“What the fuck are you doing.” Josh yells as he storms into the bathroom grabbing my hand and taking the scissors from me.
I’m completely startled. I hadn’t heard him come in. I’d been talking to the camera. To it, I had been able to eloquently explain exactly what I was about to do and why. Now I’m flustered and I can’t think of what to say to Josh.
Josh takes a deep breath, looks down at me, then at the scissors. He sticks the scissors in his pocket. I guess he feels like he can’t just put them down on the counter. He’s still holding the hand he had grabbed to keep me from making that first cut. He sees that the camera is recording and reaches over and turns it off with his free hand.
“Jesus Sam, what is going on.” Josh puts his hand on my bare arm. “God, you’re freezing.”
He reaches over to my hoodie draped over a towel bar and puts it over the simple cami I’m wearing. He starts pushing me out of the bathroom towards the living room. He finally lets go of me when we get to the couch like he thinks I’m finally safe.
“You’re really over reacting.” I finally say.
“I have no idea how I should be reacting since I have no idea what was going on.”
I understand, I know he was scared. A couple of years ago he’d come home early to find me in the same spot in the bathroom in really bad shape. I realize the whole thing probably seemed eerily familiar. The big difference being last time I was there with a box cutter to my wrist instead of scissors to my hair.
“I was just going to cut my hair.” I say.
“Why in the world would you do that?” Josh asks. “Are you depressed? You were shaking like a leaf.”
“I was just shaking because I was nervous about it.” I sigh. “I’m fine, not depressed.”
“So why did I find you in the bathroom about to cut off your hair?” Josh is still visibly really tense. “You have lovely hair Sam, and it didn’t look like you were just going to trim the ends. Plus those dull old things are going to chew up your hair, last time I used them they barely made it through the duck tape I was cutting.”
“It’s for our youtube channel.” I explain. “We’re doing a set of episodes on the seven deadly sins. We’re each going to try to completely purge one of the sins from our lives for a week.
“We wrote the sins on slips of paper and put them in a hat and each took one. I got vanity, or pride, which everyone thought was the same thing. Liz got gluttony. She is eating nothing but whole wheat bread and water for the week.”
“You have got to be kidding me. You are seriously going to hack off your hair for that damned youtube channel.” Josh looks angry now. “It’s going to take more than a week to grow back. At the end of the week, Liz will have lost 5 pounds and be bragging about how well her skinny jeans fit, but your hair will still be hacked off.”
Josh gets up muttering under his breath and goes to the kitchen. I sit on the couch feeling both relieved and annoyed that Josh stopped me. It’s not like I had really wanted to cut off my hair, but there is something about the way Josh is acting like it’s the most horrible idea ever that has me really annoyed at him.
“Whose idea was it that you cut your hair off?” Josh is back, he’s drinking from a can of soda. He hands one to me. “It wasn’t your idea was it?”
He’s right, and I don’t want to answer. Emma had suggested it. She was hosting the start of the week meeting; we take turns with who hosts the meeting on Sundays. Emma got lust. I sit there silently not answering as I fiddle with the tab on the top of the soda can. Eventually I pop open the can and take a few sips.
“I’m guessing whoever suggested it didn’t draw envy.” Josh still sounds angry, but I can tell at least it’s not at me. “I know you need friends and stuff to do, but I don’t trust them. I don’t believe they really care about you. They just care about how many subscribers you can pull in.”
Josh sighs and reaches over and twirls a lock of my hair around his finger.
“I care about how many subscribers we get too. It’s kind of the point of our channel.” I point out. “Besides, I get other things out of the weekly challenges. I learn stuff about myself. I think it’s good for me.”
“What about the week you all did the seven dwarves and you had to do Sleepy. You can’t convince me it was good for you to spend that much time in bed.” Josh gets up. “I’m going to order us a pizza. The usual?”
I nod. Josh picks up his phone and starts ordering. I decide to go get the camera from the bathroom. I have the footage I recorded during our last group where we picked our sins.
“Where are you going?” Josh hisses.
“Just to get my camera.” I roll my eyes. “Stop being paranoid, I haven’t got a spare pair of scissors hidden in the bathroom.”
When I get back to the couch with the camera, I start playing it back. Josh has finished ordering and comes over.
“Put it on the TV, I want to see this.” Josh still sounds angry.
“Ok, Liz since your segment is first on Monday, you pick first….What did you get?” Emma speaks in a bubbly voice.
“Gluttony.” Announces Liz holding the paper up to the camera. “So, how am I going to avoid gluttony completely for a week?”
“Eat nothing but bread and water.” Jen suggests.
“Make it enriched whole wheat bread.” I pipe up. “That way it doesn’t taste as good, but you’ll stay healthier.”
