by Tess Adair
Every couple of years, I develop this sudden need to chop off all my hair. Unfortunately for me, it never happens in the summer. The middle of winter is always when I decide I need to remove all my natural head insulation.
I once had this science teacher (who was, incidentally, gorgeous) who would grow out his hair and beard all year, then shave the beard completely and cut the hair short every spring. Rumor was that the shearing was either an act of contrition or a ritual of cleansing or both. (Or maybe neither; I was in high school so it’s fully possible that whoever told me this was either joking or lying.)
I think this urge I get is a similar thing. I usually keep my hair quite long; I’m always semi-seriously trying to grow it out past my waist, or at least to grow it as long as I can before I get restless and do something ridiculous, like dying it pink, or going ombre, or cutting my own bangs. (Do not try at home unless you spent your teenage years perfecting these skills. You do not want to show up to work with bangs that hit halfway down your forehead, or hair that’s now orange because you’ve never bleached it yourself before. Yes, seriously, orange is a real risk with bleaching at home.)
My hair has been somewhere between just-past-my-shoulders and waist-length for about six years. The last time I cut it short was in college, and I actually kept it quite short for about two years, probably my longest stretch. I grew it out again before graduation, and I’ve kept it long since.
But I’ve got that itch again.
Perhaps it’s a bit frivolous to read so much into a haircut, but it really does feel like a sea change for me when I do it. It’s not just that I want different hair--on a certain level, I want to be a completely different person.
A harder person. An uglier person.
I think part of the reason that it feels so significant to me is that I’ve always had something of an uneasy relationship to femininity. I hate romcoms. I hate musicals. I hate makeovers and facials. I used to hate children and makeup, too.
But my one concession was hair. I loved having long hair. I would buy different kinds of conditioner for it, testing for what worked best (and usually finding very little difference.) I would set aside night to leave deep-conditioner in for hours. And I would dye the everloving fuck out of it.
I no longer have quite the same uneasy relationship with femininity. I mean, I still hate romcoms. But I’m okay with makeup--not as an everyday thing, mind you, because then I’d have to wake up earlier and that is not happening.
Even so...cutting my hair short still feels like a sea change. Like a rejection of my femininity. I want to cut my hair because I want to be utilitarian. Because I want to feel freed from the burden of wanting to be pretty.
This time, the urge coincides with a certain singlehood existentialism.
And by “existentialism” I of course mean “massive self-pity party.”
Between the recent bouts of depression and my renewed commitment to writing and querying, I haven’t been doing much dating lately. Which is to say that I haven’t been dating or even vaguely trying to date, at all, period.
I’ve just been whining about being single. And, uh, barely leaving my house except to go to work or the grocery store. And letting my untouched OkCupid account collect dust.
My singledom is 100% my own doing. But even though I have every power to change it--am, in fact, the only person with the power to change it--I prefer to leave it in its current state. And to wallow like there’s no tomorrow.
I especially love noticing happy couples at the grocery store and thinking dark angry things about them. It brings me a special bitter satisfaction I can’t get from anything else. Like the opposite of schadenfreude.
I also like to imagine the relationship that I very much do not have. It’s one where the other person completely agrees with my taste in all things, doesn’t mind coming over to hang out quietly in the background while I write, only wants to have sex when I want to, is always available but doesn’t mind if I disappear off the face of the earth for a while, will never cheat on me but totally doesn’t care if I occasionally fuck around.
That exists, right? Or at least it will when the robots come, right?
The truth is, I’m probably not in a good place for a relationship. I mean, it’s possible I could make it work. If I could get past the chest-constricting anxiety attack I have when I think about trying again, maybe there’s someone out there that I could like enough to adjust to a less self-serving idea of dating.
But I’m not sure I should. I tend to be obsessive. Obsessive is good when you need to do a lot of writing and working in your supposed free-time. But it’s not good when you need to strike a balance. When you need to be able to see someone on occasion, but still get away often enough to do some of that “free-time” work.
Healthy balance is not my thing. I go all in. And right now, I’m all in for myself and my own projects. You can’t go halfsies on all in.
I’m not sure I want to, anyway. I don’t like being lonely, but I do love control. Being in a relationship is about compromising and doing things for the sake of another person. It’s a beautiful thing. But being single is about steering your own ship wherever and however you see fit. I love that. Sometimes I think I need it.
I was only sort of joking before when I described the relationship I want. I mean, sure, everybody kinda wants it to be like that. But I’m bad at compromising, especially if I think it might affect writing in any way. I have no framework for it. And I have this unfortunate tendency to become incredibly unpleasant when someone makes me do something I don’t completely enjoy. I don’t like that part of myself and I don’t like to be reminded of it.
And I have a sneaking suspicion that the only reason I want to be something other than single is because I think I should. Which is no reason at all.
So instead of trying to chase something I’m not sure I want, something I think I might hate and I know would get in the way of my real goals...maybe I should just try to divert myself for a while.
Maybe I should just cut off all my hair. And cleanse.
Anyway, the robots can’t be that far off, can they?