Elan Morgan is a writer and web designer who works from Elan.Works, a designer and editor at GenderAvenger, and a speaker who has spoken across North America. They believe in and work to grow both personal and professional quality, genuine community, and meaningful content online.

The Haircut

I started cutting my own hair about a month ago. I insist on telling everyone I know, and now that every one of them has heard how awesome I think I am for this, I preface the re-telling with the phrase I'm not sure if I told you this, but... It's my favourite thing about myself at the moment. It bubbles forth like a spring; this new evidence of can-do spirit within me effervesces upwards in belches of grinning excitement: I did this myself! Do you want to know how? My friends can't wait to show me off at all their parties, I'm sure.

Have I saved the life of an animal? Yes. Have I had a near death experience, gone to the other side, and come back to tell about it? Yes. Did I manage to walk away from a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia at the age of twenty and carve out a fairly excellent life for myself? Yes. Do I cut my own hair? I AM FUCKING AMAZING, WHAT WITH MY ROGUE INDEPENDENCE AND A PAIR OF PINKING SHEARS. HAVE YOU HEARD OF ME? BECAUSE I DON'T THINK YOU HAVE IF YOU'RE NOT SLACK-JAWED WITH AWE AND WONDERMENT RIGHT NOW.

The first time I did it was about a month ago. I was giving serious thought to the power dynamics at play in various areas of my life and my often less-than-aggressive role in these scenarios, and I had just started feeling as ineffectual as a dust mote when I suddenly took note of my flat mop of mousy hair in the mirror, my slim finances, and my sewing basket. How better to act out my take-charge and aggressive side than with a rash and independent act of economic/cultural/class defiance?

I used to go to this trendy shop with mannequin parts suspended from the ceiling and an open, movable floor plan. My hairdresser was nice, but she did this head massage thing which felt somehow like inappropriate touching, left some bits too long to "keep the cut feminine", and charged $40. I have found that it's very difficult to convince a hairdresser in this neck of the world that you really, truly, with all your heart don't want to "keep the cut feminine". I quit seeing her. I started spending $20 a month plus tip to have a barber cut my hair, and it was a good relationship. He didn't make awkward suggestions about feminizing the style or covering my grey. He complimented me on my ability to rock a very short haircut and then chopped the hell out of it.

That $20 a month was irritating me, though. Even though I liked the barber, my hair was never quite right. Actually, that's unfair to him. NO ONE has ever been able to cut my hair quite right. After doing the math, it seemed stupid all of a sudden to be throwing $240 to $480 a year at haircuts I didn't really like and sentencing myself to that weird guilt I feel when I have rejected one stylist for another. You know what I'm talking about: the kind of guilt that makes you turn down another block entirely to avoid running into your last hairdresser on the street and having a forced non-hair-related conversation, even though that's your only real connection and not talking about hair loudly and glaringly advertises your severed relationship.

I looked from my moppish hair to my sewing basket and thought: Screw the less than satisfactory haircuts! Screw the cultural insistance on feminizing my head! Screw the beauty imperative! Screw the class consciousness that would have me spend too much money on a service I can perform myself! Also, Fussy is a functioning member of society, and she did it!

I set up a mirror in the living room, stripped naked, and sat on the floor with my pinking shears. (By the way, pinking shears are a wise choice if you are going to hack away at your own hair. They cut in a zig-zag pattern (VVVVVVVVV), which keeps you from creating disastrously crooked-looking chop marks where you don't want them.)

beginning a haircutI pulled my hair up like so and took a deep breath. I was sure that I was somehow a colossal idiot, because the last time I attempted this was in 1996, and it did not turn out well at all. I was trying to grow it out from a brush cut, and I decided to trim it while watching "Empire Records". Of course, cutting my own hair while watching a movie resulted in my cutting a huge chunk out at the front at scalp length. I ended up running to the corner grocery store to buy some razors and then wound up wearing a dorky pink scarf from my mother that night during a family dinner in my honour in order to cover up my entirely too naked head. I will never forget how she blanched when I showed her my clean and glossy scalp.

I would like to mention that I had not informed the Fiery One of my activity at this point. I had this feeling that he might try to talk me out of it, and I was too committed to my new inflated feeling of can-do-ness and fuck-the-man-ness to submit myself to someone else's clear thinking.

pinking shearsFuck it, I thought, because what would be a better thing to think after replaying in your mind what stupid consequences you had to suffer the last time you committed to this endeavour? SNIP. SNIP. SNIP and SNIP and SNIP. It wasn't going too badly. I just kept gathering my hair up between my fingers, pulling my hand an approximate distance-by-feel from my head, and cutting off what hair stuck up through my fingers. It was an inexact process, but I like the choppy look. The back was more difficult, because I was just one naked woman in a living room without the benefit of a three-way mirror, or even a second mirror, but I continued undeterred by the fact that half my head would have to be done completely by feel.

SNIP and SNIP and SNIP. Was I feeling alright? I really didn't know. SNIP SNIP. I just knew that I was committed to something, SNIP, and I was going to see it through, SNIP, because I could, SNIP, and I was somehow actively taking part in the shaping of my own life, SNIP, or some such ridiculous notion. SNIPPETY SNIP SNIP SNIP.

I bet you think that this might all turn out very badly. Do you? Don't feel bad about second-guessing my brave pursuit of new talents. I did, too. In fact, half of the way through I stopped, brushed some of the clumps of loose hair from myself, and stood in front the bathroom mirror. I was sure that I would be revisiting the unflattering outcome of December 1996's similar action that was attempted as part of the fallout of a nasty break-up. I teared up a little while I chastised myself for being terribly immature and rash for someone of thirty-three. I fell prey to the myth of the feminine for a few short moments. I wondered if maybe my boobs weren't a little further south than the last time I looked. Then, I continued with the haircut, because there was no way I was going back to my barber with half of a home-jobby and the guilty admission of my pinking shear use.

And, in the end, I DID IT. My haircut looks pretty darn cute, It's short. It's choppy. It makes my silver hairs flirt with the light. It was free. I now have $240 to $480 more a year with which to smoke cigarettes and drink beer (or, you know, make a student loan payment). And I only cut my left hand with the shears two or three times. The blood flow was minimal, and the infection cleared up quickly.

As you can see in the following pictures, the results aren't half bad. In fact, I quite like the way it turned out. To be truthful, these are pictures from my second go at it on Thursday, so I have had a chance to improve my technique. For instance, I only drew blood once this time. I also figured out how to cut the sides shorter in order to prevent them from puffing out like bad bald-guy hair.

after the haircut


Of course, if someone offered me twenty bucks to cut my own hand repeatedly with a pair of scissors and spend time freaking out about how I will be able to show my head in the office on Monday morning, I probably wouldn't take them up on it.

Although my course of action is somewhat inadvisable, and following my lead is akin to drinking the ink out of the black marker because Scotty-the-glue-eater made it sound like a good idea, this experience has taught me three valuable lessons (two of which may also be practicably inadvisable):
1) Don't panic at the sight of blood,
2) Allowing your pride to get in the way of asking for help is not always a bad thing, and
3) Giving yourself a home haircut is not an effective means to undermining an oppressive and over-arching social structure.



"Pigtail" by Tadeusz Rozewicz