Cutting my hair was the one thing I always wanted to do.
My thick, long, relaxed hair was my greatest, and only, beauty. Without fail, every time I set foot in a salon, someone would say enviously, “Look at all that thick hair.” My relatives commented that I looked just like my mother. And I did, the only difference, besides our years, being the fullness of my face and body.
When I was admonished for not taking care of it properly, I would mutter, “I’ll just cut it off some day.”
Years passed, and I became more impatient with my hair that would only go up into a ponytail. I looked at pictures of black women with spunky, spiky hair cuts while my friend curled my hair for the school play. I imagined choppy locks framing my face even though my boyfriends would convince me that my long hair looked so pretty.
I didn’t want to be pretty, I wanted to look how I felt, and no matter how many brown highlights I put in my hair, it just never felt right.
It didn’t happen the way I imagined. One day, as I looked at myself in the mirror after my stylist had finished, I noticed that one side of my hair looked thinner, shorter than the other side. My stylist smoothed it down some more, looking at my hair in the mirror, and told me that it was probably just that way because of the direction I wrapped my hair at night.
I began to pin my hair at the nape my neck, so that all the length would be to one side. I would go to the football games like that, and look pretty in my grey tights and blue skirts and sweaters. I was pretty and quiet with my hair in curls, I was so much quieter than usual. No one noticed that I stopped pinning my hair, and only wore it in a bun, and started to look very tired.
I would brush my hair in front of the mirror, troubled that my hair no longer flopped onto my shoulder and spilled down onto my chest. “Well,” I thought, “I wanted this.” And I would tuck it into a bun and retreat into my silence.
I was silent and alone for over a year.
When I was aware that the time was passing, I realized that my hair had gone with it. No longer long, no longer thick. No longer shiny and the object of envy. It was dry and broken, like me.
I didn’t try to hide the ugliness of my hair. I did nothing but look at it for months, letting it overwhelm my appearance.
Finally, I went into a new shop and showed the stylist the picture of the short, cropped style I wanted.
I smiled, in an awkward sort of way, when it was over. My hair was short, thick, and healthy. It was different, but it was still me.
The lady waiting for her appointment shook her head and reach out to feel the thickness of my bang, “Just look at all that hair.”