Changed Hair, Changed Life | The Lamp Post | Spring 2020
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Changed Hair, Changed Life

By: Emily Wells

Coco Chanel once said, “A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.” I don’t know if I’ve ever had a haircut that was life changing, but I’ve definitely had a few chops that were the result of life changes. Let me lay the groundwork with a brief explanation of my hair history. As a child I had long, auburn waves that won me the Olan Mills “Picture Child of the Month” spot on the wall at the photography studio at Sears.

Enter puberty.

At about fifth grade, my hair went from soft waves, to frizzy curls that would make a poodle jealous. Under the wayward direction of the family hairstylist, my mother and I made the decision to chop off about a foot of my hair and layer it. This was a mistake. Without the length to weigh it down, I had a constant rim of puffy, oily brown locks around my acne prone face all the time. Combined with glasses that were too small for my face, my yearbook picture for 5th through 9th grade could have given pre-makeover Mia Thermopolis a strong run for her money.

Flash forward to my freshman year of college. I spent seven years following the fifth grade chop growing my hair back out, applying gel to it, straightening it to death, and hiding every picture from my middle school years where the sun don’t shine. Prior to college, every day of my life had been the same. The lack of action in my first seventeen years finally caught up to me when I came to Montreat. I was suddenly three hundred miles from home with people I didn’t know in a place that was beautiful yet strange to me. The extracurricular activities I had looked forward to were a flop. Making friends was more of a challenge than I expected. And the “no really, we’re just friends” relationship I had brought to school with me from home was fading fast. I was lonely, sad, and in desperate need of a pick-me-up. And I needed it fast.

It was a fateful afternoon in late October when my roommate, Chelsea, and I decided we needed our hair trimmed. Somehow we had escaped practice for an afternoon and saw the sudden free time as our only opportunity to do the deed. I had been itching for a new cut for a few weeks and had picked out a style on Pinterest that I thought was just darling. But, we were on a budget and trying to be thrifty, so we hopped in Chelsea’s Honda and drove ourselves to Master Cuts in the Asheville Mall, determined to leave as changed women. If a person is looking for a haircut that is more than a one inch trim, they should not go to a Master Cuts in the mall to do so.

If a person is looking for a haircut, they should not let a 30-something year old woman with uneven purple and red streaks in her hair reach for the scissors. I was halfway through the appointment when I realized that I had made a mistake. I don’t remember the stylist’s name; it was something to the effect of Shauna or Tiffany. I showed Shauna/Tiffany the desired Pinterest picture. She said “Girl, yes! That will look great on you!” I said “Great! Let’s do it!” Shauna/Tiffany promptly turned my chair around (so that I was not facing the mirror) and began snip-snipping away.

Fifteen minutes later, Shauna/Tiffany spun me around to face the mirror on the wall. She was grinning from ear to ear. I was stunned. It was not the cut from the picture I had showed her. In fact, it wasn’t the hair style I had described at all. She had (incorrectly) used a brush to work the tangles out of my hair. Let it be known: you cannot use a brush on curly-haired folk. Therefore, it was extremely bushy and fell about halfway down my neck rather than a few inches below my shoulders. I blinked hot tears out of my eyes as I said “Wow, that’s great.” Chelsea, on the other hand, who had wisely asked for a mere few inches to be taken off her long, straight, jet-black locks walked out practically unchanged other than slight sympathy for her unfortunate roommate.

I spent the next few months straightening my hair until it grew longer or putting it in a bun if there was not time for the hour-long straightening process. I was discouraged and bitter that nothing in my life was going my way, not even a haircut. But as my hair grew, so did I. I learned to be content in my new home. I joined a team that became my family. I found my own faith and made friendships that existed beneath surface level. The unfortunate hair cut was certainly an inconvenience, but also a very fitting metaphor for my first year of life on my own. And now, whenever I feel the urge to make a drastic change in my life, much more thought than schedule availability is considered. So, maybe Coco was onto something. Whenever you see a girl with changed hair, check on her. Maybe her life is changing too.

Spring 2020 Issue