“I really like the taste of whole wheat actually,” Liz admits, “so maybe it’s more gluttonous to have than white bread,”
“So, just white bread and water for a week.” Emma declares.
“I think you should make it whole wheat anyway. The point is to avoid gluttony, not to give yourself malnutrition.” I point out. “Health first.”
There is murmured agreement from most of the ladies.
“Ok, so whole wheat bread and water for a week,” Emma continues, “and since we are thinking about Liz’s health a multi vitamin too.”
“OK, Gina. Your turn since your segment is released on Tuesdays.” Emma holds out the hat to her.
“I got Sloth.” Gina tells us.
It takes us a few minutes, but we settle on Gina getting up at 6:00am every day and going for a run, and then going to the gym after work too.
“Wednesday’s next, so that’s you Samantha.”
Right then the doorbell rings. Josh gets up to answer it. I pause the video for him.
“Hi. How much is it?” I hear Josh’s voice drift in from the entryway as he talks to the pizza guy. Then I hear the loud clatter of what I assume are the scissors falling out of Josh’s pocket and onto the floor. “Sorry. Long story…. Keep the change.”
Josh comes back to the living room carrying the pizza box and a bag of what I hope are garlic knots. I notice the scissors are back in his pocket. He puts the food on the coffee table and I unpause the video.
“I got Pride.” I say, showing off my paper just as Liz and Gina had.
Everyone starts talking, trying to decide what I take the most pride in, and how I could be brought down a peg or two. Someone suggests making me wear ugly clothes, or no makeup, then Emma speaks up.
“Samantha’s not really vain about those things.” Emma looks me right in the eye. “It’s her hair she takes so much pride in. That’s what she’s vain about. It’s the part of her she really thinks is pretty.”
Josh grumbles and swallows his bite of pizza.
“I knew it wasn’t your idea. Look at the expression on your face.” He points at the screen where I’m just sitting looking shocked and not saying a word as the others discuss my attachment to my hair. “It’s clear as hell you don’t want to do it and they are pressuring you into it.”
I pretend to be really fascinated by my garlic knot for a few minutes, trying to collect my thoughts.
“You’re right, I didn’t want to do it, but that’s why we call it a challenge. It’s supposed to be hard.” I say finally.
Josh and I continue to watch as the rest of the group select their sins and we come up with how they will meet the challenge. Then the recording I made in the spare bedroom starts.
“Hi subscribers, and happy Wednesday.” It’s the same thing I say at the start of each of my episodes. “If you have seen the Sunday episode, you know that this week we are doing our Seven Deadly Sins challenge, and I picked out pride from the hat.
“Pride covers a lot of things, but a big part of it, certainly for me, is vanity.”
I take a really deep breath as I continue. “This week’s challenge is going to be particularly hard for me. It may even upset some of you, because I know from your comments that a lot of you love my hair. I love it too. And I take great pride in how it looks. Which is why cutting it off is how I’m going to meet this week’s challenge.
“Now, obviously just cutting it off doesn’t make me not vain. The heart of the challenge will be to try to not care after I’ve cut it off. That’s going to be the really hard part. Still being able to go about everyday life and not mind how I look for the week.
“I’m going to just be doing it myself, nothing fancy. The point is obviously not to make it look good.”
Josh groans again at that, and mutters some more.
“OK guys, here goes.”
I turn off the camera at that point, and then it’s on again in the bathroom. I tell the subscribers how nervous I am as I stand there holding the scissors in my shaking hand.
That’s when Josh comes in.
We sit there for a moment staring at the blank screen. Josh just looks angry still.
“See, I’m not depressed. No one’s twisting my arm.” I say. “If that’s what you’re worried about you don’t need to be.”
“Sam, do you actually want to do this? Can you honestly tell me that once your hair is all hacked off you won’t be devastated about it?” Josh asks and he really does sound seriously worried.
I am now having second thoughts, but I hate that I am. I’m not sure if I am being vain, or if I think Josh is right and this is actually a really bad idea, or if I just don’t want to upset him any more. I am filled with doubt.
“I don’t know.” I admit. “How much of your objection is you being worried about me, and how much of it is you just not wanting me to cut my hair because you like it.”
“I’ll admit, that some of it is that I just don’t want you to cut off your hair because yes I do like your pretty hair.” Josh comes clean. “That’s minor though. I’ll get over you having short hair. I really don’t want to end up in the ER tomorrow night because you are so upset about it.”
“You think I’m that fragile?”
“Promise me you won’t do it tonight and you’ll sleep on it.” Josh is looking deeply into my eyes. I can see his are on the verge of tears. “Please.”
“OK.” What can I do at this point but agree. I don’t even know what I feel at this point.
Josh visibly relaxes. “Are you done eating? Can I put away the leftovers?”
