Well . . . it’s short, I thought as I stared at my reflection in the mirror. I ran my fingers through the surviving strands while their siblings lay limp on the floor at my feet. I didn’t want to admit that I’d made a mistake, so I told myself that I’d get used to it . . . that it was time for a change, anyway . . . that even though I wasn’t a hairstylist, per se, I hadn’t fucked it up too badly, considering I was holding a pair of child-safe scissors - the kind with the rounded tips that, on the sharpness scale, sat somewhere between a butter knife and a bottle opener.
I sighed, and the delusion faded like a hot shower’s fog on my bathroom mirror. It was too short. I didn’t have the face to pull off a pixie cut. My cheeks were too puffy and my chin had a brother that showed up anytime I tilted my head down.
I wasn’t a model, despite my childhood dream of being discovered by an agent in the local mall. Really, I just wanted to be anything other than ordinary, but I’d mastered the art of mediocrity, and now I was a 35-year-old newly single woman who looked like she was auditioning for the lead role in Oliver!.
And . . . it’d be vain to cry, right? Because it’s not like it was permanent. Sure, my hair would take its sweet time to grow back, but it would eventually grow long enough to look at least halfway decent. And until then, there were options. Headbands, hats, hair extensions if I skipped eating next month, which would solve the chin problem too.
I bit my lip and choked back tears. I wouldn’t cry over cut hair. People make mistakes when they’ve been drinking. I was drunk, and I’d decided to live out my childhood Barbie salon days.
My Barbies hadn't fared much better than I had, it turns out. I remember abandoning the scalped Barbies to boil in the Arizona summer sun while I trotted merrily along to play with the neighbor kid I had a crush on, completely oblivious to the massacre I left behind.
And really, it was my husband’s fault. My ex-husband, that is. When you find out that your newly divorced husband’s shacking up with a woman from work, it’s bound to shake you. And it shook me into shaking up a flight of whiskey sours. I was better off without the bastard - I knew that.
He never went out of his way to pretend that I was anything other than ordinary. I’d spend hours getting dressed up for our date nights. “How do I look?” was often met with a grunt from the sofa-ridden lump who looked like he’d just gotten out of bed. I was invisible in our marriage. I patted the hair that still sat on my skull. Am I invisible now, Jake?
I could feel the whiskey sours knocking on the back of my skull as I stood in front of the dirty mirror as if my haircut wasn’t punishment enough for a night of self-pity binge drinking.
I’d need to go into work today, and I didn’t know what would be worse: the staring or the fake compliments. “Did you do something to your hair,” Jill at the front desk would ask. Upon confirming her astute observation, she’d say something like, “Wow, I wish I had the confidence to pull that off.” Or, “It looks so healthy now.” Jill was cute, petite, young, and had the face for a pixie cut. Staring in the mirror at my pudgy face, I hated her and every woman that could pull this off.
Sharp edges stuck out in strange places, hugging my skull, and I couldn’t bring myself to look at the back. Before I’d apparently lost my fucking mind in a haze of lemony lighter fluid, I remember talking to my mom on the phone.
“It’s time to start over, hun,” her wrinkled voice said. “It’s for the best. You may not see that now, but I promise it’ll be clear one day.”
But what if it won’t, I remember thinking, and what if I’d lost the only thing in my life that mattered? The only thing that made me matter?
I pulled a broom across the bathroom floor and forced the hair into a dustbin until it was the size of a bird’s nest. Thirteen years of patience, care, and love, and I’d taken a guillotine to it in a night. It’d been shoulder-length on our wedding day, but yesterday it had sat at my mid-back. I’d twirl my fingers through the soft strands when I was nervous. I tried to do it now, and I felt like an amputee wriggling missing fingers.
We were too young when we got married. A few people had tried to warn us, and we called them “unsupportive,” when we should’ve heeded their advice. “I love you,” was a promise we couldn’t keep after thirteen years of trying.
I broke it off, I remember thinking after my third drink. I was the first one to admit that “I love you” didn’t mean what it used to - that it’d become a chore that I wasn’t up for anymore. And he’d agreed.
I tossed the scraps of yesterday’s mistake in the trash, and sighed. My bad hair day would last at least six months, and I only owned one hat. It was a tattered Cubs cap he’d left behind. I’d worn it to the games I’d gone to just to prove that we still had something in common. But I didn’t care about the Cubs anymore. And maybe he didn’t either.
I stood up on an overturned clothes basket while I reached in the back of a closet to find the thing. My neck felt colder, I realized, since my scalp had shed a layer.
The split ends had been a nightmare, though. They’d persisted after each haircut, but I’d still instruct the stylist to take as little as possible because “I’m trying to grow it.” It was never long enough - the ends would split and abandon ship, despite moisturizing masks and keratin treatments. Thirteen years of effort, and now I was nearly bald.
I threw the cap on my head, turned to the mirror one last time, and wondered why I’d spent so long trying to make it work. My mother’s voice chimed in my head, “It’s time to start over,” and I remembered watching thick locks flutter to the floor with a pair of scissors in my hand when, for a moment, I’d believed her.