Two years ago, my hair was long. It cascaded down my back in one long layer of espresso tresses, straight and stretching from the top of my head to the small of my back. Very rarely did I wear it down; blow-drying took too long, and I found that when I did let it fly loose around my shoulders, it would just get on my nerves. Over-a-foot-long strands would break free of my mane and slip inside my shirt, or down my pants, causing me to spend a frenzied few minutes locating the renegade hair to relieve the tickling it caused to whichever body part it touched. When worn down, my hair would get in my eyes, stick to my lipstick, and generally annoy me. Most days, I wore it piled on top of my head, secured by a covered rubber band in a hairdo my parents not-so-affectionately referred to as "The Marge Simpson 'Do." Though not nearly as tall as her blue bouffant, it did protrude from the crown of my head, making the hairstyle part regal, part ridiculous. I would put it up first thing in the morning, my hair still dripping wet from the shower, and when I took it down just before bed, the hair that was bunched and looped and fastened to my head would still be wet.
When I did wear it down, though, I was constantly complimented on my hair. It's so long, so beautiful customers, friends and boyfriends would gush. I'd grab a handful of my thick black hair and frown. "But it's so annoying," I'd reply, tossing the section back over my shoulder. It being so long afforded me very little freedom as far as hairstyles went; it was either down, in The Marge, or pulled tight against my head in a low ponytail. It got on my nerves.
I often contemplated, and incessantly threatened, to just cut it all off. I'd done it before, years ago as a sophomore in high school. I was sitting with my mom as she had her hair cut in a salon, lazily flipping through a magazine. I stopped on an Estee Lauder ad featuring the then-spokesmodel Elizabeth Hurley.
"Isn't she gorgeous?" I sighed, turning the magazine so that my mom, and the stylists behind her, could see Ms. Hurley.
"Honey," the thin and flamboyant beautician sitting in his vacant salon chair interrupted, "you would look just like her with that haircut."
I turned the magazine around, considered the photo. Her hair was shoulder-length and brown. I didn't see much similarity between the two of us beyond our blue eyes and dark hair, but his compliment was all that I needed. "Let's do it," I said. And, an hour later, almost a foot of my hair littered the area around his swiveling chair.
But two years ago, my hair was longer than it had been in high school. The comparisons between me and Liz Hurley were long gone, and anyway, I was used to having my long hair. Every time I built up the nerve to hack it off, I'd check myself. What if I hate it? What if it looks horrible? I'd talk myself out a drastic change in a fraction of the time it took me to find the guts to do it in the first place.
But then I broke up with Tom. And my little brother's then-girlfriend told me her mom was a hairdresser and offered a free cut & style to anyone willing to donate eleven or more inches to Locks of Love. I needed a change. I was sick of the clogs in the drain, The Marge, the heaviness my hair offered. It was time.
I marched into the salon, and the hairdresser braided my long hair, a perfect weave of deep auburn, black and red strands. The scissors she used barely fit around the thickness of the braid. But with a series of snips, she rid me of just over a foot of hair. I looked in the mirror, at the sloppy, jagged edges of my not yet styled hair, and thought it looked okay, but I wasn't sure I was happy with my decision. But it was, obviously, too late to change my indecisive mind. My hair was clutched in her hands, and the change was already well underway.
When she was finished trimming and layering, pulling hair from opposite sides of my head together to check for even length, blow drying and fluffing me, she turned me around to face the mirror. I loved it. I'm so glad I did this, I thought, as I shook my head from side to side. I felt freed. I couldn't believe I'd been hiding behind all that hair for all that time. I made an appointment for a trim in five weeks, and I've kept it the same length - or shorter - ever since.
I have this feeling that my change in jobs will be no different. I'm terrified; frightened that I may not do well, that I won't like it. But I've just been used to working at the bank. Used to walking into same doors every morning, fixing my coffee and sitting down to eight hours of the same thing every day.
This morning, I fixed my coffee like I always do, grabbed a box of tissues, marched into my boss' office and closed the door behind me. The tears started before the door latched shut. "Bill, I'm giving you my two weeks' notice," I managed to blubber, my face crumpled and my voice shaky. I fanned my face like so many of those women on reality TV do, in an effort, I suppose, to dry the tears before they could fall. I hated that I was crying, but I couldn't help it. I love my boss to pieces, and it makes me so sad to think of not seeing him every day.
"What?" He shook his head as though he was clearing his ears. His expression was disbelief, as though he'd misheard me.
"I'm giving you my two weeks' notice," I said, more clearly than I'd been able to seconds before.
He nodded his head like he knew it had been coming. "Where are you going?"
I told him, while I collected tears in my already mascara-stained Kleenex.
"Good for you, Laur." He sat back in his high-backed chair and gave me a fatherly smile. "Frankly, I'm surprised it took you this long." His eyes were sympathetic. "Why are you crying, though?"
"I don't know." It was a half-laughed, half tear-stained statement that came out louder than I'd intended.
It was like the beautician slicing through a chunk of my hair. It was as good as done.
Right now, I'm looking at the rough cut, the unsure edges that present themselves before all the finish work is done. All the trimming and layering and fluffing will be done in the next few months. And I'm pretty sure that I'll sit back then and think, "God, I'm glad I did this."