I am in desperate need of a haircut. My pin straight hair is too heavy and greasy to have any volume in these dry winter days, and so it clings desperately to my skull and the sides of my face in an effort to make my cheeks look as wide as humanly possible. Sometimes one chunk of it will defy gravity, and there’ll be some weird lump in it, as if a small woodland creature has created a nest just behind my ear in which to keep its babies warm. No amount of brushing or gel or hairspray can make it move out.
There isn’t any real reason why I haven’t had a haircut in the past several months, beyond, to use a phrase my children would sink into the carpet with shame if they knew I was using, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”
I’m truly amazed by people whose hair is always coiffed and whose nails are always manicured. Even people who manage to swipe on mascara on a weekend are miracle workers in my book. This isn’t something I can pull off with any kind of regularity or success.
It isn’t that I don’t like getting my hair cut or my nails done. I enjoy being pampered, and I always tip the folks who have to deal with my hangnails and scalp-moles well because not only don’t I want their jobs, but I recognize how difficult their jobs are and they should be paid well for the convenience of me not having to do it myself. The hairstylist I currently use gives such thorough and satisfactory head rubs while washing my hair that I often feel like lighting up a cigarette when it is over.
So why don’t I just go? It isn’t an economic thing, like it was when I was a poor law student with no income and increasing student loans. I went several years without getting a haircut then, and even a year after I could afford them again, simply because I got out of the habit. I had extremely long hair, down to my waist, which is something my children marvel at since they have only known me with short hair. I could get away with it then. I was in my early twenties, as fit as I’d ever been or will be, and the world was mine for the taking. Now I’m a Grownup with an Important and Sensible Job, and I do have to look the part for credibility’s sake. When my hair is cut, I can blowdry it and hairspray it in less than ten minutes into a style probably listed in the cosmetology school books as “Middle Aged Middle Class Employed Woman.” When my hair needs to be cut, I can blowdry it and hairspray it in less than ten minutes into something I hope looks like I did intentionally (and not for the final exams at Clown College) even if it doesn’t look all that good.
I don’t go because I can’t find the time, which probably means because I can’t make the time. Can’t or won’t, I’m not sure. In order for me to get my hair cut, I need an hour and a half that is unscheduled, where no one needs me to be anywhere else, where I can be out of contact with anyone that doesn’t happen to be in the salon and – this is the critical point right here – there isn’t something to get done that isn’t so pressing that I will undo all the magic of the headrub by tensing my scalp as I think of the papers on my desk that reproduce like over-sexualized bunnies.
All of which means, I suppose, that doing things that have no benefit for anyone outside the confines of my personal self, get prioritized lower than anything else. I think this is a common problem, especially with women with jobs and children. We get so used to Taking Care of Business that we forget that we ourselves are part of the business we need to take care of. Proof that I am not alone are the scads of articles, in print and on line, advising that you have to take care of yourself before you are of use to anyone else. No one takes care of the caretaker unless paid to do so. So pony up the cash, girls.
Which is true, in theory, and in many instances, but I’m not sure I buy that entirely. The length or attractiveness of my hair is irrelevant to my mothering or writing or lawyering skills. The raggedness of my cuticles and the lack of polish on my nails doesn’t affect my ability to meet a deadline or chaperone every single middle school band festival since time immemorial in an effort to get to know my children’s friends and be involved.
No, why it matters is this: to quote Billy Crystal on Saturday Night Live in the 80s, to look good is to feel good. When your son’s friends point their camera screens at you in order to take a picture for Snapchat, and your first thought is, “Woof!” and not, “how honored I am that teenage girls are willing to give me the time of day and even feature me on their Snapchat stories” you know something is wrong. I don’t, generally, care what I look like, or what other people look like, but I do look with pity upon people who just look tired and ragged and unkempt. Just like I believe you have to dress the part at work, you have to look the part of whatever you are playing, or being, or trying to be. Looking your best gives you confidence. A good haircut and a coat of polish on your nails is like a suit of armor to protect you from the insecurity that can ruin a good day.
So if you’ll excuse me, I need to put this laptop down, quit typing, and go suit up.
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Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side. Her latest book, “If You Did What I Asked in the First Place” was awarded the Gold Medal for humor in the Foreword INDIES awards in 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here. If you want Lori to help you market your book, click here.