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My Hair Is Like a Bad Boyfriend…

That’s why her hair’s so big…it’s full of secrets (Mean Girls, 2004)

A little background.

I threw myself into triathlon training last year and tried to do it with shoulder-length hair.  And, what I learned was that when you have a ton of hair to deal with, swim caps are not your friend.

So, what did I do? I cut it all off.  At 39, this marks the third time that I’ve grown my hair out to a shoulder length style, then cut it all down to about an inch of curls.

Why do I do this?  I’ve always thought that hair is about how I’m feeling, and in looking back at pictures, each of the major haircuts has been about change. A transformation, of sorts.

The first time I made ‘the big chop’ I was struggling with how to manage my separation from A’s dad. I took all the blonde and brunette colors and had them cut off in a salon on Astor Place in the East Village. I was ecstatic. I had owned that hair from birth and it felt good to lose 23 years of history and start clean.

I spent a year growing it back out and by the time it was chin-length, I was dating again and learning how to be a single parent.

My next cut came in 2005 when I was training for the New York City Marathon.  By that time I had accumulated almost ten years’ worth of hair and I was ecstatic to see it go. I knew it was time when I would have to wake up in the morning to shower and wash my hair just so I could pull it back into a ponytail to go for a run.

The most recent cut came last year. I had a good excuse, you know? Training for a half-Iron is no joke and I was tired of the hair and the heat so off it went. I took my standard picture to a local salon where they speak no English and the ladies asked, in Spanish, was I sure.

I was. I am.

It wasn’t until I had gotten home after that cut that I realized I was carrying around relationships with my hair. I was carrying ‘The Runner’ and ‘The One’ and I hadn’t even realized that it isn’t because of biking or running or swimming that the hair was too much…it was that so much had changed and I’d been too busy in the middle of it to notice.

So off it went.

And it was with short hair that I trained and wrote and started a business and went to Paris. So, as 40 draws closer, I think it’s time to say that I’ve accomplished so much more with short hair – probably because I don’t have to spend hours doing it each week.

But where does that leave me now? I’ll tell you…

And before I do…you know I love a metaphor. Or two.

It leaves me with hair that’s like your worst ex-boyfriend. You know the one. Every day you wake up with the promise that today is the day he’s going to behave. You just know that he wants to do right by you, but he’s so immature and selfish that he just can’t seem to get out of his own way. Or yours.

You think he’s going to play nice and do what you’ve suggested would be a fair compromise and he’s all for it until he gets outside. Then, he’s waving at strangers, curling up and hiding when he shouldn’t, popping out and looking crazy when he should be laying there neatly in one place.

Yeah, I’m wearing a bad boyfriend on my head, but I don’t know what to do about it. I keep saying I’m going to get rid of him, I mean, it, and then I wake up hoping that today is the day that we fall in love again.

I’m so sure I’m wrong that I just booked an appointment at my hair salon.


**And the image for this post? Well, it’s entitled “No More Bad Hair Days, by Shakespeare” and who doesn’t want to have no more bad hair days, right?

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Deirdre Mahan

I have terrible hair. Some of it is tiny fuzzy French Poodle curls and some of it is not. And most of it is gray. I hate how much time & money I’ve spent on it over the years. In that way you’re right – it’s totally like a bad relationship.


It is almost exactly like that. For oh 15 years or so I rarely had cut it – it was below my arse braided. And then I moved out, and went to university and went short. WAY short. And then I grew it out to shoulder length – and got pregnant – and went short again when C was little because well – I had no time to deal with long hair or excessive time styling. And we traveled – often. It’s so nice to NOT bring a blow dryer and assorted conversion plugs every time you travel. And then – I just let it grow again.

so- its halfway down my back – and every time I lop off 6″ from mine A has a fit. He likes it long. I prefer it shorter – or at least more manageable. So – braided or up it stays nearly all the time.
Funny – because it was just at my shoulders when we met, but he holds it like a toddler with a security blanket at night – I guess it’s reassuring ..but he worries when I cut it that I’m cutting off more significant bits.
BUT – even when it’s braided and organized to go into the cap – it’s not easy. It’s just far easier short.


I remember when I was 20, and first cut off my hair. I had always kept it on the long side, and I have very very thick, wavy hair. It was always a mixed blessing, pretty but a huge pain. I heard about Locks of Love and decided to grow it really long in order to donate it. After about a year and a half of growing it, it was finally long enough. I headed off to the salon with my best friend, and handed them the instructions. (Hair has to be clipped multiple times or braided to donate.) Since I was donating it to charity, they didn’t want to charge me. It ended up being the cutest $8 haircut you’ve ever seen. They definitely hooked me up. And short hair can be tricky.

So, you can imagine my joy when my then-boyfriend said, “It’s cute, I guess, but you were so sexy with long hair. You can probably guess how the rest of that conversation went…

Luckily, my husband doesn’t really care, and neither do I (aside from attempting to cover the whites). My daughter, however, is the hair issues all over again. Thick, wavy, and halfway down her back. Oh yeah, and she’s only two… So it’s your basic nightmare, but I can’t bear to cut it off just yet. When we’ve finally combed through all the snarls every night, she announces, “I so pretty.” And by morning, the tangles are back again…


Yeah, thick hair on little kids is rough. It could be worse though; we could live somewhere that is humid year round, forcing me to brush it several times a day…

I’ve never tried braiding her hair as she just barely has the patience for brushing and ponytails. Are dreads impossible to comb out? They look like they would be. Yeah, my profile picture is pretty recent. I sometimes grow my hair out, but I always end up going back to the short hair. Sleep definitely wins in my book! :)


So, I was reading your comment and thinking back to being a little girl. I had a mess of hair and it was super curly (still is, which is why I keep it short!) and my aunts and cousins would sit me in front of them on the floor and they’d get a glass of water and a brush and spend about an hour working out the curls so they could style it. If I moved, they’d hit me with the brush and say: Sit still. That is so 1970s, by the way.

I learned with A to just let her attack her hair on her own. Except for those dread…the trick was: Scissors. Poor kid :)

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