When I was in school, I wanted to grow up to look beautiful. In my eyes, I wasn’t beautiful as a teenager. I detested sun screen, so I was tanned throughout the year. I was too late to consider threading my eyebrows and as I recall someone told me that my face looked slightly manly. I did not believe in the concept of make up and I still don’t except for eye liner and lip gloss. Importantly, for most part of my school life, I wore a medium/long bob haircut and to me short hair never seemed beautiful. Every woman who I admired back then for her beauty had long hair, so my idea of beauty coincided with long hair. Thus when I decided that I have to look pretty for my school farewell, the obvious initiative on that front was to grow my hair long.
For one year, I did not get my hair cut. I used to massage my hair with hot oil at least once a week. I used to wear two plaits to school every morning. Barring natural conditioners, I did not put anything on my hair. At the end of that year, I had grown my hair to a reasonable length. As I believe, I looked pretty decent for my farewell. That farewell kind of strengthened my idea about beauty and long hair. I decided that I’d keep growing my hair. With time, I grew more apprehensive of salons, haircuts and hair treatments. I remember walking into a salon for a hair trim at the end of my first semester in college where the lady who managed the salon showed me a short hairstyle in a magazine. I got so terrified that she’d inconsiderately chop off my hair that I walked out of there and began reconsidering the hair trim.
Every time, I sat on the chair for a haircut, I insisted that only the dead hair and the split ends be cut and the hair length should not be compromised. If the barber cut them shorter than my expectations, I would mope for an entire week. I was conscious about using a single brand of shampoo and conditioner. Any time I felt that my hair feel rough after a wash, I switched brands. Eventually I grew wary of store bought conditioners, because my hair felt weighed down, so I started looking up DIY conditioners online.
In my final semester, I remember walking out of my hostel room one morning and realizing that the girl who lives two doors next to me has cut her hair. She had gorgeous straight hair, the kind that they show in shampoo ads and now she was wearing a short bob. For that entire day, I could not come to fathom that someone with such lovely hair would commit such an atrocity by chopping them off. The idea felt strange.
I graduated from college and moved back home. That year is not one of my good years. All I remember doing was re-reading Harry Potter. In October that year, I went for a hair trim before some dinner party. After I got ready, my mother told me that my hair look the same no matter what I do. That night, when I looked at myself in the mirror I could see what she saw. I always looked the same. I kept my hair open at most times and at other times I tied them in a pony tail. I could not do those fancy Youtube/Pinterest braids. In spite of being this invested in my hair for 4 years, my hair never grew over a certain length and my hair texture did not improve beyond a point. In fact, my scalp grew oilier with time, forcing me to wash them every alternate day. On some mornings when I woke up, my head felt heavy. That’s how I decided that I have to cut them short.
I first pitched the idea to my mother who out-rightly dismissed it citing my efforts over the years and that my hair are beautiful. Listening to her response, I scrapped my plans but only temporarily. With time, my hair started seeming like a liability to me. No matter what pack I tried, things remained constant. They stopped making me happy and the idea to chop them off kept revisiting me. For six months, I pitched the idea to every person I knew, and the unanimous outcome was that short hair will not complement my face according to popular opinion is broad. I even took a couple of online quizzes on whether I should cut my hair. I believe it is human to seek validation before you act on a decision. I was looking for that validation because I was scared that this might turn out to be an erred decision. I had doubts that I’d look ugly or messy or that I would never be able to grow my hair long again. So, I just wanted one person to nod their head in agreement but no one did.
It was April and I was headed out for lunch with my parents. That day as I was getting ready, I frantically tried to make my hair look less oily and that is when I decided that I have to put an end to this every day struggle. I told my mother in the evening that I am getting my hair cut short. We walked to the salon together. Once my hair were washed, a guy combed my hair and asked me how do I want to get them cut. I gestured with my hand slightly above the shoulder. He looked at me baffled but I told him that I have made my mind. He suggested that I opt for a hair treatment rather than chopping off a good 12-15 inches. I politely declined his suggestion. The woman who manages the salon insisted that my mother should stop me from giving up on such fine hair. But I stayed firm and that is how I managed to walk out with a medium bob.
When I looked at myself in the mirror, the hair cut appeared much more pleasant than what I imagined it to be. It felt light and it made me look young. My mother approved of it, my father said it reminds him of how I looked as a child and my brother-who was sick of my long hair- said that I am never growing them back. I asked my mother to take a picture and shared it with friends and family. I put the picture on Instagram and captioned it, ‘Just like that the tresses are gone’. Almost everyone I shared it with was taken aback at the abruptness of my decision. A cousin called it a wild brutal move where I butchered away my hair without any qualms. I had a friend who exclaimed, ‘But you loved your hair, why would you do this?’. As and when people saw me in person or in pictures, they felt sorry that I let such gorgeous hair let go. Another friend made me promise that I will grow them back.
For days, it felt odd because every time I ran my fingers across my hair, I got to the end too quick. Plus, I had a lot of time cleared up that was previously involved in managing them. Now I just had to brush them once and they were done. I could blow dry them in 5-7 minutes. I felt this strange sense of liberty not only because of the convenience that short hair came with but because I saw through a decision and it made me happy.
What my hair taught me back then was that when you come to attach yourself with something, you continue to invest in it incessantly. But when that thing ceases to satisfy you or make you happy or feels like a liability, then you should stop. I had an unhealthy obsession with my hair because I had nurtured an irrational idea that beauty coincides with long hair. Now that I look at myself and my old pictures, I definitely look better with shorter hair. I have people tell me that I look cute something that I hadn’t heard in years. It makes me look young, it makes me look sorted. For six months, I toyed with the idea in my head only because I was scared. Just imagine, if I wouldn’t have gone through with this, if I would have simply listened to all the warnings that came my way, I would have never realized that short hair appeal my face more. And I would have never been able to save myself the time, effort and dissatisfaction that came with my pursuit of beauty.
I learned three significant lessons from that haircut:
- there is always a time to stop ploughing into a venture
- have the heart to act on your decisions independently- it might yield good results and if it doesn’t you can devote your efforts to set things right; either way you will have an anecdote to share
- beauty should never be standardized, let it be more like, ‘to each one their own’
Who knew haircuts could be this profound? At least I did not.
Also, in case you are curious, these are the before and after pictures.