08/12/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Do-It-Yourself Haircuts

I have the same haircut now as I did when I was three. This wasn't intentional -- I found out by accident as I was rummaging through an old box of photos recently. This amusing coincidence probably would never have happened if I hadn't started cutting my own hair.


Hair at age 3....and at age 34 (Photo by Joshua Richey)

Do-it-yourself hair began about a year ago for me. One morning in the bathroom I caught my reflection in the medicine cabinet mirror and realized that I looked entirely unlike the "me" I was internally. At the time my hair fell well past my shoulders, in a non-committal sort of style I had been tolerating for years. There was nothing wrong with it. My medium brown, long, straight hair was just as good as the next person's. But that was the problem-- it could have been anyone's. My hair was attractive unto itself, but it didn't add any depth to how I expressed individuality in my appearance.

I knew, right then, that it was time to cut it off. I had been tiptoeing around the idea for months. My stylist, a gorgeous girl with long chestnut locks that swung around her shoulders like a Pantene commercial, had not been encouraging. She would squint her eyes when I'd mention going short and say, "But it's so pretty long! Let's just put in some highlights, maybe razor some layers around your face, if you want a change."

Highlights weren't going to fulfill me this time, scissors were. Except that I didn't know of a stylist who would really get the look I was going for, even with pictures in hand. My relationship with beauty experts has always been a bit tentative. For me, finding a real connection with someone is as rare in beauty as it is in love.

I walked into the next room where my boyfriend (now ex, although not because of this hair thing) was sitting with his daily cup of coffee and asked, "Would you help me cut my hair off?" He was reticent at first, ("What if I cut it too short? You'll kill me!") but he eventually agreed. He was very brave. I rubber banded my hair into a low ponytail and pointed "cut here, about two inches down from the base of my ponytail."

As this was a spontaneous act, the only scissors available were the kitchen scissors, and they were none too sharp at that moment. The sleek chop I had envisioned became a wildly variable hack job with an oddly asymmetrical appearance. It was a disaster! My heart pounded as I cut further into my wild woman hair to try to make it look okay. My efforts were less than successful.

I lived in barrettes and a headband for a week, trimming a bit here, a bit there until I finally accepted that something must be done. I needed help and it was time to call in a professional. I gave myself over to fate, walked into a cool Santa Monica salon and asked for the next stylist available. The receptionist shuttled me off to a rebellious looking 20-year-old whose hair was completely covered by a beret. I took off my headband, unclipped my barrettes and showed her what I had done. I knew we would get along fine when she grinned and told me she thought it was awesome that I cut my own hair and that I had done a really good job for doing it myself, for the first time, with kitchen scissors. She trimmed up the back some, encouraged me to keep on going, and sent me on my way.

My ensuing hair odyssey has been less than smooth sailing. I don't recommend it for everyone, as it can be an emotional challenge at times. Along the way I have cut some horrendous bangs. In a moment of blind confidence, I was trying to reshape my whole hairstyle and ended up resembling a suburban soccer mother who had just come out as a lesbian. When things get really dicey I return to my 20ish rebel at the cool Santa Monica salon and she fixes me the best she can. Fortunately, the world is full of headbands and each disaster I create always grows out, eventually.

I'm pretty happy with my hair these days. It has sort of gradually settled into a Dorothy Hamill-meets-Louise Brooks style that I am doing well at maintaining. I still need help sometimes, but I am surprised at how much I like fiddling with my hair, and how much freedom comes with knowing I can cut it myself.