A New Summer Haircut? Don't Count On A New You

Jun 13, 2011

Laura Lorson worked for NPR in Washington throughout most of the 1990s as a director, producer, and editor for Talk of the Nation, All Things Considered, and the former NPR show Anthem.

All right, so, apparently summer's here, and that means we are all once again faced with very serious decisions with far-reaching implications — choices that seem like a good idea at the time, and yet almost invariably, are not: capri pants. Dating a drummer. Having that sixth shot of Jagermeister. And to this roll call of questionable choices, I will also add: cutting off one's hair.

I know, it's always tempting at this time of year. It's hot, it's humid, it's horrible, and you're thinking, "okay, I'm miserable. I might as well take advantage of already being in a terrible mood and go get bangs."

And then once you get to the salon, you see a picture of Tilda Swinton or Audrey Hepburn or someone in a magazine and you think, "Yes. Yes, that is a fine idea. Short hair will be cooler. It will be practical. I can remake myself into an intriguing and mildly terrifying European actress, or maybe an adorable French gamine. I'll wear one of those cool stripey French navy shirts with ballet flats and live breezily on baguettes and red wine like I'm in a Jean-Luc Godard film."

I can almost guarantee you that it will not work out that way. You'll be caught up in the moment and forget that ridiculous Dorothy Hamill cut you had in fifth grade. You will get excited about the prospect of buying cool new hair products like pomade and you will forget that one girl you went to college with who wanted to look like the lead singer of the Cranberries and ended up having to buy a wig.

But every year, nonetheless, I get to the first hundred-degree, 75 percent humidity day and think that a short haircut sounds like a great plan. Then I mentally hear my mother's voice telling me that I would look better with short hair, because for half my life, my mother has told me that I "should get that hair out of your pretty face so people can see your eyes. And stand up straight. And don't mumble."

So, of course, I naturally hesitate and dismiss the short hair idea out of hand. But then I remember that I have been to graduate school and studied semiotics, and I understand I'm just rejecting the idea because what I actually hear my mother saying is "you would look better de-sexualized and powerless in the intellectual and sociological marketplace that values traditional Western commercial stereotypes of feminine beauty. And stand up straight, honey."

I remember the cut I had for most of the late 80s, which I loved. I thought of it as "skatepunk" but in reality it was more of the "German electronica artist/marginally successful boy band" look with the long bangs and the shaved sides. Think Dirk Nowitski in 1989, or the guys in New Order. I remember the years of growing it out again. I remember dyeing it, curling it, braiding it, doing anything, anything I could to end up looking like anyone but overweight teenaged acne-scarred me.

So here's my advice. You want a radical haircut? Think it over for 24 hours. It won't fix your life. It won't make you look like Carey Mulligan. It won't make you French and it won't make the humidity break. But it might be the thing you've been waiting for that makes you into who you were meant to be. The person you are, but have not yet become. Know what I mean?

Anyway, last week, I myself got the pixie cut. Because I pretty much am the queen of questionable decision-making. Live on the edge. Go ahead and get the haircut, date the drummer, have the electric-blue-colored shaved ice, ride the rollercoaster six times in a row. After all, that's the sort of thing summer's for.

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