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Hair today, gone tomorrow

Human hair grows 1/60th of an inch per day, except on days when you check in the mirror each hour to see if your bangs clear your eyeballs yet.

Trust me. They don't.

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I know this because for the past three months I have worked on growing out my layers. And I do mean work. Letting one's hair grow may sound sedentary, but it actually involves more clipping than the NFL playoffs.

I don't normally lack staying power. I've kept the same husband since age 20, the same children from Day 1. Shoes sign on for decades. Even my toothbrush enjoys more loyalty than is strictly recommended.

Hairstyles are a different story. In fact, they're a whole anthology. Photos spanning the years reveal a steady parade of side parts, center parts, straight locks, curls. The long of it, the short of it, and all lengths in between. A "permanent" isn't really permanent on anyone, but especially not on me. Every so often, Bonnie at the salon detects a gleam in my eye that can only mean one thing: Another hair adventure is about to begin.

Bonnie encourages this behavior, and it's not because my tips are keeping her in diamonds. She's read the hair clippings on the floor. She knows that change is scary yet invigorating. She doesn't want people to reach the end of their lives and wish, just once, they'd thrown caution to the wind and tried a blunt cut.

Katie Couric and I will never have that particular regret. To me, Katie is the pompadour of panache, letting each new hairstyle play itself out in public as she does. When my hair is in transition, it's hard enough for me to show myself in my small, untelevised corner of the world. For Katie, it must be like auditioning every day.

Of course, Katie tends to have current fashion on her side. She and I always seem to be at opposite points on the bangs continuum. Certainly when I say that Katie and I are changing hairstyles, I don't mean to suggest that she is swapping hers for mine. If she takes a torn-out picture to her stylist and pleads, "Make me look like this," it is not my coif she covets. By the same token, the hair currently blurring my vision is not hers.

Bonnie says that requests for celebrity hairdos occur daily at her shop. Only the names change from year to year. That's fine for some people, but I am too independent to go down that path. It would be silly of me to imagine that a few snips of the scissors would somehow transform me into a TV star. No, I have a much more realistic goal in mind. With my hairdresser's help, I am becoming, instead, Anna.

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Anna is the name printed next to the model in a glossy hair magazine I found in the salon waiting room. In real life, she may not be a woman worth admiring in any way. She may fall behind at the office or let green peppers go all wrinkly in the vegetable drawer. The point is, Anna is wearing my next hairstyle, and I find myself bonding with her picture on the page. I see her each month when I go in for the trim that is, oddly, part of achieving longer hair. Bonnie reviews the professional cutting diagrams and we discuss whether the model is really named Anna.

"She looks like an Anna," says Bonnie.

Yes, and soon enough so shall I.

A new hairstyle may seem frivolous to some, but I like to think it signals creativity. Flexibility. At the very least, a willingness to make short-term sacrifices for a gain that will last ... well, let's give it a year anyway.

I can't control the weather. The tax bill comes, unbidden. But I am the mistress of one small destiny. For now and the dimly foreseeable future, I am growing out my bangs.


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