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No, It's Not a Wig
On changing my hairdo overseas
The last time I had bangs, I also had braces. (Not a winning combo, I might add.) It was seventh grade and something inside me said, Cool girls have side bangs, so I got side bangs.
I remember our hairdresser turned family friend, Nicole, cutting my hair and then rushing to look at myself in the mirror. What I saw were these little strands of hair that fell in my face all weird, totally lacking the type of movement I'd imaged they’d have. I was bummed. As luck would have it, I made this hair change right before my seventh-grade school picture was taken. When I got the prints back—braces catching the glint of the camera lighting, bangs hanging limp against the side of my face, the V-neck cut of my turquoise Abercrombie shirt fighting against the high-cut line of the white tank I’d layered underneath—I thought, Oh no.
After that bad bang experience, I swore them off. My forehead is short; I now wear glasses the majority of the time (curse my genes, my astigmatism, and my inability to pop contacts in with ease like my dad does!). The last thing I want is to draw attention to my eye area, even though I love my eye shape, my lashes, (sometimes) my eyebrows, and the way my irises turn amber when the light hits them just right.
Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of lovely gals on the internet—particularly the European ladies—sporting fringe (aka bangs) and a shaggier hairdo. After having hair down to my mid back in high school, a bob in college, a pixie pre- and during the COVID years, and every other hairstyle in between, I know that hair does grow back.
Hair grows back. Although true, this line of thinking wasn’t enough to get me through the painfully slow pixie grow-out phase on the first try. Even though the grow out coincided with the height of the pandemic, when we all were homebound (aka prime time to wait out the awkward hair stage), it took me a good two tries before I let the transition take its course.
Alas, despite knowing the reality and pain of the grow-out waiting game, the allure of the shaggy curtain bangs and effortless '60s shag held too much intrigue for me to resist. And not having a trusted hairdresser close by didn’t stop me, either.
I cheat on Nicole, our family hairdresser, quite a lot. I’m not afraid of a hairdresser fling now and then; if someone else’s sheers do me wrong, I just go crawling back to Nicole and have her fix it. In the end, I know she’s always a phone call away. This time, though, Nicole was (and will remain until the spring) thousands of miles away. If anything went awry, I’d have to wait two months to see her.
As I walked to the salon, I reflected on the fact that maybe it wasn’t so much the bangs in seventh grade as it was the fact that I got them during the height of puberty. When I had braces. When everything was awkward. Hell, my boobs were in the midst of budding. I was still growing into my big ears and nose.
No, it’s not a wig. Yes, I regret my decision. I have some explaining to do—to myself and to you—since, yes, you read that right in the second paragraph: I did swear off bangs after that traumatic seventh-grade chop.
Was I too impulsive?
Could I have waited?
Why I couldn't have waited just two more months for Nicole to re-pop my bangs cherry, I can’t tell you. I guess the urge to see the bangs on myself, the curiosity of it all, was too great. I had to get the bangs, and I had to get them now—in Thailand, with no Nicole close by to save me.
Why, why did I do it?
I’m ashamed to say…I was simply influenced.
I am now, once again, suffering from PTBD (post-traumatic bang disorder).
After Brooks’ big haircut a few weeks ago, I should have known better. He came back with a blunt chop that entered him into his Lord Farquaad1 era. But I didn’t want to be pessimistic. Not all hairdressers are the same.
Despite the quick turnaround from “I think” to sitting in the salon chair, I thought I did everything right: I got my reference photos and videos together. I googled to see what the most reputable, foreigner/expat-frequented salon was. I emailed them. I got an appointment a few days after I started muttering the phrase, “I think I want bangs.” I even slept on the idea for two-ish days.
After getting the best shampooing, scalp massage, and arm massage I’ve had to date at a salon, I sat in the chair while my hairdresser made his first snips. He’d seen the reference photos; it would be fine. He kept snipping and layering, and snipping and shaping.
He’d giving me a nod and an, “Okay?”
I’d smile, eyes covered by hair, and say, “Okay.”
After the blow dry and dry cut, he brought out the curling iron while my bangs still hid my eyebrows. He started to sweep my bangs to the side and immediately I had a seventh-grade side-bang flashback.
“I wanted them shorter,” I said.
He snipped some more.
But, despite his snipping, something was still lost in translation.
Maybe my hair just couldn’t mimic the reference photos, and he didn’t have the heart to tell me. Maybe his creativity got the best of him.
It’s been almost twelve hours—and yes, I did take some manicure scissors (the only scissors I have) to my hair to try to “fix” some of the work. I know, I know: a big no, no. But I just couldn’t bear to sit with bangs a bit too long, sporting something akin to a bad boy Korean pop star’s do.
If bangs are teaching me anything it’s that the maxims “curiosity killed the cat” and “patience is a virtue” are most certainly true.
Maybe my bangs will eventually learn to fall the exact way I want them to. (Aren’t bangs mind readers??) Perhaps, when I have to go back to get them trimmed, they’ll be fixed. Hopefully, I’ll grow to like them before they grow out, and the regret I feel now will soon sit on the fringes of my mind, instead of on my forehead.
For now, though, until I decide how I feel, I’ll just keep telling myself what Fleabag told her sister, Claire: “It’s French.”2
A note from the editor: Initially, Margaret wasn’t given permission to use my new nickname. Given the state of her bangs, I have since allowed it. At least we can suffer together now. If we’re being honest though, I do like them bangs.