“There’ll always be something undeniably appealing about the promise of a quick fix, even when there’s nothing to fix.”
much hair pooled on the floor. I had a sickening feeling, and then he announced, “All set!”
I lifted my head to find, not the bob, but a super-short pixie cut. Framing my round face and full cheeks, it looked so completely and utterly wrong.
I tried not to cry. I reached for the magazine page and mutely lifted it up, as if pointing out the discrepancy would magically give me the bob that I so desired. I looked in the mirror. Reflected back on the opposite side of the page was a picture of Winona Ryder with a cropped haircut.
I sobbed all the way home, positive that this was social ruin. If a fabulous haircut could improve your life, couldn’t its opposite destroy you? My mother kept saying, “It’s a great cut!” as if she could make it so through the sheer force of repetition. And I refused to have it trimmed. It came to be just a big, shaggy mess. I avoided the mirror. And when I did catch my reflection, my breath caught in my chest.
It took me two years to grow it out. All the while, I kept the magazine page in my nightstand. Every so often, I would pull it out and stare at it. I hung a picture of actress Louise Brooks on my bedroom wall. I thought that Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction was the height of glamour. But, by the time my hair was once again long enough, I was too afraid to visit the salon to cut it.
All through school, I wore my hair long. When I went off to boarding school, no one even knew about the style catastrophe. (All photographic evidence had, of course, been destroyed.) By the time that I graduated, the pixie-induced trauma had receded enough that I decided, like the lead in any
The bob at last
I loved that haircut fiercely, but that didn’t mean it loved me back. Sleekness could only be achieved by blowdrying, then following up with a flatiron.
I did this every day for eight years. And like many style choices that seemed destined to change your life, the bob neither added nor subtracted much from mine. It was not glamorous; at best, it was cute. I looked nothing like the Vidal Sassoon ad, and that was fine. Eventually, the bob became not about her or anyone else, but about me. It was my distinguishing feature for nearly a decade. I didn’t wear much makeup, and my clothes were unremarkable; the haircut was my one claim to style.
In 2007, two things happened to end my relationship with the bob: a bad breakup and Rihanna. People I’d just met would comment, “Oh, you got that Rihanna haircut. How daring.” Clearly, it was time for a change.
Today, the idea of flatironing, or fighting the natural order of things under the assumption that the opposite must be best seems to be a huge waste of time. I still go to an expensive salon with a tiny bit of my mother’s hope that taking off a centimetre or two might change my whole appearance, though I know now that it’s all a fantasy. Still, there will always be something undeniably appealing about the promise of a quick fix, even when there’s nothing to fix.