The Girl Next Door

I almost feel like I need another week to process this haircut before I blog about it. That's how bizarrely it has impacted me.

As a vivid example, last night I had stress dreams that involved various people throughout my life -- childhood friends, college professors, past crushes -- approaching me as though I was a completely different person. My boyfriend even seemed to not recognize me. At one point a director I've worked with before entered my dream, regarded me in disgust and spat: "They've told me about you... how difficult you are to work with. We all know you've got something wrong in the head." I was crying, asking who'd told her those things, pleading with her to hear me out; "You know me! You know how I work! There's nothing wrong with me!" She walked away, and I was left in a room full of school children, desperately trying to find a script I'd left behind.

This dream, and all the other emotions surrounding my change of appearance, can only be explained by the sense of self I have always associated with my hair. For years I was the classmate with the long, silky locks everyone wanted to play with. Through puberty, when I felt chubby and awkward, my mane was my saving grace -- the one thing I felt made me pretty and interesting. There are plenty of embarrassing photos from these years which challenge that notion: The Middle-Parted, The Kinked From Too-Tight Hairbands, The Horrendously Dowdy Post-Dance-Class Bun... But it was still "me." It was something I had created all by myself... with the help of Pantene and some gracious genes, anyway.

I'm now practical enough to realize I have far more going for myself inside my head than on it, but I do think the take-away from the dream is a definite fear of people judging me by my appearance. "Something wrong in the head" is surely my brain's odd interpretation of the haircut's immediate effect on other people. It exposes a worry that, because I altered my trademark feature, everyone will suddenly think I'm no longer me, and therefore no longer capable of what I was before.

Isn't that absurd??! Isn't it just mad that we can think all these things on a subconscious (or otherwise) level over something as inconsequential as a haircut? In the midst of donating to a marvelous cause? In the midst of pride, even? And yet, it is the reason I felt a sudden need to cry when I no longer had enough hair to pull into a messy bun. It's why I still feel something hanging against my back, like a phantom limb.*

When it comes down to it, I think we all assume we'll get a haircut (or buy a new dress or redecorate our bedroom or take a year abroad) and the world will go topsy turvy. We all live out this fantasy lead role, creating an audience out of those around us, imagining everyone's just waiting to see what we'll do next. We assume that when we change our appearance -- whether we experience a loss-of-self or the regenerative effect of a new personality -- that everyone will notice. But all that's left, after the hair has fallen to the floor and the scissors have silenced and the mousse has been washed out, is us.

A small part of me always dreamed that the day I cut my hair would be the day I became a "real woman." Something like a loss of virginity. I imagined I would suddenly feel sophisticated and sexy, carefree and confident with my place in the world. It's not so much that I don't feel those things. It's that I still feel the awkward/cute/ridiculous/nervous stuff too. Oddly enough, I'm taking tremendous comfort in that fact. It means I'm still me. I'm still the girl next door.

*Is it also the reason I'm freezing right now, or is that just Seattle?

Cardigan: Target
Tank: Loft  
Jeans: Lucky - "Sophia Boot"  
Booties: thrifted  
Earrings: American Eagle
Haircut: Vain Hair Salon

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