"It's only about three inches," I say, motioning to where I want to chop off my hair. The hairdresser grabs a lock and measures out the length.
"That's actually about seven inches."
This is the story of how I cut seven inches off and did not regret it one bit.
Our whole lives are about growing. Growing taller, growing wiser and growing more mature. Along with this growth comes a multitude of friendships. Toddlers from nursery school to kids from the playground to our very best friends at the high school lunch table. We turn eighteen knowing more people than days we've been alive.
My parents moved our family a lot as a kid. Up until the age of sixteen I'd never known a friend for longer than three years. I entered high school with the knowledge that I was alright at making friends and I always had the slightly eccentric middle school friends I'd made to fall back on. Freshman year was spent making acquaintances with a group of friends while mainly spending time with the slightly eccentric ones.
Then those friends dumped me.
The summer before sophomore year was a difficult one. Here I was, freshly fifteen, and not a single friend to my name. Safe to say, my self-esteem took a hard hit. Until a small group (Group A) invited me in and, for the first time, I felt truly included in a circle of friends.
Part of growing up is discovering who you are. By eighteen, knowing what you like and dislike is a rite of passage. You have a pretty clear idea of how you like to be treated and how to treat others. Maybe that's why it took until January of my senior year to realize exactly what was going on.
I was finally growing my hair out after a particularly short cut a year previous. I had cut it right when I met Group A. My hair reached my shoulder blades. In my personal life I was becoming more involved with a new group of friends (Group B) because of our similar class schedules and similar interests. But I was not leaving my other friends behind, rather dividing my time in a way I had never had to before.
As the months continued, my hair grew longer and I became even worse at dividing my time, choosing to spend more time with Group B. This new group of girls were the friends I'd been waiting since primary school to find. It was more than just being included, it was the feeling of being wanted. That my opinion was valued and mattered in the grand scheme of our friendship. It was something I had never felt before in a friendship and I was quickly growing greedy for that feeling. For lack of something better to compare it to, it was becoming king after being a pauper your whole life.
In May I cut off an inch of my hair. It was also the last time I would talk to Group A. It wasn't anything severe, it was a painless break. We'd been having problems since January, resulting in some harsh words in March, and we had reached May with no energy left on both sides. So we cut all communication and ended our friendship once and for all. My life didn't change too much. It was a barely noticeable trim to my now long list of friends.
After graduation I decided to grow my hair even longer. I also spent most of my summer going over every detail of my friendship with Group A. Where had I gone wrong? Should I have made more of an effort to keep our friendship? Each month my questions made me feel worse about my decisions and my hair started to creep towards my elbows.
There came a point in the year where I realized that my decisions had made me a stronger person. I had fought tooth and nail in a friendship that had chipped at me for years and now I was surrounded by a new group that had buffed and polished me into a shiny new toy. I was starting university in the fall and I knew I had to move on from high school for the fact that, except for those closest to me, the people I had known from high school were irrelevant at this stage in my life. University was five hours away from home and I did not have to see those people again if I didn't want to. As I packed my last suitcase into my car headed for Eugene, I said goodbye to every nagging worry about my high school friendships.
As every week in university progressed and I met new students -- teenagers with fascinating back stories from places I had never heard of -- I thought less of the people who had made my senior year stressful and worry-ridden. Still, they were hidden in the recess of my mind and that irritated me. Another irksome thing was the thick curtain of hair that now surrounded my entire back. Long strands of hair kept getting stuck under my arms and the ends were so tangled and split, it was a surprise I was even able to brush it! How had I gone so long without cutting my hair?
For Thanksgiving, I came home for the first time in two months. It was five days of meeting up with friends and family. And gorging myself with mashed potatoes, of course. I spent half of that time with my one remaining friend from Group A, simply catching up on what was going on with our graduating class. She admitted that she occasionally ran into our old friends.
Upon learning this information I expected to feel something. Irritation in the fact that they still existed in our lives, worry if they still hated me, even hope that we one day could reconcile our differences and maintain some sort of friendship. All the usual thoughts that came with that group. What I didn't expect was that I felt nothing. No irritation, worry or hope. Instead, I merely felt indifferent. I was completely done with every dramatic thought and sleepless night that had come from the last year. My life, and theirs, had moved past all of that and was ready for the new adventures. My wings were spreading and I was free.
Saturday morning I went into the hairdresser. I've been going to her for five years now. If anyone knows my hair, it's Perry. She ran her fingers through the hair I'd been growing for two years now. Two years of a friendship that had caused more grey hair than the midterms I'd taken four weeks ago.
"Wow, you really are turning into Rapunzel. Do you want another trim?" I made eye contact with Perry in the mirror and said something I don't think I will ever regret.
"I want it gone."
Seven inches later, my head felt lighter. I was no longer attached to hair that had been doing nothing but getting in my way. My now shorter 'do was something I most definitely liked better than the lifeless mop before. It was hair that was easier to manage and full of new potential to style, similar to the way I had felt days before when I realized my emotional attachment to my old friendship was behind me. Life felt easier now, more open to possibilities.
This free woman thing was basically my motto at this point.
Our whole lives are about growing. Growing taller, growing wiser and growing more mature. Growing our hair is even included. But sometimes cutting our hair helps us grow more wise, more mature. We discover that growing our hair could have been what was holding us back, what was keeping us from moving on from the bad in our lives. We truly are hiding behind our hair.
That is a mistake I will never make again.