This column explores the myriad ways we can — and maybe should — engage with our creative process beyond actively writing.
Listen, let’s stop the assumptions before they begin. I know getting bangs — not to mention cutting your own bangs with an old pair of fabric scissors on a Friday night — stereotypically follows a breakdown but this isn’t like that. At least, I don’t think it is. (Although I finished my draft exactly a week ago and haven’t touched it since but I digress.)
I’ve had bangs on and off throughout my life. A thick band of hair accented annual school photos, the one constant as my body changed. As I grew older, I grew out the bangs. It seems like all young girls are required to go through a bang phrase before coming to the realization that everyone else has deemed them awkward.
The second time I got bangs, it was my own decision. I was in my freshman year of high school. The first The Amazing Spider-Man movie with Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone had come out and the latter rocked feminine, dare I say mysterious bangs for not only the movie, but all following press. Eyes glued to the theater screen, I began obsessing over her hairstyle until, eventually, I committed to it.
And I immediately regretted everything. Not because the bangs looked bad — I’ve been told on multiple occasions that I’m actually able to pull them off. What bothered me was that I was the only person in my school with bangs. The across the forehead, right below the eyebrow type. My journalism teacher told me she once got bangs in high school but that, unlike mine (since I could surprisingly pull them off), was a mistake. I, of course, internalized that immediately.
But did I stop? Absolutely not. I kept those bangs — on and off — throughout high school until my senior year when I finally grew them out. I learned to trim them myself, taking kitchen shears and lightly snipping straight up into the strands rather than from the side. Which prepared me for the next rendition.
I hadn’t realized the trend until writing this, but the next time I got bangs was my freshman year of college. Sitting at my university-provided desk while my roommate lay in her bed, I stared into the small mirror in front of me.
“Should I get bangs?” I asked, into the room’s ether.
“You know what, I think you could pull them off,” my roommate replied.
“But I shouldn’t do them myself, right?”
“Oh, no. Bangs, you have to get done professionally. You can’t mess those up.”
My roommate left for her class and by the time she had returned, I’d gone ahead and done it. Taken my scissors into the bathroom, looked up a video on YouTube called “How to Cut Your Own Bangs,” and got chopping. The result was alright. I’d had bangs long enough, trimmed them myself enough times, to do a competent job. And those bangs became my identifying feature for the four years I went there. I loved them.
In fact, I started cutting or trimming all my girlfriends’ hair. We’d pull chairs into bathrooms, use hair elastics for bigger jobs or just go little by little until their side bangs perfectly swooped. We were in college, we didn’t have the money or time for routine haircuts. We made do.
Tonight, I cut my bangs again. I’ve had longer side bangs for a while, but with the colder air settling in, I don’t know, it seemed time to bring them back. I didn’t think about it, incase I’d talk myself out of doing the chop. I just twisted my hair as I was taught all those years ago, gripped my scissors tight, and snipped off about an inch of hair.
And they’re perfect. Who knows how long I’ll keep them, if I’ll just let them grow out again or maintain a routine. We’ll also have to see what my hairdresser thinks. For now, I look more like the me I remember, but a different, more grown up version. I don’t see my college self in the mirror, but the new shape my face takes with bangs is familiar, welcomed. Like greeting an old friend, or however that cliche goes.
At the end of the day, it’s just hair. If I’m going to connect this to writing (which I always try to do, in some way), I would say cutting your own bangs — your own hair in general — all comes down to the art of just doing it. At the end of the day, this is all just words and sentences and strands of hair that grow back again. Or, can be written down in new iterations.
I have to start revising. I have to just do it. For safety, I’ll copy the document and keep one to refer back to. And remember that for so many of us writers, our best work happens in revision. In snipping away at what was once necessary until something new, and hopefully shockingly better, shows itself.