I once dated a guy who cut his own hair. When he told me, I was amazed. “What, you thought somebody did this on purpose?” he asked, gesturing to his hair, which stuck out in every direction. Up until that moment I hadn’t given much thought to how he produced his look, but I liked his hair. It was tousled in an avant-garde sort of way.
I asked him how he cut it. He explained that he basically just looked in the mirror, grabbed a lock of hair, and snipped. Then he repeated the move all over his head. I got a real kick out of this Chaos Muppet approach and started giggling uncontrollably on the subway platform, which puzzled him. Emotionally we often weren’t on the same page.
Now, thanks to the pandemic, lots of people are cutting their own hair for the first time—including me. To be fair, I’d experimented with trimming my bangs in the past, using a sort of twist-and-vertical-snip technique, but they always came out looking haphazard and shaggy. I reminded myself of a Highland cow. We even have the same hair color.
But this spring, I decided to step up my game and invest a little more time in learning how to cut my hair instead of doing it the same old bad way. I learned a new bang-trimming technique from a lovely Dutch woman who goes by Loepsie. Then I watched some more YouTube videos, combed the rest of my hair over my shoulders, then snipped away an inch.
It’s nothing drastic, but knowing that I can give myself a haircut is empowering. Hair salons have always made me uncomfortable. For one thing, I don’t know what to do with the expectation that you’re supposed to start spontaneously gossiping with a stranger. I read once that some salons offer “quiet chairs,” a truly genius idea, but even that doesn’t totally address the awkwardness of the experience. Most salons are just too chic. There always seems to be electronica music pulsing in the background, like everyone’s made plans to go to a nightclub later, but first they want to spend some time judging my shoes.
Does my hair now look as good as it would if I went to a professional? It does not! But I’m enjoying the little thrill that comes with snipping away in front of the mirror; the merry nihilism of performing a task that I’m only sort of okay at, not knowing how it’s going to turn out. That’s especially true with something like hair, which is a renewable resource but, when it comes to self-image, pretty high stakes. As that famous speech in Fleabag explains: “Hair is everything.” And if it turns out that I like risking everything, what else might I be able to do? The trick is to be willing to lay bare the consequences.