Every week or so when my bangs stretch past my eyebrows and dust my eyelids, I am faced with a decision to trim them or to let them grow out. As I stare into the bathroom mirror with my pink scissors held up to my forehead, I tell myself, “it’s just hair, it’ll always grow back”. But truthfully, it’s not just hair to me. 

I think back to the first time I cut my bangs. I remember the hushed giggles of my ninth grade best friend on Facetime, far past our bedtimes. I remember the shock of seeing my hair so short for the first time and the shame of being grounded the next morning. I think about how independent and grown up I felt making a decision about my appearance without first consulting my mom. I try to recall why I felt the need to grow them out that following summer. I then remember the embarrassment I felt when my boyfriend told me I was prettier without them. 

I think about the girl without bangs. I think about how hard she tried to make people love her. I think about how many nights she cried because she felt she would never be enough. How many exhausted mornings could she have spared? How many tears could she have saved? Why did it take her so long to learn to stand up for herself? Why was it so hard for her to say no? Why did she let him say he’d leave her if she ever cut her bangs again?

I think of the chair. My hairdresser’s soft fingers tossed my hair as I explained why I came. I answered questions about how many inches I wanted to cut, how many layers I wanted, how school was going, how my family was doing, and then, suddenly, if my boyfriend and I were still together. As she chopped my long, brown hair I told her what she already knew. My shoulders felt lighter and I began to feel like myself again as the inches collected on the floor. The change felt good. The look on his face when he saw me with a box of his things and a straight line of two inches of hair, bouncing on my forehead, felt even better. 

I smile as the crisp sound of my scissors slicing together fills the still room. I watch the tiny hairs swirl down the drain of my sink, along with my cares of what others want me to look like. I remind myself that I will never allow a man to pressure me to change my appearance again. So yes, my bangs are more than just hair to me. I know that they don’t actually affect my personality in any way, but these two inches of hair serve as a reminder to always be myself, regardless of the opinions of others, and they make me feel more like myself. Bangs have pushed me to feel comfortable ignoring other people’s input on my appearance, and I like that version of myself the most.