I used to change my hair, as the saying goes, as often as I changed my underwear. For almost a decade, I alternated between buzzing it to a grade 3 and wearing it long, with every awkward length in between. Pixie cut, long, bangs, layered, bobbed. Purple, multiple shades of red, black, and, for a very short time, a very long time ago, platinum blonde. But as I have gotten older, the changes have been more subtle and further between. Now at an age where a lot of women start to color their hair, I’ve stopped.
As women, much of our identity is tied up in our hair. It is one of the first things people notice. And your volume, or lack thereof, can speak volumes. Before you even open your mouth, impressions are cemented. Perfectly colored and coiffed high maintenance? Wash and go I-have-more-important-things-to-be-doing PHD? Roots-need-to-be-done-I-can’t-find-the-time mom? Long hair is seen as sexy and youthful. Short is seen as sensible and well….mom like. As a (technically) middle-aged mom, I am keenly aware of what my hair says about me. I toe the precarious line between chopping off too much and ending up with the no-nonsense ‘mom-do’ (could bermudas and espadrilles and a tucked in polo be far behind?) and letting it grow too long, risking tittering comments about mutton dressed as lamb and the like. Who would have thought that the idea of sitting in an adjustable chair wearing a polyester smock would force you to confront your youth, and more importantly, it’s passing?
So far I have avoided getting my hair cut in Denmark for no other reason than it is ridiculously expensive. Apparently, socialism does not extend to salon services (it costs half as much to see a doctor as it does to get your hair cut. I won’t even tell you how much a balloon animal entertainer costs, it’s mind-boggling). In New York you could easily spend a fortune on a cut and color. I think Sally Herschberger set a new bar with her $600 shag, and she only did one style. But it was balanced out by the fact that every time I went to visit my mom, I could stroll into the salon where I had had my hair cut for years and walk out with a wash, cut, and dry for $25, including tip. But in Copenhagen, wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen, even your basic salon on a side street charges you upward of 500 DKK (just under $90) for a cut. About six months ago, desperate, I tried going to a cheaper place (only $75) and ended up with my bangs so short that for a month, until they grew out, I looked like a baggy eyed Lego head. So this week, I finally stumped up and had a proper cut. My husband, my mother, and my ancestors would clutch their hearts and turn over in their grave if I mentioned how much it cost.
So I won’t.
It started with a five-minute head massage which almost made me weep with joy. As a mom, you spend so much time giving hugs and kissing boo-boos, being tugged on, climbed on, used as a jungle gym, that you forget what it’s like to be touched gently. It was heavenly and I wanted it to go on for much longer. An offering of coffee, tea, cappuccino. I’ve mentioned before that a cup of coffee in Denmark sets you back about $6 USD, so take the ‘free’ coffee when you can. A short consultation, a brisk whipping on of the ubiquitous black smock, and we were off.
Sitting still while someone snips and scissors, one has plenty of time to study their reflection starting back at them. Every wrinkle, every gray, every line and crease and oh dear god is that a jowl forming? It always seemed silly to me to put on makeup before having your hair cut. I won’t make that mistake again. Sure, I look good for my age, but there is no denying that I have reached…an age. The difference between an inch or two around the jaw line can add years to your face, a few softening layers can take away as many more. But it is hard to let go; of your perception of self, which may be outdated, to memories, to your pre-conceived notions of youth and age and how they all muddle together, in and on your head.
It would seem haircuts are a bit like hiccups, in that they can be a bit contagious. There have been a spate of new hairdos among the women I know. Perhaps it is a bit of spring cleaning, out with the old and in with the new. The start of a new season brings with it a desire to sweep away the cobwebs, to start anew. A spring awakening, for your head.
In the end I didn’t go too short. I may fondly recall the days when I could grab a pair of clippers and buzz cut my hair and still look feminine. But those times are long gone, nearly two decades gone. Now it is enough to look in the mirror with sleek, shiny hair that I will never be able to recreate at home and think, “She ain’t half bad. For a (technically) middle-aged mom, anyway.”