Self Portrait with Beehive

I'm ready for my close up.

I wanted to cut my hair, but I couldn’t. Not until after I got married. My hair was as long as it’d ever been, skimming my nipples in the shower and reminding me daily of my senior portrait. Reminding me of some girlishness I wanted to escape, and all its pressures, too.

I don’t know when I became obsessed with the beehive. It just happened one day, and afterward I could hardly imagine another hairdo for my wedding. Nothing could be more sophisticated, more retro, more “me” than wearing a beehive and a tea-length fifties style gown to my wedding. That was who I was meant to be. That was me as my best self. There was only one glitch: I was still waiting for my partner to propose.

I have gorgeous hair. It’s thick and wavy and once, a friend told me at her own wedding, that my hair was beautiful and was the type of hair that made other women jealous. She was wearing a flower headband in her pixie cut, her smile was almost painfully broad, and she seemed happier than I’d ever imagined she could be. She looked so beautiful.

I felt ready to be that beautiful. But more than that, I felt so ready to be done with looking beautiful. My hair weighed on me. I couldn’t wear a hat because it was impossible to put my hair back in order at work. I couldn’t wear it down on days when I went to the gym at lunch for the same reason. I wore it in a messy bun almost everyday because I couldn’t think of a damn thing to do with it anymore. I wanted the beehive and then I wanted it gone.

I waited for the proposal. And waited. We talked about getting married. He wasn’t ready and wasn’t sure he ever would be ready. He was keeping me from my beehive. More importantly, by keeping me from the beehive, he was keeping me from my post-beehive life: the life of the pixie-cut.

That was the life I wanted to get back to, the life I’d led the last time I’d cropped my hair so short. Studying abroad at Oxford, I was walking four miles a day past centuries-old stone buildings to and from class, making friends from across the globe, studying theory and ancient texts, and cooking for myself for the first time. I’d never been as much myself as I was that year. I’d never felt as sophisticated or comfortable as I did with my fresh pixie hair.

Post-wedding, I was going to make the big chop. Like my mother, like my best friend, like many other women I knew, I was going to grow my hair long and beautiful for the wedding, and then chop it off as a ritual transition to my life as wife. The life in which I would effortlessly meet glamorous friends, finally publish my book, and actually get good at cooking.

I had some fairly high expectations for myself and my wedding and our marriage, I guess.

Then, as suddenly as my obsession began, I realized my wedding wasn’t the only place to satisfy it. Sure, a beehive isn’t really a hairstyle I could pull off at work, but my cousin’s wedding was coming up. Plenty of people have their hair done for other people’s weddings, right? I could be one of those people! The dress I bought for the wedding would be perfect with a beehive. So I booked an appointment. My wait was ending.

I arrived at the salon armed with photos. The stylist seemed genuinely excited to try it out. I sat under a hood dryer for the first time in my life and, despite the intense heat or perhaps because of it, I felt like a real woman. My grandmother had gotten her hair done once a week for most of her adult life. I’m sure she would have been right there next to me, if she’d lived to attend my cousin’s wedding.

After drying like a raisin under the hood for two hours, I was in for an hour of painful teasing and prodding. I know the stylist was trying to be gentle, but I have a sensitive scalp and the pulling and pricking hurt. I realized, looking at the crinkles in my forehead, that this wouldn’t have been such a great way to start a wedding day.

But the finished product was gorgeous. I felt stunning as I grabbed a cab (a luxury almost as rare as having my hair styled!) down to the hotel to meet my family for the wedding. I couldn’t stop touching it in all its hairsprayed stiffness. Throughout the event, I admired it from multiple angles with my smartphone and accepted compliments on it with a grace I hardly knew I possessed. I was beautiful. The wedding was beautiful. The next day, taking out each pin and every tangle, I was so glad it was over I booked an appointment for The Haircut.

I still look beautiful. Sure, the new cut shows off some gray patches and probably ages me unnecessarily. I’m still not totally sure what to do with these newfangled bang-things I have in the front. But, the girlishness and weight of my old hair are gone. I feel serious and happy and ready for my next adventure, which right now, isn’t looking like marriage. And that’s okay. I still have plenty of new friends to make, a book to publish, and some cooking skills to master.

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