Cutting Loose

by Katie Somple <katies@napanet.net>

"How many cares one loses when one decides not to be something, but someone." - Coco Channel

I decided to shave my head billiard bald in mid-January of the over-celebrated new millennium- but it wasn't a New Year's resolution. It was just a coincidence. My decision, purely voluntary and not inspired by any medical requisite one might assume, can only be explained by bewitchment. Either that or my peri-menopausal state of mind held hostage by the unpredictable spikes and spirals of hormones, was turning my insides out.

Seated at the brightly lit, Hollywood-style vanity table in my bedroom, preparing to dry my shoulder-length, blonde-from-a-bottle hair, a routine I had come to despise as much for its unsatisfactory results as the irreplaceable time it debited from my ever conscious finite allotment. I sighed the sigh of a nine to five-er on a Monday morning. Suddenly I could not bring myself to go through the mousse-dryer-curling iron protocol one more time. Making a spontaneous U-turn to the still-steamy bathroom, I wiped a clearing in the mirror above the sink and grabbed up a pair of scissors from the drawer.

Holding taut a 2-inch wide, half-foot-long section of multihued blonde hair strands from my crown, I snipped just above the line of demarcation where my natural hair color turns as black-brown as the soil under which my Native American ancestors are buried. An inch or so of bristle stood at attention like obedient stalks of celery.

There is not a form of measurement to describe the weight of that section of hair, impulsively shorn and freely suspended between my fingers, forever released from its bondage to me and mine to it. I was returning, literally, to my roots and there was no going back.

I had no planned approach to finish what I'd started, no image of the final results. I never saw the film "GI Jane" though I recalled being mesmerized by Demi Moore's bald head in the promotion trailers. I also thought of Haley Mills in the Parent Trap when she cut her supposed twin sister's hair with kitchen shears and how adorable they looked severely cropped. All I knew is that I wanted it gone- all of it. The wet sections of dead hair fell like discolored potato peelings into the blue porcelain sink.

My ignited spirit snubbed the pleas of the worry-wart Voice of Reason hovering over my left shoulder, gnashing at her knuckles: "Jesus, Mary and Joseph-it's not too late to stop! Please stop!" But it was too late. I couldn't stop. I was a woman possessed.

Lift, snip, lift, snip. I was living an impassioned, once-in-a-lifetime, caution-to-the-wind moment and was giddy from it. The zealous pruning, which took about five minutes, condensed into a single Polaroid image: the whacking away at my hair, the sound of the raspy metal blades conjoining again and again, the dropping of my jaw with each daring snip followed by a smile.

When the snipping was done and the scissors--those glorious, sharp scissors- were placed on the pale blue tile I stared at the mounds of hair I had flung in to the sink like waste. Evidence of a crime of passion, another biological form of protein--like toenail clippings- that had no value to me except in their absence. As I fingered the cool stumps of remaining hair I thought about all the fussing and fretting I had done over the years, all those disastrous perms whose foul smell of ammonia stalked me like Pig-Pen's dust cloud. I recalled the humiliating Dudley Moore-ish haircuts and the dark and tinsel-silver roots that sprouted like weeds requiring constant expulsion and camouflage. Stupid, stupid hair that was never, ever going to make me look like Kim Bassinger.

I admired my new waspish look for a good while. I liked it just fine. My pampered skin glowed and the shape of my eyes took on a new distinction. My smile shone whiter and more genuinely. Even my second chin, another genetic heritage from my mother, became a characteristic rather than a flaw of aging to conceal. I stood erect looking at the new me with my big eyes, attractive skin, deeply cleft chin, mid-life waddle and winsome smile. The gods were happy.

My self-approval was interrupted by the sound of my husband's approaching footsteps. What I wished at that moment was for him to be enlightened and pleased. I wanted him to understand the metamorphosis that baffled even me as he stood there squinting at my reflection in the now steam-free mirror. I needed him to say, "There you are" as though he had found the woman for which he had long been searching.

Instead, he blurted, "Are you kidding me? What the hell have you done? Did you just cut your own hair?"

I wanted to tell him that the confidence came while I was sleeping, like a gift for no reason. That I had awakened that morning and there it was on my pillow- the ability and desire to be just me, and that I was no longer afraid or even disappointed about not being magazine-beautiful.

Instead, I defiantly replied, "Yep, I'm not done either", sending him a fleeting sideways glare for his treason. He groaned and retreated to his office, to his reliable computer screen, which had remained exactly the same as he had left it a few moments prior, which is more than he could say about his 39-year-old wife.

What happened next was a dizzying blur. I found the heavy clippers in a box pushed to the back of the vanity cupboard by a stock of Scope mouthwash, toilet paper, Caress soap and Lysol toilet bowl cleaner. Blowing my husband's coarse beard shavings out of the metal teeth, I flicked on the switch. The motor was louder than I expected, startling me. Suddenly, going further felt drastic, and I realized that bloodshed was not only possible but probable.

An image of my 12-year-old daughter, mortified at the sight of her bald mother flashed with the buzzing click of the clipper. It was one thing to shock my husband, but my daughter, whose very (social) life depended on conformity, would be traumatized beyond repair. I was being selfish and losing my nerve faster than you could say, "Oh my God, she's bald!" I looked at my image again and smiled. The deplorable blond hair was gone. Only the brownish-red tipped salt and pepper hair remained. I decided that was enough change.

I turned the clippers off, grabbed a tube of hair gel and whisked my hair into playful points with my fingertips, pulling in all direction like a whirling dervish.

My daughter gleefully approved upon her arrival home from school, saying, "Mom, you look soo modern! I love it!" as she rubbed her hands through and retousled it. My husband eventually relented, after receiving several compliments from friends on the new me, commenting, "Well, if you're happy with the way you look then I'm happy, too." Not exactly a compliment, but close enough.

What could I expect from a man who had lived with a fake-blonde wife for 20 years--a woman who made endless desperate attempts to emulate Hollywood's beauty icons and meet the media's beauty standards, all to no avail? Perhaps it was too much for him to comprehend: how I woke up one morning and realized I was suffocating from disappointment; that I had recovered my authenticity from a pile of dead blond hair.

I may have lost the battle in search of beauty's Holy Grail but I won the war by walking away


Copyright 2000 Moxie Magazine All Rights Reserved