The Power of a Pandemic Haircut

One small snip can change your worldview.

Graphic by author.

Hair can be a constant. Hair can be comfort and warmth. It can be an identifier. It’s certainly a financial investment in your appearance and well-being. For the last few months, I’ve thrown my hair up into a ponytail when I went to work as a nanny to three children. Throughout the pandemic, I rarely “did” my hair—meaning I rarely put product in and styled my curly locks. I wouldn’t say I’m vain, but my appearance generally impacts my mood. So, when I styled my hair for the first time in months and did my makeup, I felt powerful—I felt like myself. I documented the moment by posting the photo below on Instagram.

The Instagram selfie.

A few hours later, I received a direct message from a former co-worker and friendly acquaintance on Instagram, who said, “Your hair is… ANIMALISTIC. really gets me going in a primal way.”

I replied, “Lol thanks good thing I’m cutting it off! Hahahaha”

“Yeah good thing. I gotta stay away from girls like you,” he noted.

This man knows I have a significant other. I’ve shot him down at least six times. Following a period I felt gorgeous and totally like myself (for the first time in a long time), his messages instantly made me feel squeamish and subjected to his gaze. I also replied in a manner that made me small and him comfortable. Thankfully, I wasn’t lying when I said I was cutting my hair off. Before this exchange, I scheduled a haircut. I hadn’t received one in almost a year, and I knew it was time to do a little something to ensure my hair’s health. I considered cutting it a lot off and making a change, but I wasn’t sure if I was ready.

There were a lot of things I didn’t know if I was ready for. For the greater part of a year, my life—like many others—seemed to be in flux. Yet, throughout this last month, my life appeared to be crumbling. I couldn’t maintain multiple jobs between nannying and freelance writing, as I worked 60 hours a week. I couldn’t sustain a long-distance relationship with no end date in sight. On top of that, some family members became infected with coronavirus and two were in the hospital. I couldn’t handle everything at once. Something needed to give.

I knew I had to prioritize my family above all else. I wanted to quit my job, but I’d think about financial security and my emotional attachment to these kids and want to stay. I didn’t want to break up with my boyfriend, but I’d think about all the obstacles in our way and want to give up. I did not know what to do.

A week after my exchange with that man, I met with my therapist. We rehashed all the issues pertaining to my family, work, and relationship. Then, out of nowhere, I brought up my impending haircut. I have no idea why I did. Maybe I used it as an example of my inability to make decisions.

When we spoke, I mentioned a long list regarding why I shouldn’t cut my long, voluminous hair: I am conventionally more attractive with longer hair, I finally got it to a length I like, I can play with different hairstyles, etc. Afterward, I could only come up with one reason for why I should cut it: I wanted to.

On the 30 minute drive to the salon, I weighed all these factors. I didn’t want to cut my hair just because I told that guy I was going to. I also didn’t want to make a decision based on how others would perceive me. When I arrived double-masked up, I still hadn’t made a decision. I sat in the salon chair waiting for my stylist, considering all the possibilities. It wasn’t until my stylist came over and asked me what I wanted that I knew: Let’s cut it to my chin. She asked me if I was sure, telling me my long hair was salvageable. But I didn’t care. I knew what I needed at that moment.

As I saw inches of light brown hair hit the ground, I experienced euphoria. Inches that weighed me down like a disgusting old mop were being swept up, away from me. I saw myself soften in real-time, as my eyes appeared more relaxed.

Right after the chop!

After an assistant washed my hair, and I saw my hair without it styled, I thought, “Oh shit, does this look stupid?” Lol. But then, after my stylist scrunched in some gel and fluffed it out, I looked fab-u-lous. Then I took off my mask and was like eeeek I look old and weird. (We all know the post-haircut jumble of emotions!)

With and without my mask on.

My parents agreed. I looked older with shorter hair, but after I styled it myself and had fun with it, I grew to fucking love my new do.

I look incredible. You’re welcome. Shout-out to Lauren at Utopia Salon.

I’ve never felt so empowered by such a small decision. The simple choices were in front of my face the entire time. My haircut encouraged me to put in my month’s notice, set a date to see my boyfriend, and do all I could for my family.

I learned that as long as I follow my desires, I will feel fulfilled—as I am listening to myself. For so long, I allowed external forces and their noise to drown out my clear and inspired voice. No longer will I allow that to happen, because now I won’t have hair covering my ears :)

Disclaimer: If you decide to get a haircut during the pandemic, please take the necessary precautions. I wore both a N95 and cloth mask. I also made sure to socially distance at the salon, and use hand sanitizer throughout my visit. Once I got home, I showered and threw my clothes in the wash (just like I do when I get home from nannying). Also, tip your stylist (and their assistant) at least 20%! Stay safe, everyone!

Greek New Jerseyan through & through. I cover culture + lifestyle for various publications, including Apartment Therapy, Bitch Media, and more <3

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