Here’s What You Really Need to Know Before Cutting Off Your Hair

Going from Rae Dawn Chong to Halle Berry

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You’re easy to remember when you have long, kinky, biracial hair. It’s your calling card. Several times a week total strangers will engage you. Is that a perm? Is it natural? Is it yours? The guy behind you in line at the bar will ask if he can touch it, immediately fondling your head before you have a chance to say, “I’d rather you didn’t.”

I can’t tell you exactly why I started fantasizing about cutting it all off, days after my wedding. Of course there is no bigger cliché than a dramatic, post-wedding haircut, but I didn’t exactly feel like it symbolized “the start of our new life together.” But marriage, among other things, has started to make me feel awfully grown-up lately. I’m in my thirties now, living in the suburbs, and preparing to move with my spouse across the country where house prices are more affordable and we’ll be closer to family. It feels an awful lot like “settling down,” doesn’t it? Maybe, I just want to prove that I’m not a stale Old Married. I still have some surprises up my sleeve. I’m still cool enough to get a badass haircut. And, apparently, I still have the sense of agency to make a salon appointment for the purposes of cutting off the majority of the hair on my head despite my husband’s specific request not to.

Before Jesse and I were even dating, he’d tried his hand at flirtation by telling me that I looked like his boyhood crush, Rae Dawn Chong in Commando (circa 1985). I hadn’t heard of her before (Tommy Chong’s daughter, by the way) and, like a teenager, ran a Google image search the second I was alone. She was biracial like me, but her long corkscrewed tresses cascaded past her shoulders. Excited for a change, I decided to try and grow out my mid-length style and stopped cutting my hair to see if I could pull of “the Rae Dawn” successfully. Of course length takes time when your hair grows in circles, rather than straight down. By the time Jesse proposed eighteen months later, my hair fell inches past my shoulders. Early in our engagement, I set my whole heart (and a massive Pinterest board) on a traditional bridal updo. It wasn’t long afterward that I also started to wonder if I also wanted to cut all this hair off when I was “done with it.”

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One month after becoming a married woman, I showed up at my salon appointment with absolutely no nerves. I already felt like a badass. Forty minutes later I left with the shortest hair I’ve had since I was a toddler—a style they call “the tapered afro.” Twelve inches of ponytail went straight into a donation bag. My stylist flashed me her iPhone, showing me the before and after pictures she’d taken for the salon’s Instagram account. There was never a moment of regret. I loved the cut. Truly, madly, deeply.

In fact, my big chop polled well nearly across the board. My best friend even made an appointment a few days later to get a “thirty-and-badass” pixie-style haircut of her own. I treated myself to a few new pairs of statement earrings and experimented with bold lipstick. A cute girl with braids who works in the changing room at Old Navy unexpectedly smiled at me and exclaimed, “Cool hair!” and my ego swelled immediately. A real-life young person thinks I’m cool. I feel like Toni fucking Braxton.

Not everyone has given their stamp of approval, though. An unfamiliar colleague in the office does nothing to hide her crestfallen reaction when she sees my hair. “I loved those curls,” she sighs before smiling quickly and adding, “It will grow back! And it’s only hair!” And my spouse? My hair’s number one fan? He loved those curls too, of course. It may have taken a few days, but he did warm up to the cut eventually. He doesn’t expect me to start growing it out for him, any more than I expect him to shave off his beard (Oh, but he looks so much younger!) for me, but I’ve asked him his honest opinion and he’s given it: he prefers “the Rae Dawn.”

Here’s what I really want you to know about cutting off your hair. More than you could have expected, it will make you feel affirmed, refreshed, and powerful as hell. Not because the creepy guy at work who never spoke to you before now greets you with an overly-enthusiastic, “WELL HELLO MISS HALLE BERRY!” Not even because you basically rebranded your image overnight. The greatest gift of cutting off your hair is loving the results of a decision you made with your gut. Even if the busybodies at work get upset. Even if there’s a ton of douchebags out there that believe “girls only look good with long hair.” Even if your beloved life-partner expresses his reservations… you’ve got this. I promise you that going against the grain never felt so good.

DON’T MISS NATIONAL DONATE YOUR HAIR DAY ON NOVEMBER 22ND! CLICK HERE FOR MORE DETAILS ABOUT HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE, GET A FREE HAIRCUT, AND HELP MAKE WIGS FOR WOMEN BATTLING CANCER. AND FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE ALREADY MADE THE CUT, SHARE YOUR BEST TIPS BELOW!

This post was sponsored by Pantene Beautiful Lengths. Thank you PBL for helping make the APW mission possible! Click here for more information about Pantene Beautiful Lengths and how your donation helps women who are battling cancer.

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