I started cutting my hair in the second year of college. Nascent tingles of frugality seemed to start that year, and I was looking for a way to save time and money. Buzzing my own hair solved both, as I probably saved $10-15 every time.
Going on my 7th year (and hundreds in savings), I can’t help but notice how many phases I’ve gone through. My hair’s been slicked back, spiked up, buzzed off, and everything in between. I’ve experimented and built up some skills over the years. Each style gives me a different drive.
Ostensibly, based on every kind word I’ve ever received, I look good when my hair is in between that spiky and slicked-back phase. It kind of has a natural tousle. I feel more confident “wearing” that haircut, too. If anything, this is the look I like when I’m dating.
But today, with buzzers in hand, I debate — once again — whether I should buzz it all off. It’s like hitting the reset button on my head — physically and emotionally. Instantaneously, I look like a Marine reporting for basic training. I don’t know that the style suits anyone, but it’s simple to maintain. Rinse off and you’re ready to go.
Each time I cut my hair, I’m forced in front of a mirror for long periods. I scan over every area of my scalp, and trim the sides by hand. It takes careful precision and patience. What starts out as necessary often becomes obsessive.
I start to see how I’ve changed and aged over the years. I didn’t look like this 7 years ago. I didn’t have fraying sides or a mysterious patch in the back when I first started. My hair was darker, too.
Stand in front of a mirror for any length of time, and my eyes begin to pour over every fault. The extraterrestrial divots of bad acne, the crease of a scar from childhood, and discoloration speck sit atop my face. History via epidermis.
I can’t help but notice, and wonder how to “fix” myself. My consciousness asks, “How can I improve this person in front of me?” Briefly, nearly every time, I think about who I want to be and how this physical presentation has aged in strange, foreign ways. Frankly, resisting it is what I’d like to do.
When I think about why I ask these questions and try to improve my physical features, I come back to the same conclusion: I want to be attractive. I want people to like me. I want to be able to date freely, and not have some strange physical feature that makes me stand out too much — that makes me “odd.”
As I probe my mind for why I think this way, I can’t help but reflect on a culture that encourages us to age slower, and if worst comes to worst, reverse it. We value youth and agelessness. Even more, we seem to be quick to ostracize those who are… different.
It’s in the resistance to aging that things seem to go awry. Suddenly, we spend countless dollars on creams, ointments, and cleansers to freshen our bodies. The average markup on cosmetics is about 78 percent. We’re desperate for something that once was us.
I hate to admit this, but I’ve already purchased many of said products before. There was a tanning cream when I was younger, with the hope of making me less pale and gaunt. All it did was make me look more like an oompa loompa. There were tens of creams and remedies and medicines for acne. They just made my skin red like a Skittles package. I went through expensive scar reduction bottles. And then those whitening strips that bleached my teeth to unnaturally white levels.
It went beyond youthfulness, as I wanted to be good enough — to be worthy of attention. The only way I knew how to make that happen was by spending money. There was one colossal problem: this was money I didn’t have, as I was using student, car, and credit loans to finance these adventures in attractiveness. My debt grew with this desire for outer worth.
$10, $20, $30, $40, and $50 at a time, the money drained out of my pockets and into the coffers of beauty and “hygiene” companies. I can’t imagine how much I spent on these products in total, and part of me is thankful to be without an amount. Just imagining how that money could help me and others causes my gut to wrench.
Most of us can logically say that change is inevitable, and resistance is futile. But that’s the tough part, beauty, attraction, and youthfulness are powerful, emotional drives. They push psychological buttons that aren’t rational. Before we know it, we can virtually or physically pull out our wallets and let corporations take us for all we’re worth. Stopping time is expensive, isn’t it?
I slap on a 2 clip and flip the switch. The gentle vibrations hum up my arm, and the sound of a little lawnmower ignites. Momentarily, I hold the buzzer up and wonder if I should do it. Do I really want it to be so short, simple, and plain?
It’s not till the first clump falls off my head and into the sink that I realize what motivates me to do this. I’m saying no to the system that says beauty looks one way. I’m saying no to products that would wash, condition, and spike my hair. I’m saying goodbye to resistance. I’m saying hello to fault, age, and the very probable/highly likely/I-don’t-know-how-it-won’t-happen chance that this hair won’t always be here.
It’s practice for the big day.