Before I got my hair cut on an Allure Facebook live with more people watching than the entire population of the Texas town I grew up in, I thought I was a self-care expert. Whenever I felt overwhelmed or upset, I’d distract myself with my “moody dude” Spotify playlist, featuring the melodies of Kevin Garret, Frank Ocean, and Khalid. I’d eat bougie artisanal ice cream, slap on a sheet mask, and do a page in an extreme connect-the-dots book. And it worked for a while, it really did…until I realized that all of these habits just helped me procrastinate. My self-care remedies merely distracted me from actual important life tasks like doing my taxes, cleaning my apartment, and getting a haircut. Unexpectedly, it was the latter that brought to my attention everything I had been neglecting.
After getting off an emotionally exhausting phone call with a loved one who was experiencing complications with anxiety and alcoholism, I decided to braid my hair. This may not seem noteworthy, but I typically do nothing with my hair. It let it air dry while I sleep, and when I wake up, I part it to one side and call it a day. Taking the time to look at my hair and braid it made me see all the split ends that were happening. Upon further examination, my split ends even had split ends. But wait, upon even further examination, my stress had stress, too. My anxiety had anxiety. My sadness had sadness.
All this stemmed from a bad habit I have of putting everyone before myself. When times get tough, I obsessively focus on finding solutions to other people’s problems at the expense of my own, and this was one of those times. I was giving away so much of myself — my time, my energy, my effort — that I had nothing left, so all of my own needs fell by the wayside. When this occurred to me post-hair braiding, I decided to take a small step towards looking after myself. I needed to cut my hair — and more than just a trim.
The thought of chopping my hair off had actually never crossed my mind. No matter how many times I tried to tell myself otherwise, my long, mermaid-like curls were my security blanket. In grade school, people made fun of them all the time, saying I didn’t shower and (uncreatively) joked that it was so big because it was “filled with secrets.” Still, I treasured my hair, and as soon as I figured out how to tame my curls, I thought I finally understood myself. I started loving myself and who I saw in the mirror. I let my hair grow longer and longer. Before the haircut, my strands reached the top of my butt — and I loved it like that.
Eventually, however, holding onto my scraggly ends began to feel less like a source of empowerment and more like a touchable metaphor for my sadness. I had to let go of so much more than my long hair. I also had to let go of my parents’ divorce, finalized a week earlier, as well as seek help for the devastating effects of loving an alcoholic. I had to let go of believing that I could help these loved ones with nothing but my charm and humor. The truth, I realized, was that I couldn’t save anyone, but I could save my hair. That’s where the lob came in.
With my hair woven into two French braids, I watched Lorde’s music video for “Green Light.” I realized we have the same hair texture, and she looks fucking awesome with a lob. I thought to myself, “I, too, could look fucking awesome with a lob.” Plus, it was the perfect length to get my hair happy and healthy again, so it killed two birds with one stone.
To make my lob dreams come true, I enlisted Wes Sharpton, a stylist at one of New York City’s coolest hair salons, Hairstory. (It’s so cool that it’s actually called a studio.) An appointment was set for a week later, and the anticipation (as well as the anxiety) started to set in.
The night before chopping off half my hair, my heart wouldn’t stop racing, as though I was laying in bed next to a boyfriend I knew I was about to break up with. I threw my hair into a messy bun so I didn’t have to see how long and gorgeous it was; I wasn’t about to back out of this now. I wouldn’t let myself.
The next day — well, maybe you watched what happened. Wes worked his magic as I answered viewers’ questions about my favorite lipsticks and foundation. Somewhat surprisingly, I felt deeply at ease the whole time and nothing like the models who cry their eyes out during the makeover episodes of America’s Next Top Model. Once he was done, I felt physically and emotionally lighter. I still feel this way.
Getting a lob and losing all of those extraneous ends became a catalyst for redefining what “self-care” means to me. For the last two years, I’ve attended a recovery program for the friends and families of alcoholics. Following my major haircut, I upped the number of meetings I attend each week. I started listening to more upbeat music, specifically K-pop. (Shout out to BTS.) I paid my damn taxes. I’m even making more of an effort to cook myself healthy dinners — something about chopping up vegetables clears my mind. I also signed up for Care Of, a vitamin subscription service. (I’m very bad about remembering to even take my allergy medication each day, so this will be interesting.)
Self-care isn’t always — or even often — about wallowing in moody music and indulging in expensive chocolate cookie dough ice cream from the fancy bodega around the corner. Sometimes, it means showing up for yourself and taking on the hard, boring shit that hangs over you. It means doing exactly what it sounds like: caring for yourself, one problem at a time.
More on self-care:
- I’m a Queer and Disabled Woman Who Uses Fashion as Self-Care
- 9 Easy Ways to Practice Self Care
- 8 Ways To Know If You’re In A Good Relationship With Yourself
Now, watch another Hairstory hair transformation: