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I Cut My Own Hair

            I kept seeing ads for an at-home haircutting kit in my Facebook feed, in those “five hundred things on Amazon that you obviously need” type of lists that pretend to be articles. I am addicted to those lists, which is probably why they come up so frequently on my feed.

            Anyway, the kit included two plastic guard clips and a pair of scissors, so you could cut your hair at home. If it had cost five or ten dollars I would have ordered it immediately, alas it was more expensive than that, and I was skeptical that it would be worth the money.

            But…I hate getting my hair cut. I hate sitting in a salon and listening to all of the inappropriate personal conversations blossoming around me, and I hate feeling pressured to talk to the hairdresser, and I hate feeling like I’m being stared at and judged the whole time (Did you see her nails? I bet she only gets her hair cut every few months! She’s not even wearing makeup!!). I start to feel like I have a sensory processing disorder with all of the smells and noises and lights, and I’m on the edge of running out the door screaming the whole time. And the haircut itself always takes so long! And it’s so stressful trying to guess how much hair I should ask her to cut off, and inevitably I guess wrong and when she’s all done I realize I wanted it two inches shorter, but I’m too embarrassed to say anything.

“I’m not embarrassed. I’ll say it for you!”

            For years, Mom and I went to a small salon, behind a beauty supply store that was never crowded, and the hairdresser was low key and liked to talk about dogs. The haircuts themselves were still anxiety producing, but I could handle it. And then the store closed, a few years ago, and we had to go to go back to a real hair salon and my anxiety blew up.

            And then came Covid. I left my hair to grow very long at the beginning of the pandemic, unwilling to risk a crowded hair salon, even while wearing a mask and with each cubicle separated by a plastic divider. I finally went back, but each time my anxiety got worse, and I put off the next haircut even longer.

“My hair is fine the way it is, Mommy.”

            But recently, my hair had gotten so long that I had to wear it up every day, because if I left it down it was as if I had a hundred paint brushes attached to my head, getting into everything. And that silly haircutting kit ad just kept showing up on my Facebook feed, taunting me, telling me that I’d either have to put on my mask and get a real haircut, or buy the dang thing and take a risk. The turning point came when Mom got into a snit one night, after I fell asleep, because her hair had gotten stuck in her glasses for the thousandth time, and she decided to chop off her bangs on her own. When I woke up the next morning her hair looked very much like the way mine looked when I was five years old and my best friend cut my bangs with a pair of safety scissors.

“Ive seen worse haircuts.”

            I showed Mom the home haircut kit and she said, eh, why not? So I finally ordered it, ready to blame her if it turned out to be a waste of money.

            The kit arrived not too many days later, but I just stared at it, in its packaging, for a few more days. And then I risked opening it, and continued to stare at it. Then I watched a bunch of videos on YouTube of people using the clips to cut their hair, to trim bangs, and even make long layers. And then, finally one day I decided to try it. I waited for my hair to be dry (which takes a long freaking time lately), and combed out the knots, and then I layered paper towels over the bathroom sink to catch the hair as it fell, and I took a deep breath. I’d decided to try doing the long layers, because that way I could gather all of my hair in front of my face and actually see what I was cutting (instead of trying to cut my hair behind my back). Miraculously, the guard clip stayed in place as I hacked away at my hair (there are a lot of teeth in the guard clip to keep the hair from moving around as you cut). The scissors that came with the kit were surprisingly small, but I thought I should at least try to use them the first time, in case they had special powers (they didn’t). It took a lot of chopping to get through the mass of hair, but then I was able to even everything out by snipping as close as possible to the edge of the guard clip, after the masses of hair were out of the way. And when I flipped my hair back to see how the hair cut had turned out, the layers looked really good, as if I’d gotten an actual haircut! I went ahead and used the smaller guard clip to trim my bangs, and went a little shorter than I meant to because it was harder to judge the right length than I thought it would be. But then I was done. And it was, relatively, easy. I will need to try again pretty soon, though, because my hair is still too long. Except, I’m anxious about cutting my hair too short; it has become kind of like my security blanket during Covid, keeping me safe, somehow.

Oh, and after all of that time spent cutting my hair with the tiny scissors, I remembered that I actually have an electric clipper in the closet (from back when I was naïve enough to think I could groom Cricket at home) that I could have been using to cut my hair much faster. I had to give up on my grooming attempts with Cricket way back when, because even after a year and a half of diligent effort, I could still barely brush one swath of her hair without running out of chicken treats. Even sweet Ellie starts to grumble when I try to comb her hair or, god forbid, clean her ears, so the clippers have stayed in the closet and have probably rusted through, though I should probably check.

“Nooooooooo!”

