Processing the Trauma of A Very Bad Haircut

BY OLIVIA RYAN

Phoebe Waller-Bridge put it right when she said, “Hair is everything. We wish it wasn’t so we could actually think about something else occasionally. But it is.”

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23 FEB - 2022

A bad hair cut may be a universal experience, but knowing that doesn't make it any easier when you end up with one.

It had been almost two-and-a-half years since my last hair cut. My mum and I had settled into a sporadic routine of chopping each other’s hair during the pandemic. Overtime, my grown out curtain bangs and textured layers were modified into a lengthy blunt cut and my mum's bob also morphed into a fuller style, for fear of ending up with a choppy disaster.

But after a few months of being stuck in a rut and a sense of a fresh start sweeping through my no-longer-locked-down home town of Melbourne, I decided I needed a change up. I was to bring back my bangs.

With a solid four-finger forehead and long shaped face, I proudly donned a front fringe pre-pandemic. My all or nothing attitude saw me go method and cut them on my last day of high school for a costume as infamous ice skater Tonya Harding. The wispy strands that ended just above my eyes and the soft layers around my face stuck around for a solid year. I was digging them.

They remind me of a time when it seemed anything was possible. As I galavanted across the globe on my gap year, my biggest fear back then was falling ill to self induced alcohol poisoning in a hostel rather than a bout of the spicy cough.

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Margot Robbie, Vogue

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Dakota Johnson, Marie Claire

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I booked myself into a new hairdresser to celebrate the end of my covid positive isolation. Yes, I recognise this was a risk, but after a dodgy haircut from my last hairdresser, I thought I would entrust someone new; a guy with 15 years experience and stellar reviews. I pictured myself back on the streets, jacked up on antibodies and donning my beloved fringe again as I finally sat down in his chair.

“Are you nervous?”, he asked me. “Not at all”, I replied. I showed him some old photos and trusted him and his craft like I would a carpenter with building my home or a chef whipping me up a souffle.

Fast forward to today and I have looked in the mirror approximately 37 times to desperately try to rearrange my hair, painfully resisted the urge to pick up my scissors [we all know how that ends] and googled how long it takes hair to grow more than once.

While my cut isn’t botched per se, it is not even close what I envisioned.

My bangs are more blocky than whispy. They sit more like a Jim Carrey bowl cut à la Dumb and Dumber, than an effortless gradation into the rest of my strands where I’ve lost the length I grew out so adamantly in lockdown, exacerbated by some pretty severe layering. That might be a dramatic allusion but as we all know, when something that is so depended upon for confidence and identity like your hair is altered, lord knows you are going to try and make sense of it. Unfortunately, that comparison certainly doesn’t help with morale.

“You’re not going to cry are you?” My sister asked, “like you always used to as a kid, when you would try to be bold and cut off an extra inch.”

NO, I won’t cry over it. But god damn am I CUT.

"Volume is a matter of physics, shape is a gesture of sculpture and shine, a symbol of health. Should one be out, the others needn’t even bother. "

Fleabag lovers will remember the scene where Claire gets a disastrous asymmetrical “pencil” haircut and her sister shoots back at her whining with positive adjectives. I have tried to do the same, replacing comparisons of me looking like a non-committal hipster with Audrey Hepburn. Thoughts of it looking like a zany middle aged art teacher’s shaggy cut with Dakota Johnson’s gorgeous do. But who am I kidding. Eventually I landed on Fleabag’s antidote to Claire’s hysteria - it’s French.

“It's the difference between a good day and a bad day” PWB says, and don’t we all know it? An uncooperative mop can send you spiralling, even with a face beat or the perfect fit. Volume is a matter of physics, shape is a gesture of sculpture and shine, a symbol of health. Should one be out, the others needn’t even bother. That is the beast we are dealing with.

The thing is, on a day to day basis, volume and shine can be manipulated with product. However, when it comes to shape, it all relies on the cut.

Perhaps I can try and be poetic about it. A bad haircut is a lesson in resilience. In sitting with the discomfort and knowing that “these strands shall grow,” in the spirit of “this too shall pass”. Perhaps this haircut, that most guttingly doesn’t feel “me” is a time stamp of the reinvention of a post covid Liv. Or, perhaps I was just looking too good and I needed some humility.

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Me, feeling happy with my old fringe

I can only wait until my lengths return to grace my lower back and my fringe can grow out and be cut back in with WAY less thickness [if i am game enough to even try again]. And I am fortunate [and grateful!] that my hair grows on the faster side.

But alas, I am still in the ‘Bargaining’ stage of grief right now. I skipped ‘Denial,’ and had a brief bout of ‘Anger’ as I reckoned with the new style before a birthday party that same night. I am coping by tying it up in a pony which is flicky and fun, and not familiar to me as I normally wrangle a heavy bunch of hair that makes it far from effortless. So there, a silver lining.

According to google, I’ll have an inch grown back in a month. So there is also hope that this trauma will be short lived and filed into a collection of blurry memories of other bad haircuts from times gone by.

…However, I am not naive to the fact that the next stage of grief is ‘Depression.’ So to my close friends, maybe check in next week just to see how I am coping.

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How I feel with my new fringe

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