I’ve been growing my hair out for 4 years. The first year was just a lark, wanting to see what it would look like just a tad longer. But after my boyfriend left to marry a woman almost twenty years younger than me, my desire to grow out my hair became something else.
I had always wanted to have really long hair. In my childhood, my mother always had my hair cut short, while my sister typically had very long hair. At some point, I started to wonder if our different haircuts were reflective of something my parents saw in our personalities. It was easy to see what long hair symbolized – beauty and femininity. Was I the opposite of those things? Is that why they always encouraged me to have shorter hair?
I wanted to bust through this perception of myself at many points during my life – and hopefully end up looking like, say, Queen Guinevere in the process. In my mid-twenties, I let my hair grow out halfway down my back…and I hated it. I was very overweight back then and every time I saw the pictures of myself with that super long hair, I felt like I looked even heavier and droopier.
I happily kept it at a medium length throughout my thirties…until that day the ex left. I was crippled with insecurity. I had wanted to marry him and raise a family with him so badly and over the course of our seven years together, he backed away from those dreams until one day he started claiming that he didn’t believe in marriage, at all, would never get married, and that he would never, ever have a child.
And then a little twenty-something single mother caught his eye, he fell instantly in love with her, and decided it was time to become a husband and father.
All I could feel for two years was that I just wasn’t good enough. If he could so easily do the things he had abhorred with this new woman, it must be because there was so much wrong with me. I was just a mess. I knew I couldn’t “fix” my personality, I knew I couldn’t make myself younger like his new love, and I knew I definitely could not make myself prettier. Don’t get me wrong – being in your forties is great – but, to put it bluntly, the 40’s cannot compete with hot, young ass.
But there was one thing I could do, I realized. I could grow out my hair. It seems ridiculous to say it now. At the time, however, it was perfectly logical. Having long hair would somehow transform me into that Celtic princess. It was like a magic spell that would cause observers to see me as pretty, even if I wasn’t. Somehow, I could hold my own next to a 20-something…because I had long hair.
Two and a half years after he left, I had an opportunity to buy a house for the first time. That had been one of our biggest disagreements – I wanted to buy a house and he didn’t. I thought it would be impossible for me to buy one on my own…and suddenly, there I was, about to sign off on a stack of mortgage documents.
I could not believe how scary and amazing that process was. But throughout it, I realized that my hair was starting to ask for attention. It was so long, it was becoming burdensome. And every time I looked at it, I remembered my ex and how insecure I felt – back then, and if I was honest with myself, still in the present moment.
But I had done something I never thought I could do – I bought a house BY MYSELF. Commitmentphobic boyfriend be damned. I DID IT. I started to see myself very differently. I could do more than I thought.
Meanwhile, my hair was dragging, dragging, dragging. I felt so heavy with the weight of it. And no, I didn’t feel like a Celtic princess, at all. And no, it honestly didn’t make me feel prettier. It just made me feel a tiny bit unusual.
Things were also starting to come full circle. Moving back to the town I had left after the breakup was bringing up all sorts of emotions. At first, it was sad – the last time I moved into a house in that town, it was with him and was literally one of the happiest times of my entire life, however shortlived that joy was. Later, it started to feel freeing – like I was starting fresh, wiping the slate clean. I realized there might be a time when I didn’t feel so much sadness in that town, that I wouldn’t see the ghosts of the past on every sidewalk, in every store.
Two weeks before I got the keys to the house, I started to feel so terrified and so excited that I wanted to make even bigger changes. I knew this really was a whole new chance for me and I wanted to let go of EVERYTHING that had dragged me down. Including my hair – or rather, what it represented.
My schedule was too crazy to get an appointment before the big day, so I had to patiently wait a few more weeks to get rid of this bad mojo I’d been carrying around. I even had to reschedule the appointment, and asked if I could push it back a week. Later, as I plugged it into my calendar, I saw that that “one week later date” was my ex’s birthday. Well…that’s appropriate, I thought.
I babbled and laughed during the entire cut, trying to manage the anxiety I was feeling. She took a “before” picture and I was stunned by how long it was. I hadn’t really realized. She said she was going to cut 7 inches to get the length I was asking for – was I sure?
Yes, I said. Do it.
Every snip of the scissors had me both exhilarated and sad. I couldn’t even look on the floor afterwards – I knew there was a ton of hair down there and I just couldn’t bear to see it all.
After the cut, I was feeling pretty good about myself and I decided to run into the store and pick up something I needed. And there, I came face-to-face with my ex’s mother who hadn’t spoken to me in 3 years, despite the many times I had reached out to her.
She gave me a huge hug and seemed anxious and sad. She asked me several times how I was doing, was I okay? It was a short conversation and I was overwhelmed with emotion – which I hadn’t expected – and afterward, I really didn’t know what to make of it. Hey, Universe! I just cut off 7 inches of hair to let go of that man and then you put his mother in my path right afterward? What the holy heck?
I think I might have to forgive his parents. I felt so hurt that I’d never heard from them again after all this happened. Their son had lied and cheated and I was the one who was pushed away? It seemed so unfair to me. It still does.
But…ever since I bought the house, I’ve felt more indifferent than I used to. Not in a disconnected way – just in a “sometimes shitty stuff just happens” kind of way. I don’t have to do anything about it – I don’t have to cry about it (not anymore), I don’t have to feel bad about it, I sure as hell don’t have to fix it. It just happened, and who cares now because I’m an independent woman who can kick ass and buy herself a house?
So yeah, maybe forgiveness is the next layer. For them. I’m not quite there when it comes to the ex, yet. That might take another three years and seven inches.
And in the days following the haircut, I admit, I have a bit of a hangover about it. I kinda miss the long hair. Not a whole lot – it really didn’t do much because of how heavy it was, and I usually just braided it, which got so boring. But I miss it a little. It was a security blanket of sorts.
Now I have to face the fear I was avoiding the whole time – without the hair, am I just old and ugly and totally useless to a man? I know in my head that that can’t be true. But my heart isn’t there yet.
I also know I don’t want to set this kind of example for the young women in my life. I’m buying into the disgusting notion that the only value women have is in their beauty and youth. Apparently, that’s still very true for many men out there. But not the ones that I want to be around. Not the ones who are worth caring about.
It’s a long road, those seven inches. Even now that they’re gone, there’s still such a long way to go…