As long as I don’t suddenly decide that I need to have short hair, or a Mohawk or something, I should be able to use my little haircutting kit for the foreseeable future, or at least long enough to forget exactly how awful it feels to go to the hair salon. In the meantime, the dogs still have to go to the groomer, because there’s no kit in the world that will make them tolerate me cutting their hair at home, let alone their nails, without risking life and limb. So while I can now avoid the expense and anxiety of going out for haircuts, the girls will still have to go to the groomer regularly, each haircut costing about as much as it would cost for a human woman’s haircut, and requiring a lot of drugs (for Cricket) and treats (for Ellie) to make it worth the horror. Fingers crossed that neither of them decides they need to dye their hair or get a perm, because that could get prohibitive.

“Would I look good as a redhead?”

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

Snow and a Haircut

 

It has been a very un-snowy winter here on Long Island so far, so when I saw a snowflake on my weather app I got very excited, except that it showed up on the day when Mom and I were scheduled to go to a new hair salon, after fifteen years of going to the same hairdresser.

The beauty supply store where we’d been going for haircuts decided to close in November. The hairdresser herself called us to let us know, and said she’d be working out of a new salon, about forty five minutes away, if we wanted to follow her. We decided, instead, to ask around for a new hairdresser, preferably someone affordable and nearby. My real preference would have been to go to the groomer where Cricket and Ellie get their hair done, but she stubbornly refuses to work with humans. Phooey.

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“You go to the groomer. I’ll stay home.”

Mom got a recommendation from a friend, whose haircut she likes (aka nice, but not overly fussy), and then proceeded to put off the inevitable for weeks, and then months. Neither one of us is all that comfortable with getting our hair done. I don’t mind the shampooing part, but then sitting in front of a mirror, without my glasses, with my hair plastered to my head, I look, at least to myself, like Mrs. Potato head. But Mom persisted and finally made the dreaded appointments.

When I saw that little snowflake on my phone, I secretly hoped that our hair appointments would have to be cancelled. So what if my hair was getting unspeakably long, and I had to chop my bangs with the doggy scissors? Whatever. Maybe I could buy one of those vacuum attachments and cut my hair with that.

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“A vacuum cleaner?!!!”

No luck. The snow faded quickly, into sleet, but the salon was still open (even though the library was closed!), and Mom wanted to get the whole thing over with, so we went out on the slippery roads. When we parked, after a ten minute ride at very slow speed, I realized that this place looked suspiciously like a real salon, instead of the makeshift arrangement I was used to.

I felt my social anxiety disorder kick in as I sat in the waiting area and listened to the chatter from the ladies getting their nails done; something about how a man shouldn’t marry a woman who loses weight for her wedding, because as soon as she gets pregnant she’s going to blow up and never lose the weight again, and boom, he’s married to a fat girl. I buried my head in my phone and did language practice on mute, wondering if Mom would mind very much if I ran out of the salon and skated home by myself, instead of waiting for my turn in the chair. I figured she’d mind, so I stayed put.

I’m comfortable with going to the doctor on my own, only dragging Mom with me when I’m nervous about a new doctor, or can’t figure out how to get somewhere, but for haircuts, I need my Mommy with me every time. I should probably consider taking Cricket’s anti-anxiety meds before going for a haircut, the way she takes a dose before going to the groomer, but I’m worried that I’m getting too comfortable borrowing things that belong to the dogs, and, the vet will probably get suspicious if we run out of the anti-anxiety medication too quickly. He might worry that I’m overdosing my dog, instead of myself.

I sat in the waiting area for forty-five minutes while Mom got her hair cut, and I managed to work my way through Spanish, French, and German, before it was my turn. The new hairdresser went to work, very carefully portioning my hair with clips, and asking me to put on my glasses and check her work at regular intervals. She didn’t do a lot of chatting, or ask personal questions. She said nice things about my hair, though, and when she was done my hair looked better than I’d expected. She might be a keeper. And she still costs less than the groomer, so that’s nice.

When we got home, the girls were too busy begging to go outside to notice any difference in my hair. It’s possible that when they look at me they always see me as Mrs. Potato head, and they don’t really mind. As long as I’m not carrying an umbrella, which makes me seem like a monster, I’m okay with them. But the snowy/sleety sidewalk they had to drag their paws through? That was a horror! They did their business, and dried their feet on any surface they could find, and then we all took some well-earned naps. Change is exhausting!

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If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Amazon page and consider ordering the Kindle or Paperback version (or both!) of Yeshiva Girl. And if you feel called to write a review of the book on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish girl on Long Island named Izzy (short for Isabel). Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes that it’s true. Izzy’s father decides to send her to an Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, as if she’s the one who needs to be fixed. Izzy, in pain, smart, funny, and looking for people she can trust, finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment.