my hair forward onto my forehead. The bangs were long enough to come within reasonable distance of my eyebrows, but still were relatively short. But she totally surprised me by taking the scissors right at my hairline and cutting straight across, leaving me with, apparently, a pair of thick, crazily short bangs.
“Oh my god,” I muttered.
“We’re not done yet,” Lisa smiled.
I glanced over at Megan, who had been silent during most of the ordeal, and noticed that she now had a pair of clippers in her hand. Before I even had the chance to complain, she clicked them on, and began running up and down the back of my head. She stopped at my crown, and proceeded back down again, but I could feel her cutting it all ridiculously short. Then she continued around the sides, above my ears, whitewalling the hair a good 2 or 3 inches above the hairline. She changed the guard and then went around again, creating a transition region between the two lengths.
And then it was Lisa’s turn again. She had shaving cream and a disposable razor. She smeared the white foam all over the entire back of my head and up to the crown, as well as the 3-inch side regions of my head above my ears. And then she carefully worked her way around with the razor, creating the strangest sensation that I had experienced on my cranium.
And finally, FINALLY, we were done.
“You look awesome,” Lisa said.
“You look great,” Megan echoed.
And there was a mirror passed to me so I could examine the new me. It was strange, I didn’t recognize myself. The hairstyle looked ridiculous. The shaved whitewalls looked horrible. The short bangs and crown of surrounding hair looked even stranger. I looked horrid. But I liked it. I looked confident. Definitely not wishy-washy.
“It’s a rite of passage,” Lisa murmured.
And I could agree. I hated the hairstyle. I hated my image. But at the same time, I loved the way it looked. And I smiled.
A rite of passage indeed.