It was an unusually warm New England day in the month of September when our twenty-something protagonist decided to get her hair cut. She had lost many hours debating the effects that such a common event would have on the people she loved. You see, unlike most women her age, the woman in question had the misfortune of being closely related to older individuals who cared more about the length of her hair than the protagonist’s welfare. She realized that her decision would impact the relationships she had with these people. Yet, tired of dealing with snarls, temperature discomfort and pain that is only experienced when one catches their hair in a door jam or a part of their own body, she selfishly knew what had to be done.
Slowly descending into the stylist's chair, she felt the weight of the past few years begin to lift off of her. Since she had last dared to have scissors and hair meet she had lost and gained countless gifts, chances and tears. She realized that this cut would be as much for her head as it would be for her heart. Perhaps once she had a new reflection her outlook on the world would change too. As she was donating her hair to a worthy charity, the first snip was more of a chop. With little warning, ten inches of heat, snarl and pain were no longer attached to her head. Instantaneously, a fire in her that had long been extinguished burst to life and she was filled with a kind of happiness that she had denied herself for too long.
“This is freeing.” she whispered to herself. “So freeing.”
Yet, she realized her happiness had a limited time span. She knew that once she entered her house the fire would be diminished, all but snuffed out by the unkind words and looks expressed by the people who claimed to love her the most. By realizing this, she pushed aside her famously shy and abundantly private persona and openly displayed her emotions. For the time being, she was allowed to rejoice in her new do. There would be time enough later for forced regrets and self-doubts.
Having set (or rather been manipulated into setting) a limit on how short her hair could be, the stylist’s remaining task was only to tidy up the dysfunctional ends. Though she spoke of the health of her client’s hair and the pride she felt for her work, the protagonist was too lost in her own thoughts to hear the stylist’s every word. She simply smiled politely and emitted short responses when it seemed necessary. To the stylist, this was just another head of hair. Why should the protagonist embarrass herself and try to make it more than that?
“Do you like it?” the stylist asked holding a mirror up so that all angles could be seen.
“Very much so.” the beaming protagonist replied.
“Next time we’ll style it more and maybe add in some highlights?” she asked, leading the way to the cash register.
To this statement the protagonist simply laughed quietly. Knowing how things would play out later on, she knew that “next time” would be a few years off.
“Thank you. I really do love it.” replied our protagonist, her face hurting from smiling so much.
“Have a good day.” the stylist said before moving on to the next customer.
“Yes, today is definitely a good day.” the protagonist thought to herself. “But tonight…” she thought as she audibly sighed.
Exiting the shop, she was glad she hadn’t asked for her hair to be blown dry. Though it was nearly October the air was hot and humid. Had her hair not been wet she’d have ruined it with sweat and the magic may have ended sooner than later. Happily, she had the damp hair on her shoulders and the intoxicating aroma of the salon’s shampoo to remind her that (if only for today) her life was hers and her decision was wise. Realizing that things could always be this way, she contemplated never returning home. Yet, as the sun’s light dimmed to darkness and obligation began to tug at her brain, she found herself turning her house key in the lock. To her great relief, the house was dark. If she hurried, she could make it to her room without being seen. She would be allowed to drift off to sleep feeling as content and in control as she had all day.
However, this was not to be. It was fated that she be spotted. Without firm reason or any attempt at choosing love over judgment, she was met with the treatment she had prepared herself for. Her decision, in their eyes, was foolish and, in the opinion of the oldest critic, cruel. Though it hadn’t been the case hours before when her hair was nearing her bottom, now that it met her shoulders, she was labeled “unfeminine” and “ugly.”
Having been given permission to retire to her room, she believed for a moment these unkind things. Yet, within minutes, sensibility had clicked in which allowed her tears to shut off. Though she had accomplished so much academically and creatively and had sacrificed nearly all happiness so they could have theirs, she was once again considered lower than low because she had dared to cut her hair. Years ago, this realization would’ve meant little in comparison to the pain she felt in displeasing her loved ones. Now however things were different. She suddenly no longer cared about their opinion or believed a word they said. Cutting one’s hair does not change your character, tarnish your achievements or lower your worth. Being forced to believe it does is a manipulative tactic used by the small-minded to beat down the ones who love them. For too long she hadn’t realized this and had suffered for it. Having now been given the gift of clear thinking she pitied them. Clearly the fire would not be extinguished so easily this time.
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