On my 45th birthday, I had a heart attack.
And by a heart attack, I mean I got a new hairstyle.
And by got a new hairstyle, I mean I had 3 inches cut off and went in a totally different direction. I told my hairstylist I loved it, but 20 minutes later, I was sobbing on my bathroom floor. I was sure I had made a terrible mistake. Yay! Happy birthday to me! Next year I think I’ll get a Pap Smear and then a mammogram.
The good news is that within 66 hours, I loved my new do. (and I know it was 66 hours because I just did that clock math thing where you look at a clock and make a circle motion and talk to yourself as you calculate the elapsed time–24, 48, 60…66)
I’m confident that this journey of First Comes Hate, Then Comes Love is fairly common with most women when they change hairstyles. Join me, ladies, as I describe the stages that I went through. Perhaps you go through some of them too.
Stage One–Decision and Preparation.
The first stage I go through is pretty easy. For whatever reason, I decide that it’s time to make a change. Maybe I’m bored with my hairstyle. Maybe there’s a new trend that I want to try. Maybe my current style takes too long to do. The reason behind the decision isn’t important as the second part of the stage.
The second part of Stage One is Preparation. This stage was once much harder than it is now. You see, in olden times, when a Gen Xer wanted a new style, she only had a few options for ideas. She didn’t have the fancy-schmancy Pinterest and Internet to peruse endlessly for the perfect new hairstyle. Oh, no, no, no, no, no. She only had two options to consult when she felt the urge to change. The first was to thumb through Hairstyle or Celebrity Hairstyles while waiting for her stylist to finish a client. These handy-dandy magazines were conveniently arranged into SHORT, MEDIUM, LONG sections, with 2-inch square thumbnail photos featuring all the possible styles. Sounds primitive now, right?
Or she could just simply pay attention. What style was in for celebrities? What was being mimicked by society? What hairstyle eventually had its own name? Raise your hand if you had one: The Dorothy Hamill, The Farrah Fawcett, The Rachel. I tried to find the source of the late 80’s trainwreck style that featured at least two of the following: shoulder length or longer hair, some kind of perm, forward curled bangs, a mane that is teased and sprayed with Aqua Net forming a protective helmet. The closest I found was a hybrid of Morgan Fairchild, Heather Locklear, and Elizabeth Berkley but if I were any of those ladies, I’d deny any connection. Chances are you had at least one of the Namesake styles. If your age is anywhere near mine, this is especially true for Aqua Net Helmet.
Nowadays, we have Pinterest and Google to help us prepare. We can refine our searches to include details such as, “Medium Hairstyles,””Round Faces,” and “Styles for Women over 40”. Thank goodness.
Stage Two–Consultation and Deliberation
Whether it’s the old-fashioned, magazine photo, or an image pinned to my “I Feel Pretty” board on Pinterest, the next stage begins with Consultation. I show the photo of my possible new look to my hairstylist, Jen. She nods and explains the necessary steps to match the photo. “You can have that but we’ll need to cut 5 inches off the back and add layers, and your face frame will have to grow out a little bit and it looks like there are highlights there too so let’s add a few foils. But that would look good on you.” Feeling overwhelmed, and unprepared to make this life-changing decision (I choose a new vehicle faster than I choose a hairstyle), I tell Jen that I need more time, so “Just a trim today.”
Before my next appointment, I engage in Deliberation. I casually consult a few Witnesses for advice. Regardless of who the Witness is, she understands my predicament. We usually share survival stories of Hairstyles of the Past. We commiserate in wayward hair decisions–the bangs we trimmed ourselves, the home perms our mothers (or in my case, my babysitter) inflicted on us, the hombres, and the scrunchies. Most of the time, though, I table the decision until I see the white of Jen’s eyes again. Ultimately, it is a Don’t-think-just-go-with-your-gut decision.
Stage 3–Taking the Plunge
When my gut tells me it’s time, I reveal the Big News to Jen. It’s like Christmas morning to her. Jen gets all chipper and excited and tells me how much I’m going to love it as I sit and wonder at what point is it too late to change my mind. “Too late,” the scissors snip back at me as tendrils of hair fall to the floor.
Stage 4–False Bravado and Desperate Attempts
When Jen finishes, she hands me a mirror so I can examine all the angles. I take a deep breath, look in the mirrors and wait for my verdict. The Judge pounces. The Witness hides. I hate every angle. Side, front, back. It didn’t look like the sassy style in the Pinterest picture. It was a shaggy mess. The Judge says, “Told you so.” The Witness timidly squeaks, “It’ll grow back.”
But, to be fair, my hair had only been cut. Not dried. Not styled. Jen and I have an unspoken agreement. She colors and cuts my hair. I dry and style it. I can never replicate what she or any other stylist does, so I wait to style it myself at home, with my own products, and my own tools.
Of course, I told Jen that I loved it. I made the decision; she gave me what I asked for. The fact that I didn’t like it wasn’t her fault. So I told her I loved it and prayed that I would find a way to make that true.
Later that day, I made my first attempt at styling. Cue the flat-iron to create a sleek silhouette that brushed against my shoulders. The results? I was underwhelmed. It wasn’t what I wanted.
The next day, I tried a different styling tactic. Still the flat-iron, but use it to create a curl. Nope. Closer, but still, nope. I had a picture in my mind, and I wasn’t getting what I wanted. My six-year-old, Tommy, told me my hair looked pretty, and then said, “You look like the mom on The Goldbergs.” Face palm. The sad part is, Tommy wasn’t wrong. I was rapidly descending into a pit of despair.
On Day 3 of New Hairdo, I went on the offensive. My attempts to style weren’t getting me what I wanted. So I did what most people in the 21st century do, I turned to YouTube. I Youtube’d “How to Get Beach Waves” and watched three different tutorials of Millenials using heating tools like straighteners and curling wands and styling products like dry shampoo, curl definers, Moroccan oil, root volumizer, and texturizer, just to name a few. They demonstrated how to get the look I wanted and what I needed. So with a Chai Latte in hand, I searched the aisles of Target for a curling wand–when did it stop being a curling iron?–curl definer, Moroccan oil, and mousse. Armed with new products and with the guidance of the YouTube experts, I was ready.
Day 4 of New Hairdo and victory is mine. Using the techniques demonstrated in the videos, I create the look that I wanted. It’s sassy. It’s cute. It took FOR-EV-ER, but it was worth it. I loved it. I was happy with it. And now, the real test. The big reveal to the world.
Stage 5 Acceptance
Since I was pretty pleased with my new look, I was confident that I was going to get a positive response. I was right. One of the benefits of working in an elementary school is that kids are fast and free with compliments. Co-workers and friends also offered words of praise. Phew! I found a way to love my new look. I made it happen. And it has a high approval rating.
So there you have it. My 5 Stages of a New Hairstyle. Perhaps you don’t follow the same journey. Perhaps you’re reading this and shaking your head at all of the crazy up in here. Or perhaps, you’re nodding and saying, “Me, too!”
I believe New Hairstyles fall into the same category as Trying On Bras, Trying On Jeans, TRYING ON SWIM SUITS, Menstruation, and Childbirth. I haven’t named the category yet, but I’ve considered “LIFE AS A WOMAN,” “THINGS MEN WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND,” and “THINGS THAT SUCK COMPLETELY”.
But a win is a win. I fought the Hair War, and I won. Totally worth the journey.