The Long Road to Short Hair (True) (Parts 1-2)

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Author’s Note: While events in this story are true, names have been changed.

PART ONE – JUST A TRIM

I don’t really know when my obsession with short hair started…or rather when I first desired short hair.

When I was a child society’s rules were very simple – girls had long hair and boys had short hair. Heck, when I was little I thought shoulder length hairstyles were short. I pitied my classmates whose parents made them get shoulder length cuts. I dreamt that one day I would have hair down to my ankles and it would billow gloriously behind me, Disney Princess style, when I walked.

That was one hair dream I never achieved. In fact the longest my hair ever got was about halfway down my back. But as a child, when my haircuts were still being dictated by my mother, I only ever begged for the tiniest of trims – because I was a girl and girls had long hair.

I remember a particularly traumatic haircut when my mother insisted I get an entire three inches cut off, taking my hair to about collarbone length. The horror! So my obsession and secret desires didn’t start that early.

But it is possible the first seeds of curiosity began when I was a child. My first hairdresser, Helen, had naturally red hair like me but unlike me her hair always rested between her chin and her shoulders. She was amused whenever my mother indulged my requests for tiny trims. Helen often told me that when she was young she had the loveliest of hair that was so long she could sit on it. Until one seemingly ordinary childhood trip to the salon when her mother ordered her hair chopped to her chin. Helen had kept her hair short ever since. And she opened my eyes to the possibility that a girl could get all of her hair cut off at once.

Now I don’t believe my mother would ever be the sort of woman to insist all of my then-precious tresses be chopped off. Had that happened to me as a child my tears and hysteria would have known no bounds. I would have refused to leave my room until my hair grew back.

But the idea had been planted. What would it be like to have short hair? What would it feel like to have all my hair cut off?

Regrettably those perceived social rules about hair length remained.

*

The seven endless teenage years I spent at senior school featured varying degrees of long hair. Of all my classmates, in those seven years only two girls had pixie cuts. Everyone else stuck with their long locks. I wanted to fit in with my peers so I grew my hair to my mid-back to match.

Being a teenager did mean that I could finally go to the salon by myself. ‘Be very clear how you want your hair cut’, my mother warned me, ‘hairdressers like people who give clear instructions’.

My childhood salon was under new management and was now a men-only barbershop. At my new salon there were two main stylists. I quickly learnt that Sammy would only give trims no matter what I asked for, and that Lynette was quite happy to cut off any length I desired.

By this point I desperately but secretly wanted short hair but I also wanted to fit in at school. Instead of getting the type of haircuts I truly wanted I limited myself to getting three to four inches of hair cut off at a time (courtesy of Lynette). Then I would let my hair grow to its previous length and get another three inches cut off again. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

It was one of my pixie cut classmates that really changed my way of thinking. Jenny and I were in the same history class but we never hung out and were in different friendship groups.

The same week Jenny had caused a stir by turning up to school with an unannounced pixie cut, I saw her in class showing off the secret undercut she had gotten at the same time. A 2cm strip at the base of her nape was now completely void of hair. In my eyes it was daring and dramatic and it came with the realisation that girls could have clippers used on their hair too. More importantly it opened the possibility of keeping my hair long whilst also having it short at the same time.

Fast forward a couple of years to university and while my hair was still long, I was determined to make changes.

 

PART TWO – A TIME TO EXPERIMENT

At university (or at least the one I went to) everything was freer. People could experiment, learn who they were, and there was no judgement only acceptance.

In terms of my hair choices I was inspired by my new friends. By chance two of the girls I was friends with had shaved pixie cuts. Another friend, a later confession revealed, shared my excitement of losing several inches of hair per haircut.

The problem was I’d spent too many years caring about what friends and family thought of my appearance and avoiding doing anything dramatic in order to fit in. Even though I was now friends with an amazing group of people I couldn’t quite shake those early learned insecurities.

So I compromised with myself. I took a calculated plunge rather than a reckless one. I walked into a unisex salon near the university and asked for my hair to be cut to my collarbone – losing just over six inches of hair growth. I figured cutting my hair short in stages would give my friends and family a chance to get used to the look. More importantly for my fantasies it meant I got to look forward to a major change with each upcoming haircut.

While my university friends were surprised by my collar length hair they were also quick to compliment the new look. If anything it was my mother who took longer to recover from the shock that I was now leaning towards shorter hairstyles.

Nevertheless I was encouraged by the overall reaction and impatiently waited for my hair to grow a bit longer before I could book my next appointment.

The next step was a shoulder length bob. A haircut my younger self would never have dreamed she would one day willingly get. I returned to my new stylist Amanda and quickly learnt that I was correct in my assessment of her – that she greatly enjoyed cutting off lots of her client’s hair in one sitting. Surrounded by Amanda’s enthusiasm, I let her loose on my hair.

There were a couple of things I hadn’t anticipated about that particular haircut. The first was how much my hair had grown since my previously visit. Only expecting to lose a couple of inches, I had a minor heart attack at seeing another six to seven inches of red locks tumbling down the black cape. Just how short was Amanda actually cutting it?!

The second thing I didn’t anticipate was how Amanda would interpret the phrase ‘shoulder length bob’. My new hair length just brushed my shoulders but didn’t rest on them like I had imagined. And without telling me Amanda had decided to give me an inverted bob, so my hair was higher at the back than the front. It was an incredibly alarming experience to see two inch chunks of hair falling to the floor after I’d believed the haircut to be over.

It was as close to a surprise haircut as I have ever gotten and I loved it! In fact I fell in love with shoulder length hair and how well it suited my face. That was the day I knew that I would never go back to long hair. In fact since then I’ve never let my hair grow more than an inch past my shoulders.

My hair journey was going well. Collar length hair – done. Shoulder length bob – achieved. By this point I was fully committed to my ‘going short in stages’ plan. Next I planned for my hair to be chin length, then ear length, then a bowl cut, then a pixie cut.

The next hair cut was where things started to unravel. As it turned out thick hair plus a chin length bob with my face shape does not equal a good combination.

God I hated that chin length bob! I was so disappointed, especially after how good my shoulder length hair had looked and made me feel. As a result I never had my hair cut to my ears. Instead, with Amanda’s help, I played around with different shoulder length styles. Sometimes my hair line was inverted, sometimes it was straight. Eventually I ended up with a short layered/stacked bob which, while not necessarily my favourite style, did give me an idea of what I might look like with a pixie cut.

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