I’m excited to share with you the beginning and ending of a piece I’ve been submitting for publication. Pixie Cut is about aging and beauty and truth and self-acceptance. Here you go…
Ten years ago, when I was 45, I spent $40,000 in six months, and not to buy a car. I spent it on Italian clothes – Missoni, Etro, a sublime Dolce & Gabbana leopard pencil skirt. I acquired delicate Louboutins, dominatrix-y Viviers, swoon-worthy perfumes. My long, luxurious hair got highlighted and blown out regularly. I bought so much makeup that I had to pile it in precarious stacks on my vanity.
The acquiring occurred in an unconscious, reptilian delirium. I was choked to the point of breathlessness by irrational need. I had to preserve what was left of my looks. No. Matter. What. The. Cost.
I grew up in Los Angeles in the 1970s, where Hollywood defined our culture and a woman’s beauty was the only power she could carry. I dreamed of acquiring a resplendent sheen of unassailable beauty and style. I worked that dream like a worry stone, obsessing for decades over my failure to achieve it.
I came within touching distance of my dream a few times. At 25 I met a semi-successful artist who wanted to paint me, which was flattering and terrifying. At 30, the man I loved told me I was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. I rolled my eyes and said he should get out more – he was too biased by love to be credible. At 45, a commanding gay man in San Francisco appraised my face and pronounced me “flawless.” These rare beauty triumphs delighted and lacerated my self-esteem. I’d feel joyful for about five minutes before I berated myself for not looking that good every single day.
That’s the beginning of Pixie Cut. And here’s the end. . .
So here I am, about to be 56. Jay, my new stylist, messes with my hair, ideating. Then she says, “Do you want it a little closer in the back?”
“Sure,” I say, because Jay, who used to be an architecture student, is a master of shape. When she’s done Jay steps back with an expectant smile. I am speechless. My face looks like a bare eggshell. I can’t decide which sentence to say out loud:
‘This is a pixie cut! I was not expecting a freaking pixie cut!I can’t have hair this short! I’m too old! I’m too fat! I can’t carry this off!’
It is too late to turn back – ringlets of dark hair lay across the cape and the floor around me like confetti after the New Years Eve party.
But then something in my head says, “Maybe this haircut is destiny. Maybe this haircut, which forces me to show myself, is just the medicine my soul needs. Maybe it’s time for me to choose a new dream.”
I feel that energy, that joy of deciding who I want to be as a woman, seeping back into my cells. I say out loud, “Wow, it’s a pixie cut! The shape is fantastic!”
With a smile, I gather myself, hold my head high and walk out of the salon.
That night at home I run my hand across the back of my head, where the hair is as soft and short as a boy’s, and I consider.
Perhaps this haircut is an invitation to let people see ME. Not my hair, not my clothes, not my body, but what radiates from within me. It’s a pretty amazing feeling to see and be seen by another human. It’s a nourishment that sustains, unlike the male gaze which simply consumes.
Walking out of my bathroom absently petting the back of my shorn head, I am ready to walk away from my dream of unassailable beauty. I am ready to let my true self step into a new sun that will light my journey into a graceful, older womanhood and warm my newly bare neck.