"You should do it. It's just hair."
I met Beca at a friend's birthday dinner and, on the walk back to the subway, I told her how much I admired her pixie cut. Her dark cropped hair was only an inch or two in length, even shorter than Mia Farrow's hair in Rosemary's Baby.
I told Beca, truthfully, that I had always wanted to cut all my hair off, but there were certain obstacles that stood in my way: my general lack of cheekbones, my roundish face, my weak chin. I am not exactly she-of-the-dainty-features, whereas Beca had been blessed with an extremely delicate bone structure. I told her that a pixie cut was not in my future, because I'd end up resembling that chubby kid on the side of a Dutch Boy paint can.
She rolled her eyes and smiled.
"It'll grow back," she said. "You have the face for it. You should do it. Plus, you'll see that it's not that big of a deal."
Still hesitant, I thanked her for her advice and got on the subway.
The truth is that I didn't want to tell Beca the whole story. I didn't want to admit that there was one central fear that surrounded the idea of me with short hair. Even now, it's difficult to confess.
Deep down, I was worried that men would no longer find me attractive.
My shameful secret brought to light. Remember how you used to argue with the other girls in grade school over whose hair was the longest? Turns out, I never really gave up on this debate. Instead, I absorbed it and used it to construct my scatter-brained understanding of what it meant to be a woman. After this disturbing realization, my hair started to weigh me down.
I wondered if I would be someone who held on to her longer hair for the sake of a common ideal or if I had the potential to become more comfortable in my own skin. And if so, what would this person look like? How would she act? What other changes could result because of a singular alteration in my appearance?
I called my stylist and booked an appointment. A week later, my long hair was gone.
I'd like to say that the new 'do has totally changed me, that I have discovered hidden depths of confidence, and that I am totally reveling in my sexuality like never before. I'm not quite sure that is the case. My short hair has already caused polarizing and extreme reactions. There are both rave reviews and shocked looks of disbelief. This kind of a change is something that I am learning to grow into, rather than an overnight transformation.
But now, there's nothing left to hide behind. No locks to tuck behind my ears when I'm nervous, or to twist around my fingers when I'm anxious. I am forced to show off my features. All those perceived flaws that I was fretting over are now irrevocably front and center. One of the most obvious symbols of my femininity is gone, and now my sense of it must come from a more obscure place.
On some days, I feel the need to put on extra make-up or a dress. I must emphasize my lips with red or show off my legs. Other times, I'll catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and pause to quietly tell myself that this is how I look and that's fine.
And the skeleton in my closet, the intense worry that men would not be attracted to me, is no longer a concern. The amount of attention that I receive hasn't lessened by any means. I haven't noticed much more of it, either. All in all, it's status quo. It turns out shorter hair is pretty much the same as anything else that factors into what attracts people to you; some are into the pixie cut and some are not.
So, Beca was right. It is just hair. But it has ended up being much more than a haircut. I can choose to grow it back if that's what I decide. Right now, I think that I'm still learning what it has to teach.