I took the first appointment available, only an hour away. Quickly, I tried to sober up with a lukewarm shower, washing the smells of smoke and alcohol from my hair and pores. The cleanliness lifted my broken heart and I allowed myself a moments respite from my grief.
I wasn’t lesbian enough, I had thought over and over again throughout the course of my relationship with first:girl. I could change that. I could do something to compete. I could put myself in her shoes. I could be everything she was and wanted me to be. Hope budded in my chest as I threw my phone in my purse and headed out to the car.
I turned the music up loud on the drive over, not wanting to hear myself think. I’d had long hair my whole life. Had donated to Locks of Love on several occasions, but had never gone shorter than just below my shoulders. I felt frightened, exhilarated.
“Hi, I have a three thirty with Maili,” I greeted the receptionist.
“Oh, sure, she’s waiting for you. Maili!” she called back to a young woman with long dark hair and huge brown eyes. She was gorgeous.
“Hi, Tabby? Come on back,” Maili smiled at me. “So we’re doing a cut today, is that right?”
“Yes,” I nodded and let out a breath. “All of it. I want to cut all of it.” I could see her frown at me in the mirror and she ran her hands through my hip length hair.
“That seems a little drastic. Rough breakup with your boyfriend?” I flinched.
“I’m a lesbian.” It was the first time I’d ever said the words out loud. It wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be. In fact, they sort of just tumbled out, like I couldn’t stop them.
“Sorry, you just don’t look like a -” her eyes widened. “Oh.”
I was surprised she could come to the realization so quickly when it had taken me months. “Yeah, exactly.”
“But, still. All of it? You’ve got gorgeous hair,” she pouted. I snorted.
“It’s all wild and I can’t do anything with it anyway. It’s not beautiful and flowy like yours.”
“You know how many treatments I get done on my hair? Protein and keratein and gloss dyes? I don’t wake up like this, trust me. I could do something like that for you.”
“No,” I was adamant. “I want it cut.”
“Okay,” she sighed like she was about to commit a crime. “Do you really want it all cut off? I could do something really nice, chin length? Still short and edgy but not so drastic?”
I paused, hesitated. Would it be chickening out? Would it be turning my back on this new road? Would it be “lesbian enough?” She saw my hesitation and put a comforting hand on my shoulder.
“Let’s decide after we wash,” she soothed me. I stood up and she escorted me over to the rows of sinks. I sat down and she started to tilt me back before I remembered my damp hair and protested.
“I just showered,” I told her sheepishly. “You don’t have to do that.”
“It’s okay,” she smiled down at me and lifted all of my hair into the sink with her gentle hands. “It’s part of what you pay for, and it’s relaxing. Just let go and try not to think about anything.”
I closed my eyes and let her hands lull me to a quiet place. Her fingers were strong, knowing, but soft, and she massaged my scalp and ran her fingers through my hair. “How long have you been out?” she asked me quietly as she pumped shampoo into her palm.
“I’m not, exactly. Or I always have been. I don’t know. I feel like there wasn’t really a closet involved with me. I liked a girl one day and the next everyone knew. I’m not really that good at hiding things,” I confessed.
“Honesty is a good thing,” she assured me and I closed my eyes as she passed over a knot near the base of my neck. “You’re very stressed, though. You could really use a massage.”
“If I could afford one, I would,” I joked. Or get laid, I added mentally. That would do wonders. She rinsed out my hair and combed through some conditioner while we chit-chatted. Eventually, she turned off the water and I sat up so she could towel-dry my hair. It felt heavenly. We walked back to her station and she combed out my hair.
“Okay, decision time,” she told me, her chin on top of my head. “What do you want to do?”
Crap, I’d been so relaxed I hadn’t even thought about it. What if I looked really awful with short hair? I had no idea how to style it or take care of it. Was I ready for such a drastic change? Maili noticed my panic.
“What if we start slow and if you want to go shorter, we can?” she generously offered.
I nodded, grateful at the out she’d given me. “I definitely want to go shorter than my shoulders, though, and my hair grows so fast that I’d like to go at least an inch or two above.”
She smiled at me and I closed my eyes and tried to keep my head even as she made the first snip. She went around once and layered it. Just above chin length – it wasn’t so bad. Actually, it felt light, refreshing.
“It’s so different,” I told her, shocked. She stepped back and pursed her lips in the mirror.
“Have you ever thought about bangs?”
Some time later I walked out with a bounce in my step. I felt like lesbian was branded all over my forehead with my short, edgy style and my new fringe of side bangs. I got in my car and checked my phone out of habit. There was a text message from Gwen: Sorry, I was sleeping. Glad you’re safe. There was a second, soon after: You get used to it. I could just imagine her accompanying shrug.
I bit my lip anxiously. I wanted her to see me. I wanted her approval. I dialed her number quickly. “Gwen?” she answered on the second ring, “did I wake you?”
“No, I was up,” she said warily.
“How do you feel about late lunch/early dinner? Want me to get something?” She didn’t respond right away, perhaps remembering last night when I said I didn’t want to see her today.
“Sure,” she finally responded. “Whatever you like, just grab two.”
I snagged some Thai on the way home. She must have heard the car door slam because she came out to greet me.
“Hey, girl-” she started as I clambered out of the car and grabbed for the Thai. “Oh my God. You cut your hair!” She sounded shocked, bewildered, accusing, awed. She reached out and I let her run her fingers through the soft strands, beaming.
“It was time for a change,” I tried to shrug it off nonchalantly. “I brought Thai.”
“It’s – wow, it’s really short.” Well, Jesus, where was my compliment?
“Not that short. I didn’t want to go extreme or anything.” Liar, I called myself out.
“It’s beautiful, it’s just – it’s really different on you.” Satisfied with my compliment, I smiled.
“Thank you, I grabbed sweet and sour pork and I want to know Bette and Tina get back together so you better damn well put in L Word,” I ordered, walking in the house like I owned it. I toed off my flats and pulled the plates out of the cupboard to begin spooning out our dinner.
From the kitchen island I noticed Gwen standing in the arch of the front door, staring at me. I grinned and stared pointedly at the TV and then back at her. Gwen shook herself out of whatever she’d been thinking and grinned back. “Yes, ma’am,” she saluted my new bossy attitude and headed to the entertainment center. I ducked my head and fixed her plate, grateful for my new fringe which helped hide my blush.