For 20 years I had the same suburban hair stylist, who gave me the same basic bob cut and natural blonde hair color consistently. I strayed a few times, with a desire to stop looking like a suburban mom (which I am, but that doesn’t mean I have to always look the part!).
She moved away, and there I was- faced with the challenge of finding someone new. This process is never easy, as most people who color their hair understand. And going for a natural look is even harder to find someone with talent. (This sageness derived from having gone through having such a tight curl perm I looked like Li’l Orphan Annie, been bleached as blonde as Margaret Houlihan, an 80’s punk spike, and the lovely at-home color job of being bright red instead of golden blonde…among other hair experiments pre-mom days)
Two years ago Michelle, an editor I work with, whose hair looked fantastic, recommended a young woman who styled photo shoots. With this “in” I was considered a hair model and received very reasonable rates. Basically $100 for a cut and color at a chic Chelsea place that would normally charge upwards of $400! She was a junior at the salon, and although she had years of experience in her home state down South, she was eager to learn from the owner all the fancy NYC hair fashions.
Alas, this woman couldn’t afford to live in NYC (she had three jobs, one which was a bartender at a country/western bar) so she moved back to North Carolina. With my roots getting too long, I ventured out to another hair stylist recommended by another coworker.
The new hairdresser!
Jules is fantastic. She is tiny, and sports punk/pixie haircuts showcasing her life as a creative artist (and hip hop dancer). Jules loves what she does, and her energy is infectious. Her answer about her experience made me relax…she “speaks blonde” and knew what I was looking for in my quest for the right level of blonde.
One Saturday appointment she helped me get ready for a date. I was nervous, as I hadn’t been on a date in probably years (the last bit with my ex boyfriend doesn’t count as dating. Yes, he turned into a slouch. And it was after that I took time off from relationships to explore what fun life could be for me). She made me look and feel great. I even learned a tip about how to best stand for a photo (ohhh, that’s why celebs are always sideways).
The date, however, was a disaster. (Dating tip: if a guy says “let’s hang out” and even if the time-frame is evening, it usually means he doesn’t have money to buy dinner. I couldn’t get out of Brooklyn fast enough!). Jules loved hearing my stories about Adventure Wednesdays and the ones that weren’t always on a Wednesday. She kept wanting me to change my basic style…the one I’d had for too many years, but what I thought suited me – even as I complained to her I looked like such a suburban mom.
The following Fall I decided I really needed to change things up. Maybe the adrenaline from skydiving inspired me. Maybe it was a way to celebrate a major upcoming birthday. Jules had been saying I needed a more Adventurous haircut to go with all the fun things I do, and she kept suggesting short, fun styles.
My younger son, however, had been lobbying for me to grow my hair long. During one of our conversations, I remembered how I, as a third grader, would tilt my head back as far as I could, and reach behind my back and pull my hair down and pretend my hair went down to the middle of my back. My hair never grew long naturally.
After trying for 6 months to grow my hair longer than the top of my shoulders, with not a lot of luck, I was inspired by a coworker who lives in Texas. Julie had come into the City for our annual sales conference. I noticed how much longer her hair was, and complimented her on it. That’s when she revealed she had hair extensions put in. Her husband loved it, and she thought it was great fun.
I set up an appointment for a Wednesday night at the salon with Jules (who colored my hair to match the new hair) and with Ivonne for the hair extensions.
Getting extensions put on took hours! Ivonne would ask me how long I wanted and other details, and since I was so clueless I agreed with whatever she offered. I think we went with 12″ of hair! Ivonne straightened my hair first before adding in the extensions. Jules had left for the day (it was late, after all) so another cutter tried to cut my real hair to blend it in with my new hair. It seemed like a lot of work, but I didn’t really know why.
Turns out my hair is really fine, and therefore the transition between my real hair and the fake wasn’t working great. They curled my hair, which made it look ok. It was feeling all surreal. And, OMG I have really long hair! I had to get used to the amazing length, which I’ve never had before. I realized I needed to buy a curling iron. And a flat iron. Two tools I’ve never had before. After my hair-venture Wednesday, I went to a Mexican restaurant called “Hell’s Kitchen” (in Hell’s Kitchen). The “flight” (three small samples of different flavors) of margaritas was a nice treat while adjusting to my new look.
Standing up for myself
But I wasn’t really happy. I felt like I had a mullet hair cut. I wore my hair in a ponytail at work the next day. The girls in the office, who have naturally beautiful long hair, admitted the transition between my hair and the new hair wasn’t very convincing.
This is where I know I have changed over the years. I felt okay calling and letting Ivonne know I wasn’t happy. And she was willing to fix it so I would be happy. So I went back in on a Saturday morning, knowing this time how long it would take (hours). Ivonne had brought all new hair extensions better suited to me. I met my friend after it was all done, and his look was basically how most people reacted “I have to get used to you like this.”
I bought a flat iron, and then another one (because a knowledgeable friend said it’s a must so hair doesn’t get as fried). And a decent curling iron. Learning how to use them made me feel…girly. Almost teenage girly as I felt this was stuff many girls learned how to do when they are also in the stages of learning how to put on makeup.
Around my birthday (celebrating my major decade), a woman I’ve known for a very long time, and have always appreciated her bluntness, said to another friend about my hair that, along with all my crazy adventures, I must be going through a mid-life crisis. This didn’t sit well with me, and made me think.
While it’s true I’ve been going through some changes in the past few years, and have been having interesting adventures, I don’t feel it’s a life crisis. Though, with my “new” hair I was wondering how it fit my personality. I started looking at other women’s long hair. When I would see much older women with yellow blonde hair, I often wondered if they were trying to look younger than their aged faces. (I’m always wondering about peoples’ backstories, and this case I seemed to single out a certain type to help me think through my “drastic transformation.”) “I wonder” – a large part of my Adventure Wednesday philosophy. I wonder if I was trying to look younger with having long hair.
No, I was trying something new, learning all sorts of new things. And that’s how my new, long hair reflected who I am. It wasn’t about looks for me. It was about trying something different. Do you try new hairstyles too, to try new things?
As my hair grew, the little beads that held the extensions became more and more annoying. I realized I couldn’t run my fingers through my hair without catching, nor could I brush my hair without pulling at my roots. Finally, I decided my hair-venture time with long hair was over.
Jules was so excited – I finally was ready for a non-mom, adventure-ready haircut. We were completely on the same page with how short we could go (especially since the extensions weakened my hair, and the cut that was done to blend didn’t look great when the fake hair was gone). Jules loves the Netflix TV series “House of Cards” starring Robin Wright. I googled her image and loved the cut. Since Jules is such a fan, she knew all the angles and colors.
My new, non-bob, short and cool haircut feels great. And I feel more free to be fun, not a slave to getting my hair styled. And the lesson learned is I am who I am, no matter how my hair looks. Enjoy being you, no matter how what ‘Hair-ventures’ you try!