“Yeah, I’m done.”
I wake up around my usual 8 o’clock. Normally Josh has left for work by the time I wake up, but I hear him on the phone.
“Yeah, I’ll probably be in tomorrow…. Don’t worry, I’m pretty sure she’s not contagious…. Yeah, go ahead and email that to me, I can probably get a look at it…. She’s just a bit under the weather, I just want to keep an eye on her, she doesn’t need me constantly…. OK, see you tomorrow.”
“Did you call out of work just so you could stop me?” I ask Josh as I walk to the kitchen.
“I was worried about you.”
“You’re not doing what you should to make a living, in order to prevent me from doing what I need to to make a living.”
“You do not make enough on that channel – split seven ways – to justify cutting off your hair.”
“It’s my hair, I think I get to decide what it’s worth.” I head back to our bedroom and slam the door.
“Can we talk?”
I’m bored with Candy Crush anyway, so I look up at him. “Yeah?”
“I’m sorry.” He does look it. Or miserable, at least. I wait for him to go on.
“I know I can’t tell you what to do with your hair. Or how to deal with your friends. I just don’t want you to do something you’ll regret.”
I have no idea if he’s talking about cutting my hair, or something more serious. I’m still annoyed that he thinks that one will lead to the other.
“Yeah, well. It’s my hair. And if I do cut it, it doesn’t mean I’m depressed, all right? Why don’t you go in to work. Tell them I’m feeling better. And don’t worry; I’m not going to do anything stupid, OK?”
He goes, and I breathe a sigh of relief. At least with Josh gone, I can think clearly about what I want to do, without worrying about whether he’ll try to stop me.
I’m poised with the scissors once more. I’ve done my spiel for the camera, and it’s time to bite the bullet. Or give up once and for all, and admit that I am just too vain to cut my hair.
The scissors make an unforgettable crunching noise as they bite through my hair. I’ve deliberately chosen a section just in front of my right ear, and I’m cutting it carelessly high. Too high for this to be fashioned into any kind of bob, I realise belatedly, and too far back to be incorporated into bangs. I swallow, knowing that there’s no going back now.
I release the hair I was holding, and grab the same section on the other side. I check in the mirror, trying to get the scissors at the same point. I briefly flirt with the idea that I could leave this side longer, try to pass it off as asymmetric, but immediately tell myself that there’s no way my cutting skills are going to be up to it, and, I remind myself severely, I’m supposed to be rejecting vanity, not trying to find ways to attract more attention.
The second cut is easier, emotionally at least. These scissors really aren’t as sharp as I thought they were. I carry on snipping, throwing caution to the wind, and entirely forget that the camera is running.
“Shit. I thought you said you wouldn’t do anything stupid?”
I glare up at him, frustration etched across my face. Once he sees this, his tone softens.
“Sam, are you OK?”
“Yes. I’m fine. I’m just a really terrible hairdresser.” I laugh, hoping that it doesn’t sound hysterical. “Look. I just can’t get it even. Can you have a go, please?
He looks at me like I’m insane.
“Since when do I know how to cut hair? What if I make it worse?”
“At this point, I don’t think you can. And anyway, the point of this wasn’t to make it look good, I’m trying to reject vanity, remember? I’d just like it not to have all these straggly bits.”
“I did tell you not to use those scissors. I’ll find some sharper ones.”
Josh walks away, sighing. I’m feeling more relieved than I want to admit. He seems to have accepted that I have just hacked my hair off with no real plan, he hasn’t screamed at me, and hasn’t accused me of self-harm.
“Right. Keep still.” He has a new, shiny pair of scissors in one hand, comb in the other, and he sounds more confident than I expected. “You just want me to even it up, yeah?”
“Well, unless you’ve got any better ideas.” I really shouldn’t have a sarcastic tone with him, but sometimes I can’t help myself. He wisely doesn’t reply, just starts combing and snipping. I steel myself to keep quiet. Whatever he does, it can’t be any worse than my efforts. I’m facing away from the mirror, so can’t see what he’s doing, which is probably for the best. After a few minutes, which seem like a few hours, Josh stands back.
“Right, well, that’s probably about as good as it’s going to get.” That doesn’t sound very encouraging but I slowly turn around to face the mirror.
If the idea is to reject pride and vanity, I think I’ve succeeded. I try to tell myself that despite my earlier panic, you could perhaps call it a sort of a bob. Not a flattering one, though, or even a classic bob. No, I have high, short bangs, which lead into hair sloping down past my ears, incorporating my first reckless chops, to the hair at the back, which is straight across, well above my chin. Jaw length maybe?
