Kristin gathers my hair in a ponytail with one hand, and asks me if I’m ready. I am. In just three quick snips, it’s done. She holds up the remains, a sad little remnant of the last two years of my life. Gone in just a few seconds. An offering of sorts, as I think about my experience with offerings in Bali. And the first word that pops into my head…
I had wavered back and forth for months, wanting a change but not willing to sacrifice my (self)beloved hair in order to achieve it. I actually had serious anxiety about whether or not I would be able to go through with this haircut when the day actually arrived. Like heart racing, making-a-major-life-decision anxiety.
I realize how crazy this sounds. I can hear what I imagine many people are thinking when reading about this. “Is she really describing a haircut as a life decision? It’s just hair. It grows back. Some people don’t have the luxury of deciding to lose some or any of their hair. This sounds like a ‘my diamond shoes are too tight’ problem. How shallow/ridiculous/insignificant”.
It’s not courageous, but it was for me. It’s not drastic, but it was for me. It’s not significant. But it was for me.
Because somewhere along the way, somewhere between New York and LA, between East Coast Katie and West Coast Katie, my hair became its own entity, my security blanket, my identity. The first thing that most people noticed when meeting me. The thing I could hide behind. The first thing people referred to when talking about me, that girl with the Drybar addiction. Not my smile, not my ideas, but this blown-out & highlighted-into-submission-by-professionals, bears-no-resemblance-to-its-natural-state hair. I was hiding behind something that wasn’t even real.
When did this become my identity? Why was I so happy to go along with it? And when did I realize that it wasn’t enough?
Was it somewhere in Croatia, where staying cool in the ocean was more important than looking cool on the shore? In Ojai, where showers were a luxury and spending even 10 minutes on your hair was 10 minutes you missed getting to know someone amazing? In Bali, where hair styling was a logistical impossibility? Or did it actually happen in LA, this realization that I wanted more?
I walked in front of a mirror after I was fully coiffed and did a double take. I said “OH!” out loud. I was startled to find that I wasn’t surprised at my reflection because it looked different. I was surprised because I felt like I caught a glimpse of ME. The me I was before the hair vanity took over. The me who cared more about making people feel good than trying so hard to look good. The me I want to be now.
And hey, I’m certainly not giving up all vanity–I obviously didn’t hack off my own hair, or trust Supercuts to take off seven inches. I am thrilled to love the way that it looks now (thank you Kristin!!!). I can still be Drybar’s #1 fan. I think it’s awesome how a good hair day can equal a good day. I’m just aiming to get to the place where a bad hair day doesn’t mean a bad DAY. Where hair is a sidebar instead of the point.
I took a before photo of my hair, a remembrance of what it had been. But I didn’t take an after photo. Because today, right now, it’s not just about the hair.
It IS just hair. It WILL grow back. And I’ll be working on a more important legacy while it does.