Humorist Fran Lebowitz once said that you’re only as good as your last haircut. I agree with her. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I’ve ever had a good haircut.
Lebowitz and I share a common philosophy as well as a common enemy. Each of us has hair whose natural inclination is to assume a mushroom shape and frizz as if playing a featured role in an electricity experiment. If Lebowitz has ever been fully satisfied with her haircut, you could knock me unconscious with a bottle of anti-frizz serum.
I’ve tried male stylists and female stylists, established salons and holes-in-the-wall worthy of an independent spirit award. I once let a beauty school student cut my hair. For fancy weddings, I’ve enjoyed the spa equivalent of an assembly line in a hotel room.
I draw inspiration from the stars of stage and screen, images both photographed and Photoshopped, and strangers on the street. I’ve considered the Rachel and every phase of the Meg Ryan. The pixie is one of my major life goals, the bob one of my major life lessons.
There is something uniquely invigorating when the idea for a new hairstyle strikes. Despite 19 years of formal education, I still believe that a haircut will give me more than just new hair. I believe, every time, that a new haircut will give me something of the overall look and life of the model I’m plagiarizing. More layers will give me a yoga-like leanness, more bangs will accentuate my well-timed wit, and more curls will cement my status as America’s sweetheart.
Armed with this completely sideways grasp of reality, I sign myself up for another go at total transformation by way of a single pair of slim scissors. I sit, share the picture of what I’m aiming for (hair-wise, but also personality-, profession-, and fashion-wise), and watch the process unfold. Somewhere around halfway through, I realize I’ve made a terrible mistake.
The six inches of hair I’ve decided to shed have done nothing to erase the pregnancy belly sitting on my waistline since I had my son, who’s now in preschool. The long layers haven’t made my exaggerated gum line any shorter. Thanks to a 30-minute blowout, my hair is straight for the first time since I spent an entire day wearing a winter hat, but one of my teeth remains alarmingly crooked.
I leave the salon, and I’m still me. There’s just slightly less of me requiring shampoo and conditioner.
You’d think that by now, I would have learned. One of my first journal entries in elementary school explored how terribly upset I was about my recent haircut. I even licked my pointer finger and pressed into the lined paper to replicate the real tears I was unable to make fall artistically onto the page. I submitted my entry for my teacher’s review, hoping she might read it and seek me out, begging me to believe how much like Liesl from “The Sound of Music” I really did resemble, now that I’d had my hair done.
Instead, she drew a frowning face with purple pen in the margin next to my dried spit teardrops.
In college, I got my hair cut – and dyed – on the same night I was going out on my first double-date. It was a disaster I tried to salvage by wearing a turtleneck. As an adult, I got my hair cut very short just before a wedding attended by lots of old family friends. It was a disaster I tried to salvage with bobby pins and hiding behind my sister.
I’m now the proud owner of a haircut that looks great on Rachel McAdams and utterly confused on me. The silver lining is that it highlights where the gray hairs are on my head, so I’m no longer torn about whether I need to start regularly dyeing those hairs and their neighbors.
But, like Lebowitz before me and Sisyphus before her, I remain stubbornly convinced that the solution lies in just trying one more time. Surely I cannot be eternally condemned to a life of mediocrity caused by poor hairstyling.