I think it happened this way:
I am sitting high up in the salon chair, covered in a black vinyl cape from my neck past my sneakered feet. George, former stylist to the stars, and I consider my hair in the mirror, contemplating a new style. Maybe I am in fourth grade and we are about to decide to go short. Later that day some kid in a park will ask me if I am a boy or a girl. But that’s not the story I am thinking of.
George curls two fingers around my bangs pulling them up and away from my face and then letting them rest on my eyebrows.“You need the bangs because of your high forehead,” he muses aloud.
I examine my reflection. High forehead. I have never heard of such an imperfection. Usually it is frizzy hair I worry about. But I see that he is right. How have I never noticed before? My whole face is squished down at the bottom of my head and an expanse of forehead rises and rises above. Indeed, it must be hidden.
Skipping ahead a few decades, I find myself fussing with my curly bangs in my bathroom mirror. They are too long and the ones that don’t curl right are poking me directly in the eyes. I should make an appointment to get my hair cut, I think. It doesn’t occur to me to pull my bangs away from my face, of course. I have arranged a hair screen over my too-tall forehead for my entire life. The only time I hold it back is when I am washing my face.
Some people cover up misshapen ears with their hair. This forehead is just my little deformity, I think. The bottom part of my face is pretty cute, I tell myself. Maybe bangs make me look younger, too.
Then a bizarre thought hits me: I hate my bangs and I don’t want them anymore. What if I grew them out and bared my naked forehead? Maybe it’s because my bangs are too long and are annoying me and look stupid. Or maybe it’s something else, a long overdue rejection of the idea that there’s something wrong with my face.
All weekend long on my hula hooping retreat I have been asking myself, who is the authentic me? What is her style? How does she dance in her hoop? Now I’m staring at this person who refuses to wear make-up and wondering what the authentic me would look like. Maybe she would like to wear glitter. Maybe she wants a blue streak or feathers in her hair. Maybe she has no bangs.
I decide not to make the appointment to get my hair cut. I am going to grow out my bangs. For the first time in my life I use a barrette to pull them away from my face, baring inches of ashamed skin. I have to fight the urge to tug them back down. It feels like wearing no bra in public. It also feels a bit cold. Who knew bangs were insulating? But this is what I look like when I’m not hiding behind bangs. It’s maybe not so bad.