Girl Talk: The Cathartic Post-Breakup Haircut

I’ve been growing my hair out for 10 years, ever since I got a totally tragic close-crop days before graduation from high school. I had kind of low self-esteem and I was majorly obsessed with Gwyneth Paltrow’s new short cut (you know the one — it closely resembled then boyfriend Brad Pitt’s hair too) — I came to the conclusion that if I cut off all my hair just like hers, I, too, would be pretty. Fat chance. The haircut, for starters, was poorly executed. Additionally, my hair was still in that post-puberty stage of frizzy horribleness — and I did not yet understand that flat irons and blow dryers could be my friend. The haircut was a disaster and I have spent the last 10 years growing it out, associating prettiness and femininity with length.

In that time, however, my self-esteem has grown exponentially and I have definitely become more self-assured — not just in who I am, but in how I convey who I am via my personal style. But my hair has always been my security blanket. Past my bra strap now, I have been thinking for a long time about when and if I should cut it — after all, how long would this grow out continue? Until I was channeling Crystal Gayle? Never mind the fact that I very rarely wear it down and never actually do anything to “style” it. When I go to yoga, it takes two hair ties to keep it out of my face and I stare with envy at all the other girls with shorter hair, who don’t have to fuss. It’s constantly knotted underneath and, even though my mom thinks it’s beautiful, I have been over my long hair for a while now.

When my fiance called off our wedding and moved out, someone said to me, “Remember, no matter what, don’t do something silly, like get a major haircut, right now.” It’s one of the cardinal rules of breakup behavior, and the perfect “told ya so” example is, of course, Keri Russell from the TV show “Felicity,” who famously chopped off her amazing mane of curly hair after she (and her character) broke up with their respective boyfriends. She basically didn’t have a career for a couple years afterward. I considered all of that when I made an appointment to get my hair cut and then said, “Oh, f**k it.”

In total, I cut off about seven or eight inches of hair. Ironically, Gwyneth Paltrow was my inspiration again, but this time I was going for her long bob. I didn’t cry. I didn’t for one second feel like I was doing it to be like, “Screw you, ex-fiance! I’m single! I can cut my hair off and not give a crap whether you like it!” I did it because I feel very much like I am in a major turning point in my life. I don’t know what the future holds, but despite the awful shock of losing my soul mate, of not getting married, of living alone suddenly, I feel bizarrely confident and secure. I think that’s the key component of any major “image” change — you can do it to GAIN confidence. You have to have confidence, you have to believe in who you are and know it’s just hair. If you hate it, it will grow. And for heaven’s sake, there’s no way a horrible hair cut could make me feel worse than I already do.

My hair stylist, Jay, who is the most adorable chick who just beams with positive light (example: she recommended I cleanse my apartment of the negative energy by burning sage and stuff), told me that your hair holds a lot of emotions. And when I think how long the hair that I cut off had been on my head, I realize how much that hair went through with me over those 10 years. And it did feel like such a relief to cut it off. I walked out of the salon with a definite spring in my step, and it wasn’t because I thought I looked like a hot piece — I think cutting my hair was a bit symbolic of how strong I’m discovering myself to be, during a really difficult time. I’m totally proud of that.

UPDATE: I give the people what they want.

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