OK. I should be honest with myself. It’s not a bob. It’s a bowl cut. Not one of those trendy, edgy undercut things you might see on an achingly-hip arty girl, and which I could never have carried off anyway, more of a 1970’s home haircut. Perhaps not surprising, as it was done at home, with blunt scissors, by two people with no training.
So. Deep breath and look at the positives. I’ve done what I meant to. Taken the challenge, proven that I wasn’t too vain, too proud to cut my hair. And living with it for the next week? Well, I’ll be living with it for a lot longer than that. It’s clear that there’s no hope of styling it to look like anything other than what it is. My hair, thick and stick straight, is just going to hang like this, like it always does.
“So….” Josh tentatively speaks up. “What do you think?”
I don’t know what he wants. An opinion on his hairdressing skills? Reassurance that I’m not about to have a breakdown? Surely not how much I like the haircut which, let’s face it, is pretty unlikeable.
“It’s fine.” I know that I don’t really mean this. “Well, it’s going to have to be, anyway. I turn to him. “Thank you.” I smile, and am surprised that I don’t have to force it.
“What for?” He asks uncertainly.
I shrug. “For helping me. For not freaking out.” I pause. “For trusting me.”
He smiles back, awkwardly.
“OK, I need to clean this up and have a shower. Give me some room.”
A tiny flicker of concern passes across his face, wondering what I’m going to do, alone in the bathroom, then I close the door on him.
The shower feels good. Sure, it’s weird that I didn’t have a great mass of hair to contend with, but that’s actually kind of nice. For the first time, I start to wonder if there might actually be some upsides to this haircut. I’m probably imagining it, but I’m sure I can feel a wave of relief radiating from Josh as I come out of the bathroom, my hair wrapped in a towel.
I drag a comb through my hair, without really looking at it. I’m preoccupied with what to wear. If I truly am rejecting pride, then my clothes should reflect that too. If vanity is the consequence of pride, then what’s the opposite? Humility? Modesty?
I settle on a plain white blouse and a long denim skirt. It’s certainly more modest than what I would normally wear, and feels appropriate for the way I’m feeling.
My hair is still quite damp, so I give it a quick blast with the hairdryer, still not looking in the mirror. I’m deliberately not making any attempt to style it, just letting it fall where it will. One more run through with a comb, and I know that I can’t put it off any more. I stand in front of the full length mirror, and take it in.
It would be easy to say that I look like a different person, but I’m not sure that’s true. I look very different, to be sure, but I’m still me. A different version of me, perhaps. I wonder what reactions I’ll get when people see me. What about people who I meet for the first time, what will they think of me? A quote floats across my mind ‘A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.’ Coco Chanel, I think. Have I changed my life?
“So….” I leave it hanging.
“Oh, er, wow, er. Yeah, you look, er, great. Really nice.” I’ve no idea if he really thinks this, or is just trying to make me feel better. “But what do you think? Glad you did it?”
“Yeah, yeah, I think I am.” I smile at him. He does look genuinely happy, if slightly puzzled; at least pleased that I seem to be OK with it.
“I’m actually beginning to feel like it’s a bit of a relief. I know that I was always a bit vain about my hair; it’s the one thing about me that I actually liked, so I always put this pressure on myself to make sure that it looked good. I persuaded myself that if my hair didn’t look right, then nothing else could be right.
“Now, ” I shrug. “There’s nothing I can do with it cut like this. It’s too short to put up, I can’t curl it. Whatever I do, it’s just going to look like this.” I flick it with my hands, and feel it settle back into place. “Plain, sensible, practical, sure. Not stylish, or sexy, or anything else that I might have wanted before.
“And you know what? I don’t care. I realise that Emma pushed me into this, because she’s jealous probably, but I think she might actually have done me a favour. So, what do you really think?”
His smile broadens. “I love it. Not because it looks cute, though it does.” He pauses, then blurts out. “When you flicked it out and it just fell back, it kind of reminded me of that ice skater, from ages ago. What was her name?”
“Yeah, that’s it. Anyway, I love it because I love you. Because it’s made you happy, I think. I never really cared how long your hair was, I just wanted you to feel good about it.”
“Really?” I’m still a little sceptical. “And what if I want to keep it like this? What if I go to a cheap salon in a couple of months when it’s started to grow out, and have it cut back like this, just tell them that I want it cleaned up, and out of my face and no fuss? What if I never grow it back, never have long, pretty hair again?” I’m deliberately pushing Josh here, trying to get him to admit that he wants me to grow it again.
He shrugs. “If that’s what you want,” he said, “then do it. It’s your hair, your life. I think we’ve spent enough time agonising over it. Just do what you want. Really.”
This time I believe him.
“So,” he continues. “Do you need to finish filming your video?”
I consider for a moment.
“Fuck it. Netflix?”
Also published at https://f35hstories.wordpress.com