Last week, I chopped my hair off.
When I was eight years-old, my mom made me cut off my long hair. She was tired of me screaming in pain when she tried to comb through my incredibly thick long hair. (As an adult, I totally understand my mom’s position on this, as the dread associated with combing my hair resulted in the stretching of days between hair washings from three to four to sometimes five days.) I cried in the chair while the poor hairdresser did what the person paying her told her to do, and then spent hours moping and crying in my room when I got home. (Then, THEN, the next day, my 3rd grade teacher started the day by saying, “Awwww, what happened to your hair?” and making a sad face. That was SUPER helpful.) Ironically? I ended up really liking it, and eventually abashedly admitted this fact to my mom and apologized to the sweet hairdresser. This incident taught me some of the facts of life: Nothing – including the length of your hair – is permanent. And that’s okay because sometimes change brings new beauty.
Since then, I’ve gone back and forth between short and long hair, with a bias toward the long hair (because it just takes so long to grow long hair; once it’s long, I want to enjoy it for a minute…or a couple of years). But, I think that this is the longest time period that I’ve had my hair long in my life. Danny liked it long, and once I got to California, I immediately developed an affinity for the long “California girl” hair, and I liked that people could recognize that I was a “hippie” – and all the socio-political views that being a “hippie” entails – just from my hair. Over time, I grew attached to that image.
🎶…We don’t want to live like kooks
Just want to live in-between
Not square, not hippie, and not like you
Good American kids with dreams…🎵
When I told my friend, Amber, that I wanted to cut my hair because I was “too attached” to it, and wanted to – literally – cut the attachment, she laughed and said something like, “So you want to cut your hair because you like it too much?” Yes, yes, I do.
But it’s also deeper than that. (Not much deeper because, we are still talking about hair.) In my dabblings into Buddhism, I’ve re-learned about impermanence. Almost nothing in this Life is permanent. Relationships change and grow; people and plants and pets die; jobs don’t last; resources get depleted; objects break; we move; we create new people; managers retire; the atmosphere is affected by humans’ short-sighted use of fossil fuels; trees fall down or burn up. Everything changes. And our human denial of that simple fact – our attachment to things staying the way they are, particularly when things are pleasant – creates a lot of unnecessary suffering. We do our best to keep things the way we want them, and then we feel sad / betrayed / lost / angry / unsettled when they change anyway.
In Al-Anon, too, we learn about the dangers of attachment – to people, to outcomes, to places, to all the things that we have no control over. At the beginning of every meeting, we recite The Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” And you know what? Most of the time, the “things I can” change boil down to my perspective and my own behavior. That’s about it.
And so, what I’m saying is, cutting off my hair was actually a deeply symbolic gesture of my cutting off attachment. Of my detachment. Of my acceptance that nothing is permanent, and that does not have to be scary or bad. Of my realizing how ridiculous being attached to “hippie hair” is, which is actually just an attachment to – or an attempt to control – how other people see me.
Or, you know, it was just a freaking haircut.