Personal Essay

The Chop: My Experience as a Pixie Cut Woman

“This is about a matter that should be of the highest importance to every American… my hair.”

-Elle Woods, Legally Blonde 2

Okay, before you say anything, I know the topic of my hair isn’t the most important thing in the world. Though it seems trivial, chopping my hair from long mermaid locks to a proper pixie cut was a life-changing and, in my opinion, crucial experience in my growth into the more confident woman I am today.

I grew up surrounded by the idea that my best feature was my hair. The first thing that new people would say was “Oh my gosh, your hair color is so beautiful!” It was fun to go to the hair salon and have people fawn over my red locks, saying, “You can’t get that color from a bottle!” They’d gawk at the health and beauty of my hair, and I’d leave the salon with essentially the same hairdo I had walked in with, almost afraid to change things up.

More often than not, I hid behind my long locks, believing that they were the only beautiful part of me. I hardly ever received compliments on my other features. As a result, I kept it long and strong, a sea of red between the gaze of others and myself.

After years of my hair being in the spotlight, I was becoming sick of people telling me to never cut it short, to never touch it with color, to cherish it while I had it, as if my hair were some sort of invaluable treasure. It took all I had not to take a pair of scissors to my own head just to avoid the ridicule I knew I’d face at a salon.

The Chop

When I came home for the summer after my junior year of college, I decided that I couldn’t take the locks anymore. I was working as a pet sitter, and that August was particularly unbearable, with record highs throughout the entire month. I’d be walking the dogs with sweat dripping down my neck every single day, feeling faint from the heat being locked into my scalp.

I went to a local salon and showed them a picture of Anne Hathaway with her post-Les Miserables pixie cut. The stylist held a lock of my hair between her fingers, looked at me in the mirror, and said,

“Are you sure you want to do this?”

Everyone acted like this was such a huge risk to take. Those I asked for advice were in shock that I would ever want to do a thing like that to myself–like I was cutting off a part of me, or amputating a limb. The extreme reactions I received as a result of the hypothetical idea of my hair being short drove me even further toward going for the big chop.

“Definitely,” I replied. “Chop it!”

The hair dresser lobbed off about ten inches of my hair, and I can still remember the glorious feeling of it tumbling past my shoulders. My neck could breathe! The unbearable August heat seemed to drop about 10 degrees. I was a pixie-cut girl, and I was overjoyed.

The Buzz

As my pixie cut evolved, I realized that it looked even better the shorter I went. I surfed Pinterest for more and more ways to style my hair, and came across a gorgeous blonde woman with buzzed sides. I looked at my boyfriend’s clippers on the bathroom shelf with a gnawing sense of curiosity, and decided I would just go for it.

Buzzing your own hair feels amazing. I used a #2 attachment on the clippers one day just to see what it would look like. Taking a deep breath, I swiped a section of my hair, and a layer fell to the floor. It felt exactly like the wrong thing to do, and it was so satisfying. My family was shocked, my friends adored it, and I was free of the morning styling routine (Another extra half-hour spent in bed? Yes, please!)

The Implications

Cutting one’s hair short goes against the normal conventions of female beauty. We’re expected to have these long locks that we trim and bathe and condition and spend hundreds upon hundreds of dollars to keep healthy.

People thought I was trying to be edgy, but I was trying to be me. I lost myself for a while in a relationship that sapped me of my personality and grew to be quite manipulative–so yes, I was the girl that cut her hair after a break-up in a “New Year, New Me” attempt at transformation. My life was rocked by that break-up, and I was about to present myself to a new friend group and life in which I could choose how I wanted to be perceived and viewed. It was exactly the right time for me to step into a new style for a while.

I truly believe that cutting your hair and changing up your look is spiritual and therapeutic. It proves that you can transform and bend with change, and has given me so much perspective on my growth alongside my ever-evolving life.

Those three years of pixie life were incredibly freeing. The world could finally see my face, and I was ready to face the world. My pixie cut imbued a confidence in me that I never expected.

Though I’ve since grown my hair out, I feel my time with short hair was essential in my recognition of my beauty, and the comfort and love I have for myself and my features.

And ladies, if you don’t think you could “pull it off,” I guarantee you can. Get the right style for your face and wear confidence on your sleeve, and you’ll be loving the pixie life too.