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I have an appalling new haircut.

I’d injured my leg, which made the long drive to my usual salon out of the question. But my hair was looking so long and drab that I’d begun wearing a cap to cover it up. So I decided to duck into the chop shop at the local strip mall and get myself a quick, cheap cut.   

What could possibly go wrong?

Over the years I’d gotten a few perfectly adequate haircuts there, as well as one truly spectacular cut from a stylist moonlighting from an upscale salon, which, because “Cheap Cuts” was running a special that day, cost just five bucks. 

That, in case you didn’t recognize it, is the Haircut Holy Grail. 

Hoping that lucky-haircut lightning would strike twice, I entered the place with high expectations.  

This time I got exactly what I paid for. 

My haircutter was an affable, upbeat, bright-eyed young thing. 

“I want it shorter,“ I told her. “But not too short. Can you cut it so that it falls right below my ears?”

“You bet,” she said cheerfully. 

Then, inexplicably, she cut my hair so that it fell mid ear. The look I was going for was “short and chic.“ The look I ended up with was  “Bozo the Clown.“ 

Why didn’t I stop her? She’d told me to remove my glasses, and I can’t see past the end of my nose without them. She could have been making preparations to set my hair on fire, and I wouldn’t have known until she lit the match.  

Actually, setting my hair on fire would probably have resulted in a better look than the one I ended up with.   

When she’d finished and I put my glasses back on, I didn’t gasp, scream, or curse her out. I’m far too polite. I was in shock. And the damage was done. The hair was gone. She couldn’t put it back. Speechless, I paid and fled.

The moment I was out the door I put my cap back on.   

Years ago, my nephew got a haircut that was so abysmal—uneven, too short, and just weirdly off-putting—that when he got home he donned his Phillies cap and wore it nonstop till the ghastly cut grew out. Just once, when he was relaxing with a group of trusted pals, they persuaded him to take it off. 

When he did, they burst out laughing. 

I could continue to wear my own cap until my hair grew back. Instead I decided to try going about my life sans cap and see what happened.     

I’d been invited to my sister’s house for dinner. When she opened the door, she did a double take, then quickly said, “It’s not that bad.”   

All my brother-in-law could find to say about my haircut was, “It’s short.“ 

Then again, straight guys don’t really care about hair. Unless they’re your husband and you’ve always had dazzling waist-length blonde hair, and then, because you have a new baby and no longer have time to wash, brush, and endlessly untangle the stuff, one day at the salon you find yourself saying to your stylist: “Just cut it all off. I’d like it to fall just below the shoulders.”

This will make your stylist’s day, but, trust me, it’ll make Hubby miserable. 

On the day, two decades ago, that I myself impulsively went from having super-long hair to having a manageable cut, my then-husband took one look at me when I got home and wailed, “How could you do this to me?”

Which is probably what I should have said to the stylist who “scalped” me. 

Over the next few days, everyone noticed my catastrophic coif.  

“New haircut!” said my friend Nancy Bea. “It looks great!“  

“Do you really think so?” I asked. “Honestly?“  

“No,” she said. “But it’ll grow back.”

“It’s awkwardly short,” said my pal Maria. “But it’ll grow back.”  

My friends had clearly chosen “It’ll grow back” as my new mantra.   

“OMG! You poor thing. But it’ll grow back.”

“Wow! That’s extreme. But it’ll grow back.”

“Do you like my haircut?” I asked Joan, a usually outspoken colleague at the library where I work, after a shift in which she’d been oddly silent.  

 “I wasn’t going to say anything,” she said, “But it’s TERRIBLE!  What the hell happened?”  

And although both his parents assured me that it looked “very nice,“ the terrific 5-year-old I babysit for took one look at me and said, with refreshing honesty, “That’s ugly.” 

Having a bad haircut has given me new insight into the people in my life. Some, I’ve learned, are blunt but honest: “Holy shit! What happened to you?” Others are considerate, boldfaced liars: “Great haircut! You look terrific!” The rest fall somewhere in between: “Fabulous cut!  Gee, I hope you’re one of those people whose hair grows quickly.”   

When he saw my new cut, Mark, the man in my life, said, “You’re gorgeous.” 

That’s why he’s the man in my life.     

It was my friend Deb whose response was the most instructive. She didn’t say a thing. When I finally prompted, “So how do you like my hair?” she looked at me for a moment, then said, “It looks nice. Is it different?“ 

I’d assumed that my appearance had been so transformed that just to look my way was a painful shock for my friends and family. And yet, it hadn’t even turned up on Deb’s radar.  

So . . . maybe my awful haircut wasn’t such a big deal after all?  

When I returned home, I took a good look in the mirror and thought, “Get over yourself, Roz. It’s only a haircut. It’ll grow back.” 

Then I took another look and put my cap back on. 

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  • mark Lowe July 3, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    Wonderful!

    Reply
  • ellen sue spicer-jacobson July 2, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    When I was 5 my mother took me to a barber and he cut my hair just like a boy’s. Was I upset, because everyone teased me. Now I just put on one of my many hats when the salon cuts my hair too short or I am having a bad hair day. I have adopted, It’ll grow back” mantra that you have. No wonder you were wearing a cap on that hot day last week in the library!
    ellensue

    Reply
  • Susanna Gaertner July 1, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    Ha ha! Just had one of these last week, as I can tell by my friends and clients pointedly saying nothing. Well, it’s summer and I should be OK by fall. You know something is Very Wrong when the stylist tells you to “play with it” … and there’s nothing there to play with.

    Reply
  • Roz Warren July 1, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Mary I LOVE this comment and it rings true except that I know what you look like and I’m 100% sure that nobody would ever mistake you for a boy, even as a first grader.

