This is a love letter to my sidecut.
When I was a kid, I had a mane of wavy hair that reached my butt. I never brushed the dark mass unless my mother held me down and did it for me, resulting in many tears on my part and frustration on hers, so it was always a rats’ nest. When it came time to wrap it all up in a bun for ballet, or trap it with a bow for choir, so many bobby pins were enlisted that some would never be found again. Despite how much I hated tending my wild hair, though, I never considered cutting it. I just had long hair, the way I had two arms and two legs, and therefore had to deal with the tangles and tearing (and two really unfortunate cases of lice) that came along with it.
When I was in high school, I chopped the whole thing off and adopted a classic bob that I thought made me look mature and edgy. It really didn’t, but a bob was much easier to care for than four feet of snarls. Still, I spent as little time as possible caring for my hair – which over time caused me to resent even the bob style for its reliance on a brush and straightener. My wavy hair just didn’t conform perfectly and immediately into the sharp, straight bob I imagined, so mostly I thought fuck it and did nothing.
When I was in my sophomore year of college, I had my friends shave off my bob in our dormitory kitchen. My father had died only a few months past and I was grieving through minor bursts of much-delayed rebellion. Over the next few years I wavered between a shaggy pixie cut, poorly styled faux-hawk, and a close shave that left me sunburned on my scalp for the first time in my life. I loved having hair that couldn’t tangle, dried fast, and required very little thought. While I knew, deep down, that my hair never looked great (okay, it often looked BAD), I didn’t care; I only cared that I didn’t have to fuss over it.
By the end of college, though, I grew tired of not knowing how to rock a pixie cut and looking more like an awkward baby-dyke than the stylish warrior woman I wanted to emulate. I grew out my bob and kept it around for a couple years because… uh. I don’t know. Somewhere along the line a bob just became my default hair, the way “super long” had been my default style as a kid. I thought I liked it well enough, but it didn’t make me feel anything. I had a bob because it was a socially acceptable haircut that didn’t look too bad on me. I washed it, dried it, brushed it before work, and never thought about it otherwise…and in between, I mooned over pictures of girls with sidecuts. They looked so cool, so fierce, so edgy and dangerous, and I wanted desperately to look like them. I knew that wasn’t how it worked, though. I hadn’t looked like a badass with a pixie cut or a faux-hawk or an asymmetrical bob. I wouldn’t look like a badass with a sidecut either.
Finally, though, after agonizing over the decision for months, I took the leap. I shaved half my head and walked out of the salon feeling like the whole world had turned a different color. Everything felt ridiculously, unaccountably different, and I was sure I turned heads everywhere I went – not because I was attractive, but because I was bursting with Me-ness. I felt like I stood out in a way I never had before, simply because every part of me was in total, perfect alignment. It sounds silly to talk like this about a haircut, but it’s the truth. Somehow that minor alteration made me click into my whole body like I never had before. I didn’t think a haircut could feel so right.
I’m going on two years with this look, one side shaved and the other growing longer by the day, and that initial feeling hasn’t lessened. This is me, I think every time I look in a mirror. I am fucking rocking this. I still have my usual body image issues – nothing can make those go away 100% – but somehow the sidecut overshadows them so much that they don’t have the same power they used to. This thing feels magical, almost spiritual. It feels like armor and defiance and comfort and truth and holy-shit-it’s-me all at the same time.
If I’ve learned one thing in my life, it’s that hair grows back. To that same point, clothes can be donated, tattoos can be removed, and piercings can heal closed. Life’s too short not to experiment with trying to make who you feel like match who you look like. I’ve gone through some truly atrocious fashion phases in my life, but they’re all worth it because they got me to this place where I feel so very me. That sounds simple, but it’s a long, hard journey for most of us. So if you’re looking for a sign to get something cut, pierced, tattooed, or dyed, this is it. Go for it, friend.