“Are you sure you wanna do this?” my hairdresser asked as she held a pair of scissors to the back of my neck. A tight, low ponytail of my long, jet black hair cascaded right in between the blades of the barber shop trimmers to the small of my back. I took a deep breath, allowing the salon’s scent of nail polish remover and hairspray to fill my nostrils as I took one last look at myself in the mirror. I felt my stomach turn with a sense of anxiety, as if I was strapped in at the top of a fifteen-story-high rollercoaster, looking down at my inevitable doom. I relished in the fact that this would be the last time I’d ever have to see the same reflection I’d seen for the past fourteen years of my life. In my last remaining seconds of normalcy, I answered the question with a confident nod and closed my eyes as I heard the first snip of many and felt the weight of my entire ponytail fall to the ground.
I made it a point to keep my eyes closed throughout the whole process. I wanted to be shocked when I saw my new hairstyle of choice. All I could do was listen to the sounds of my hairdresser, Lauren, as she reinvented my look. She would often ask me questions about how my life was going to fill up the awkward silence; to most I would give one-word answers. In between her inquiries, I’d focus on the traveling snips of her scissors. Eventually, I heard the clatter of the metal trimmers as Lauren set them on the table and heard her turn on a buzzer.
“This is it,” I thought as the buzzing sound of the men’s tool got closer. “This is my ticket to standing out.” My pulse skyrocketed as I felt the plastic safeguard lightly graze the back of my neck. I could feel short, stray hairs collecting near my shoulders. It reminded me of what it feels like to wear an itchy wool sweater. After a while, the buzzer began migrating to near my ears, and I could feel my head getting lighter and lighter with every passing minute. I wondered if that was what it felt like for my dad every time he got a haircut.
When the buzzing stopped, I heard short bursts of an aerosol spray can around me. I could tell it was hairspray when some mist landed on my tongue, and I coughed profusely. It tasted like cleaning product. I had miraculously committed myself to keeping my eyes closed and was more than ready for the big reveal. I heard Lauren sigh with awe and felt her untie the sheet she had clasped around my neck to keep my hair from getting on my clothes.
“Allright, you are just about done! Open your eyes!”
Slowly, my eyes fluttered open, and I looked at myself like I was a relative at a family reunion that I had no relationship with. As if I kind of knew who I was looking at, but I was not entirely sure. After the shock wore off, I accepted the fact that it was me. The girl I used to see in the mirror was now a fiercely independent young woman with boy-cut hair. My long locks were traded for hairs no longer than an inch at most. My hand reached up to touch the back of my neck, and I was shocked when I could no longer entwine my fingers with my hair – it was too short! My eyes trailed from my reflection down to the floor, and I found a sea of black hair just beneath my chair. My exposed forehead now had side swept bangs down to my eyebrows, shielding them from view.
A dramatic haircut had now completely transformed how I viewed myself. I reminded myself of Ruby Rose, my favorite actress from Orange Is the New Black, which only boosted my confidence even more. When I went to school the next day, I finally felt like I fit in despite how different I now looked from all the other girls at school, but I didn’t care because I got a compliment about my confidence to rock my new hair from every single person I walked past. I felt like I finally had something special about me, even though I now know that I was already pretty special. My new ‘do was now a part of my identity. The old me, who did what everyone else did, was gone, and the new me dared to break the social norm of girls wearing long hair – even if it meant occasionally being mistaken for a guy.