    Reply
  • Mary G. July 1, 2013 at 10:09 am

    I had crazy-long hair when I was a little girl. My Mom got sick of it and told my dad if he wanted it long he’d have to take care of it.

    So he did.

    Two or three times a week I remember being stretched out on the kitchen countertop with my head in the sink and my hair spilling into the drain. (My brother, Michael, would always come along and threaten to turn on the garbage disposal….) Then we’d begin the hour-long process of de-tangling (no conditioners or creme rinses back then – at least that Dad knew about).

    On Saturday night was an addition to the ritual – tying my hair in rags to make it curly for church on Sunday (Mom would step in for that part).

    One Saturday morning, between Kindergarten and first grade, my Mom asked if I would like to take a walk. I should have KNOWN something was up because she NEVER did this. (Dad was the walk-taker; Mom was the sit-down-and-color-or-cut-paper-dolls-type.) Anyway – off we went – me skipping along having no clue of the doom that awaited….
    “Let’s stop in and see my friend,” Mom said cheerily.
    Up the front steps and into the house we went – and in the middle of what should have been the living room of the house was a beauty parlor chair, a sink and a big mirror.

    Now a child in this day and age would put on the brakes – have a tantrum – scream bloody murder – run from the house – take out their I-Phone and call Dad – SOMETHING….
    But this obedient child of the 50s/60s slowly and silently climbed up into the big chair and submitted to the impending Pixie. I watched through quiet tears as the hair fall in huge clumps onto the floor as the hairdresser chattered and told me how glad I would be with all this weight off my head in the hot summer.

    When I got home, my Dad could hardly look at me, but he took me in his arms and said, “You’re still my dizzy blonde.”

    My best friend, Gina, came over and cried with me.
    “You look like a BOY!” she said indignantly. “How could they DO this to you!” She put her arm around me and we went over to her house. Gina’s Mom was as shocked as we were. In a big Italian family the LAST thing you would ever do is cut off a girl’s hair. I actually felt better that they couldn’t hide their emotions – wouldn’t pretend that everything would be alright.

    I did not cut my hair again until the end of 8th grade….

    Reply
  • wendy July 1, 2013 at 1:46 am

    cute essay

    Reply
  • Tobysgirl June 29, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    Try getting a bad dye job! There’s nothing like looking in the mirror and screaming when you see yourself!

    Reply
  • ROZWARREN June 29, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    Uh-oh. Send in the clowns,,, not!

    Reply
  • Mickey June 29, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Oh, the bad haircut!!!! I was 13 and Mom sent me to a beauty school. The student kept cutting more and more to ‘even’ it out. I was crying while waiting for my mom to pick me upand a lady approached me to ask what was wrong and then said: Oh, it’ll grow out!

    Thanks, Roz. Call my niece; she’s very good. Well, except for the problem that she lives here in Tucson. Next time you are here though, call her!!!

    Reply
  • Richard Bready June 29, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    A doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.
    Frank Lloyd Wright

    Reply
  • IB June 29, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Just watched Chris Rock’s “Good Hair”. Judging by this very funny essay, you would probably like it too, Roz!

    Reply
  • Kelly June 29, 2013 at 11:52 am

    hahaha I’ve had one of those haircuts (I hadn’t realized that if I got my haircut short it would get extremely puffy and frizzy). Each person tends to think that people pay more attention to him or her than they actually do. In the end, people usually are more worried about themselves than about anyone else’s looks- which is consoling if you happen to get a bad haircut.

    Reply
  • Buster June 29, 2013 at 11:23 am

    Dear Ms. Warren. On behalf of the International Clown Consortium and my good friend Clown Bozo, we wish to advise you that your comparison of your own unfortunate “bad hair day” (oops, year) to Clown Bozo’s hairstyle is hurtful and insensitive. Yes, Bozo is “hair challenged”, but he deserves the respect and consideration of any challenged person. Bozo has attempted to divert attention from his hair with funny noses, oversize shoes, and wigs. It is indeed unfortunate for you to return national attention to his condition. In an effort to be constructive to your plight, however, we suggest that you try a clown outfit to distract attention to your hair. It might just work . . . . . Best, Buster K

    Reply
  • ICC June 29, 2013 at 10:54 am

    Dear Ms. Warren. On behalf of the International Clown Consortium, we’d like to put you on notice that unless you cease and desist in defamatory and hurtful comparisons to Clown Bozo’s hair style, we’ll be forced to take legal action. Bozo indeed is “hair challenged”, but is entitled to the respect and courtesy that all persons with “challenges” should be afforded. Bozo has been wearing a red nose, funny clothes, and big shoes for years in an attempt to deflect attention from his hair, and it is indeed sad and disappointing that you have returned national attention to his plight. In an effort to be constructive and demonstrate our clownish compassion, however, we suggest that you considered trying a clown outfit until your hair grows out. It might work . . . .

    Reply
  • Diane Dettmann June 29, 2013 at 9:35 am

    Thanks for triggering laughter and memories, Roz! Trying to save a few bucks between my stylist appointments, I’ve had a couple of those “Bozo the Clown” cuts and they were no laughing matter. Took forever to grow out. Oh well, could have been a “Clarabell” cut, almost bald with a tuft on top!

    Reply
  • Roz Warren June 29, 2013 at 8:17 am

    Caren, actually she’s one of the most perceptive, caring people I know, which is why I found her response reassuring. It’s the trivial stuff that doesn’t show up on her radar. (Even so, I did change her name in this essay.)

    Reply
  • Caren Gittleman June 29, 2013 at 7:14 am

    I think we can ALL relate!! I am known for doing the “cap” or bandanna thing..and…there is always the “just push it behind the ears thing” too!
    I would rather have the honest and blunt friends than the last one who didn’t notice….that might mean that she doesn’t notice anything about anyone and that isn’t necessarily a good thing either!

    Reply