Hoover, let’s talk about my vanity.
I just cut my bangs and I currently have a color called Cherry Bomb setting in under foil on the bottom inch of my hair — ombre, man, I’m getting on this train. People are always surprised to learn I’m my own stylist. “You’re so brave, I could never cut my own hair,” they say. I tell them it’s all a matter of extreme vanity — that if and when the apocalypse comes and there’s a total breakdown in society and all the hair stylists have abandoned their posts, I’ll still be able to keep my appearance up, and I’ll look great in the found footage documentaries. It’s always important to plan ahead, boyo. But zombies/natural disasters/whatever aside, my cosmetic autonomy has nothing to do with bravery and everything to do with the fact that I’d rather disappoint myself than have someone else disappoint me.
Back when I had really short hair in college, I had to get it cut every couple of weeks to be able to spike it the way I liked. But the ladies who cut my hair rarely gave me exactly what I wanted. The bangs wouldn’t be razored in the right way, the back would be too short, whatever it was. And that would make me upset and disappointed that I had wasted my time and my money and I still didn’t get what I wanted. I lived with my friend Caitlen then — I will maybe one day write you a whole post of the rules to live by that Caitlen and I wrote on our apartment wall, but in lieu of that, I will say that basically her existence is summed up by the phrase, “If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch.” She can basically build/fix/do anything, like she knows her way around all the power tools and she can change her own oil and she once designed/sewed a replica of Shirley Temple’s “On the Good Ship Lollipop” costume (best class project we ever did) without batting an eyelash. Here’s a picture I once took of her spray-painting a baby doll that I think we found on the side of the road (look, dude: art school, okay?) which should give you an idea of who she is.
My point is that Caitlen is a doer. She also has a low threshold for whining. One day after one of my unsatisfying haircuts, she told me she had a razor and we could fix my bangs. She pulled the blade out of a box cutter and handed it to me. And thus my life changed.
It was pretty scary the first time I cut my own hair. But then it felt so good. Because I did it myself, and I got exactly what I wanted.
Once people found out I cut my own hair, I started getting requests to cut theirs. Sometimes I declined, but over the course of the past few years, I’ve cut the hair of your Babcia, your Uncle Ian, your great-great Aunt Stella (with the direction, “Don’t make me look like a teenager, I wanna look like an old lady.”), two co-workers on “Awkward,” and one at the ADVANCE Program for Young Scholars. But I’m always scared to cut other people’s hair because it undercuts the very reason I’ve taken to cutting my own: limiting the opportunity for disappointment.
There have certainly been missteps in my hair history, Puffbutt. Sometimes I cut the bangs too short or the back’s a little uneven or there was the time I wanted to bleach out a white streak so I could look like Rogue from X-Men and let’s just say it didn’t go as planned. But when I messed up, I had no one to blame but myself. I wasn’t mad at someone else for letting me down. I think one of the things I hate most in the world is feeling disappointed by someone I trusted.
Hoover, I hope you’ve realized by now that this is not really an entire post dedicated to convincing you to take personal control over your hair’s destiny.
But it IS a post dedicated to convincing you to take control over your own.
What I have learned, or maybe what I’m constantly learning, is that things that really matter to you rarely matter quite as much to anyone else. This is not necessarily because other people suck — it’s just that they have their own list of “most important things,” and, to be fair, a lot of their stuff probably isn’t on yours.
So if something really matters to you, you have to be prepared to do it yourself. What this means is that you can’t be lazy! Or, if you are, you have no right to complain about anything. You’re in the autonomy stage of development anyway now, so I know I’m just telling you things you already know. You’re a big kid and you are capable of doing anything you want by yourself, SO WHAT IF YOU GET FOOD ALL OVER YOUR FACE AND THE TABLE AND THE FLOOR IN THE PROCESS, MOM?
I guess what I’m saying is, don’t ever lose this side of yourself. Don’t delegate your life away, bro. Not only will you be happier, I promise your relationships will be stronger if you don’t set people up for failure by asking other people to do things that you know, in your heart of hearts, you should take care of yourself.
Maybe the best life advice I ever got was posed as a question in the mythology class I took at Youngstown State (go Penguins) when I was in high school; we were talking about Joseph Campbell, and the professor asked, “Are you the hero of your story, or are you waiting to be saved?”
Be your own hero, kid. Pick up those scissors, snip off those bangs, and take your place among the Gilgameshes of the world. Or, you know, whatever it is that your thing is.
And now, I gotta go wash this red out of my hair.
I love you and miss you and am sure I’ll see you soon.