I’ve been thinking about cutting my hair for three years. It started when I was on a plane to my brother’s wedding and was very annoyed that my beautiful, flaxen waves got stuck in things: other people’s coat buttons, the crack in the wall in the airport tunnel, the seat when I tried to stand up to go to the bathroom.
If the TSA had allowed me scissors, I might have chopped it off then and there. But I am a planner and so I postponed. Three months shy of college graduation, I knew that there was a lot of change a coming my way. My long, curly hair was my security blanket and had only been above my shoulders twice. I wasn’t ready to lop it off just yet, so I gave myself a timeline: “If you aren’t dating the man you are going to marry by September, off it all goes.” (Every girl grows out her hair for her wedding, and being a very planned planner, I wanted to be prepared to marry the man I hadn’t yet met.)
Well, then I met him. And before September’s leaves could change, thoughts of cutting my hair were buried beneath the tumult of falling in love for the very last time. We were engaged and married within the year and my hair grew the entire time.
Try and tell me that my hair is not perfect and that it doesn’t get caught in anything.
Thoughts of chopping my hair surfaced again after the wedding because Husband was finding my long hair in places I hadn’t had the opportunity to look before: his briefcase, his freshly laundered underwear, curled around his cell phone. But I was still not ready. After the wedding, my PTSD was triggered violently. I spent a year in dark depression, overcome and controlled by flashbacks and triggers of childhood sexual abuse. Haunted by feelings of groping hands and my own 5-year old fingers hiding my eyes in my hair from what was happening to the rest of my body. 20 years later, I still wanted my hair to pull over my eyes when the memories surged back.
It’s been a year and a quarter since I broke as a person, and I am once again dreaming about being free from the miles of hair that float around me. I’ve found myself jealously staring at the short-shod, my little brother not excluded. He came down to Thanksgiving dinner last week with damp hair. He shook his head and all was styled. Green envy crept from the ends of my never-dry hair to their roots. In that moment, I decided: chop chop. I texted my lovely stylist immediately to make it final before I could change my mind.
The day before my appointment, I lost the wrestling match with depression and succumbed to an afternoon of emptying tissue boxes. When my husband got home, he cut the thick tentacles of hopelessness from me and kissed my face until the tears were gone. We were climbing into bed, preparing for our nightly read aloud (Harry Potter #3) when I realized that this was my last night with my hair. The tears began anew as I realized that I was willinging giving up my security blanket; I would have to face my night terrors and memories alone. I wrapped my hair around my face and wept at my hair euthanasia. But Husband was there because I wasn’t alone, and he gently unwound my head and pulled my eyes out of hiding: “Your memories are just that: over,” he said. “You don’t need your hair to hide anymore. You are stronger now.” At his words my panic ebbed. It’s a strange thing, PTSD. It snares so completely by manipulating my hormones and amygdala into thinking that I exist in my traumatic memories, in the abuse and the terror long gone. But today, in one hour, I am going to cut my past from my present and donate my hair to be someone else’s security. And maybe, when I reach up to twirl the ends around my face when the terror creeps in, the emptiness will remind me that the abuse is over.
Post Script: I did it. And I feel like I’ve won a victory over my PTSD. I’m sitting at home giggling at myself in the mirror. My dear friend Ashli cuts hair for our entire church. She is magic and love and creates beauty everyday. She did not know the deep significance of the change, but knew I was nervous as I sat in her chair. She split my longs into ponies to save for Locks of Love. My palms were sweaty and I wore my nervous face over my lipstick. She laughed and asked if I wanted a piece of chocolate. I’ve always thought that chocolate was proof that there was a good god, and it melted in my mouth distracting my mind while she did it. I was shorn. And it feels AMAZING. My God is so gracious to give me this small victory the day after I felt only endless defeat. Mohawks, flapper parties, romantically deep side sweeps. My and my asymmetrical bob are going to have a good life together. With Ted, if he ever texts me back and tells me he likes the picture I sent him.