Last week, I got my hair cut by a professional for the first time in over 20 years. Why haven’t I done this sooner?! I was aware that I had acquired some stubborn habits around my hair, and I was planning to go to someone to intervene, but it still took me a long time to follow through and book an appointment.
Hair salons / barber shops are one of the most gendered spaces someone can enter. That is the biggest reason I’ve avoided them for so long. I have never been to a barber. Starting at age 8, I decided I needed my hair cut short, like a boy. My mom took me to Hairzoo, a unisex salon with 8 locations in Western, NY (and, strangely, one location in Santa Monica, CA). I just wanted a fucking bowl cut, but the stylists, every time, talked about a “feathered look,” tapered down to the neck, etc. I kind of hated going there as a kid, but I tolerated it because it was the best avenue toward the ultimate goal of keeping my hair short. As I got older, my mom met a friend who did hair, so we’d go to her kitchen and I’d get my hair kept short.
At age 18, a friend buzzed my head for the first time, and I immediately knew I needed to procure my own set of clippers.
I got my hair cut professionally one final time, at age 19, at a salon in my college town. It wasn’t a bad experience. Actually, it was probably one of the best hair styles I’ve ever had – I had bleached hair at the time which was growing out. Long natural brown roots. I asked the stylist to keep the tips of the blonde, and she actually followed my instructions, and I had a cool frosted effect (am aware this fashion trend is very much dated. But in 2001, it looked awesome!) The person I had a crush on, who didn’t talk to me much, complimented me on my hair shortly after this cut. It doesn’t get much better than that!
A few factors contributed to me never going back in there though: I hated the “culture” I had walked into when I went to that salon. Too many ladies and women talking too much and too emotively, basically. Plus there was the price factor. I didn’t have the spending money, as a college student, to keep doing that. So I pulled out my clippers and any pair of scissors I had laying around and hacked away at my hair every so often until I actually got pretty good at it. (Getting kinda good took a while. I definitely had some hair disasters. I usually went for either a mohawk or bowlish cut / undercut. One time, I shaved everything off completely, down to using a razor.)
The mohawk eventually morphed into a mullet-hawk and then just a full on mullet. I have been rocking a mullet for a solid 15 years. I stopped bleaching it about 15 years ago as well. It was ravaging my scalp. But I did pick up another bad habit around this time: a friend emphatically stated that he stopped using hair products. Only baking soda as shampoo and apple cider vinegar as conditioner. I followed suit because I didn’t know whether hair products were working for me and there are just way too many and I liked the idea of being stripped bare. And also getting rid of fragrances. I started the regimen but quickly discarded the vinegar – too smelly – in favor of a fragrance-free conditioner. But the baking soda stayed. It was a point of pride.
In retrospect, it was probably drying out my hair and scalp like nothing else! For so long!
I started testosterone in 2013, and it’s brought on two major changes to my hair: It suddenly made my hair very, very curly (it had always been wavy, but now we’re talking sausage curls inverting inward toward infinity) and a receding hairline. The receding hairline has been such a concern that it’s been the major reason I’ve gone on and off T, over the years. (I finally started taking Finasteride a month ago – it has yet to be determined whether it’ll help, long-term.)
Anyway, jump back in time to just a week ago. For months, I had been toying with the idea of at least consulting with a professional, if not actually letting them cut my hair. And I had someone in mind – someone who is an acquaintance, so at least I already know them, and they’re an expert on curly hair, and they curate their space to be non-gender specific, and they work alone. Pretty much, the perfect person. I booked the appointment. I kept the appointment.
And, I’m so super happy I followed through. We talked about habits I’d been doing for years, if not decades, that haven’t been working for me. She verified baking soda is no good regularly, but could be good as a cleanser, maybe monthly or so. She suggested some products that are known as “no-poo,” basically shampoos that don’t foam up, act more as conditioners, and maybe that’s all I’d need. And I told her about how I’ve barely cut my hair in a very long time, maybe just 1/8 of an inch to take care of split ends, but I’m aware that’s not nearly enough but I can’t get myself to cut more because I just want more of my hair in light of the receding hairline and I pull hairs from the back and sides forward in an effort for more coverage and it’s really not working for me, not to mention my split ends and knots. (Wow, OK, that was a run-on sentence!) She acknowledged that it made sense I was trying to do the things I was doing. Then she proceeded to start cutting (after I consented to that) and it was like AN INCH OFF! and I was a little freaking out. Until I realized it made almost no difference in actual hair coverage. It just looks smarter and cleaner. And, no one in my regular daily life has yet noticed I’ve gotten my hair cut at all, which to me, means it’s a resounding success. Because I didn’t want my hair to look much different. I just wanted to clean it up and learn some ways to take care of curly hair. I want healthy hair, now, and I think I can achieve that. Maybe I can actually coax it to grow longer, over time. That’s the dream! I tipped her 40%. I’m pretty happy overall.