Sometimes, you need to look at yourself through the eyes of others to see how truly ridiculous you are.
Yes, I was a slave to my hair extensions. But the indentured servitude to my hair goes way further than that.
My Jewish curls are not to be reckoned with, as plentiful as a Keri Russell (of early "Felicity" era, not the sleek style she wears now), but super fine, without the length and thickness to weigh them down. My mom was buying me at-home hair relaxers before I was even wearing a training bra to help me get my hair to a place where I could manage my own hair.
By high school, I was experimenting with Japanese straightening. By college, I’d figured my way was to cocktail it up with keratin smoothing. And, God forbid rain. My friends all know about my “kit”. Clips and hair bands and a disposable shower cap in my purse at all times. To be worn IN PUBLIC.
It’s sick, I know. But sometimes you need to see yourselves through the eyes of others, and I got a distinct new degree of reflection out of the comments on my article about my hair extensions last week.
You guys were a bit harsh, no doubt –- but you gave me something to think about. Was I so obsessed with my maintaining my hair I was forgetting how to live my life?
And so I did something pretty major. This weekend, I went to Sanat Hair Salon on the Upper East Side in New York City and had Yuksel take out my extensions. They are all gone. And guess what? My obsessive blowouts and neuroses hadn’t been enough to save me from a fair amount of tangled and twisted bonds. Combing those babies out hurt and I lost a good chunk of hair in the process.
My new haircut is the shortest I can ever remember having –- but already I’m noticing things I love. It feels fuller and healthier (despite there being so much less of it!), and for the first time since before I’ve had extensions, I can again do things like brush my hair and feel my scalp. I can throw my hair into a bun and work out whenever I want. And I can wash my hair myself without obsessing over matting hair –- hair that despite my crazy got matted anyway. I’m learning to work with my curls (slowly) rather than snuffing them into submission. And I’m learning to chill the heck out and concentrate on things that really matter – like, say, being healthy.
I always wanted nothing more than mermaid hair. I saw lots of hair as a sign of youth and sexiness and freedom. Short hair felt utilitarian, older, and practical –- the last thing you want to feel the week before yet another big aging birthday. Would I be like Samson, and lose all my power as soon as I lost the length?
Crazily enough, I think just about the opposite happened. I got that power back.