Beauty IRL: I Cut Off All My Hair (And Only Regretted It A Little Bit)

Beauty mags are full of the same homogenous crap. Skinny, pretty ladies shilling beauty products that cost a whole paycheck, promising to make you look and feel a certain way. Welcome to Beauty IRL, a new column in which we try to break down the aspirational walls of beauty coverage, and bring you real-life dispatches from the trenches, from someone who likes makeup, researches hair products and is pretty real about the whole thing.

I’ve always been jealous of those girls with long, thick, shiny hair. Those girls with “Pretty Little Liars” hair, the kind of hair that tumbles and twists and waves over their shoulders, all shiny and beachy and wind-tosed. Girls with tresses like this are always casually pushing their hair aside, lifting it up in great, shiny hanks and forming a complicated knot as they talk at you. They want you to think that they woke up like that, but really, they woke up at 7 a.m. and spent a good half hour with a curling wand and some heat spray. For a long time, that was the hair I wanted. Countless years of reading beauty blogs and a childhood spent turning the pages of Color Me Beautiful, purchased at a yard sale by my grandma, taught me to believe that I should hide my moon face with a long sheet of hair on either side, to create angles, because it is important to have a face that is sharp and angular, to have cheekbones that can cut glass.

What happened was that I decided this summer that my hair was not going to fix whatever perceived wrongs were happening with my face. Also, I like my face. I think I have nice eyes. An ex-boyfriend told me once that they look like actual almonds, and when I got mad and said that people have been saying that Asian eyes are “almond-shaped” for years and it’s stupid, we found an almond in the shell, held it up to my eye, and yeah, it was kind of that shape, not gonna lie. As for my cheekbones, well, sometimes, I stare into the mirror for a while to see if I can discern any, and am delighted on those occasions when I do.

So, I’m fine with showcasing this face, because it is mine, and it’s been working thus far. Color Me Beautiful, step aside. First, I spent a lot of time on Pinterest. I made a lot of boards, and Googled every possible iteration of “pixie cut on round face” until my computer practically sighed and asked me to just get it over with. I was ready.

When you cut your hair short, like really short, for the first time, the one thing you notice the most is how free and light and airy your neck is. Sure, if you have long hair you can put your hair up and walk down the street with a messy top knot and nary a care in the world, but there’s something special and unique and amazing about a neck that is bare and freshly buzzed and just OUT THERE. It’s scary, and it’s awesome, and it makes you remember to do things that you generally ignore, like plucking your eyebrows more often and tending to that weird chin hair or five that sprouts every month, when the air is right and the moon is high. Because, with short hair — like, hair so short that all you can do is pin back a few stray tendrils and hope for the best — your entire face is on display That’s what they don’t tell you. Your face is out there, along with your neck, your ears, that double chin that you thought you were hiding behind a poorly-maintained lob. You have to own your face, adjust to its planes and weird bumps and jiggly parts. You have to be comfortable with who you are.

For a while, this was great. I was so free, so jubilant, so devil may care. Sometimes when I woke up in the morning, my hair looked great and I no longer bore a passing resemblance to Shingy. Then, it got expensive. Within a month, a mullet started to emerge, peeking its head out timidly and then asking all of its friends to come down and hang out, dangling thickly on my neck, touching my collar every time I put on a shirt. I’d thwack it back at the hairdresser once a month, dropping cash that I quite frankly don’t have to maintain its shape. Sure, there are tricks that I learned to keep it under control, but it was only after I woke up from a vivid dream about putting my hair into a ponytail that I realized the inevitable. I was going to grow it back.

I will never have mermaid hair. I want, at most, a sensible mom-bob, something that looks unintentionally chic, like Patricia, that cool art school friend of yours who smoked Gauloises and painted only nude self-portraits, took a dullish pair of scissors to your lank ponytail and chopped it off. I am growing my hair out now, and it is not the best, but also not the worst.

Are you trying to grow your hair out? Here’s what you need. Bobby pins. Patience. A relationship with your hair stylist that borders on co-dependent but isn’t quite there. A lot of product. A blow dryer. The faith that your hair will return and you’ll be able to pull it into a ponytail again. Make it through this process, and you’ll be left knowing that hair is hair is hair. Cut it, shave it, dye it like Kylie Jenner, but know this. It always grows back. And you can always cut it off again.

Follow Megan on Twitter at @meha_hurt.