Cutting It Short

dolores for blogA few weeks ago I cut my hair.

No, that’s not exactly right.  I didn’t cut it.  I had Dolores cut it, because she is my hair person.  I never know what to call her.  Stylist?  Dresser?  Cutter?  I usually just call her Dolores.  She’s been cutting my hair for…four years?  Maybe more than that.

I tend to be very loyal to my hair person.  In some cases it’s been more like inertia than loyalty.  Or a bad marriage.  Something you want to escape but can’t figure out how.

In L.A. I went to the same person for ten years because at some point we became friends.  After that it felt like betrayal to go elsewhere, even though I would come home after nearly every appointment and avoid looking in the mirror.

With Dolores I have found that rare thing, something like true love.  She has a small shop in a suburban office/medical park, out of the way and a little hard to find.  She does it all—hair color, perms, wigs…I think she even does manicures.  But IMHO, Dolores was born to cut hair.  She understands hair.  Even my hair, which is wavy (not curly) too fine to have any body, and now is beginning to thin.

When I first came to her my hair was short and looked like someone had put a bowl on my head and cut around it.  I’d been going to a charming and very expensive Frenchman who fortunately retired before I could summon up the courage to break off the relationship.  A friend whose do I admired steered me to Dolores.

She offered me a free consultation, so I went in to see her and consult.  I told her that I wanted long hair, like 99 percent of the women in Santa Fe.  I wanted a long gray braid hanging down my back. I told her I knew the transition would be painful and frustrating and there would be times when it would look like I’d styled it with an egg beater.  And I said if I came in asking her to shave my head, to please try talking me down.  That had always been my prior experience of letting my hair grow out.

Dolores just nodded and smiled.  So we began to work on my project.

One morning some time later I woke up with long hair.

There was no “in between time” when I hated my hair.  There were no days when it would refuse to accommodate my simplest and most polite request.  I simply went through about a year and a half of gradually lengthening hairstyles.  Each one was different, but each one was attractive in its own way, and the only thing required was a visit to Dolores every eight to ten weeks or so with a couple of (free!) bangs trims in between.

So for the past three or four years I’ve had long hair.  Not in a braid down my back, however, since I never got the hang of braiding it myself.  But it was good to wear long and straight or long and wavy or pulled back in a twist or in a ponytail with one of my baseball hats when I’d take the dog for a walk.

Then something happened.  A bunch of somethings, actually, beginning in January.

My parents totaled their car.  My mother was diagnosed with uterine cancer and needed surgery.  Meanwhile, my father grows more fragile and forgetful.  Starting in February I was either in Atlanta, where they’ve lived since 1964, on a plane going to Atlanta, or on a plane coming home from Atlanta.  Starting in May I spent six weeks moving them out of their home and into a retirement community closer to my brother and me.  It was wrenching.

Then the septic system in our 60-year-old house died of old age and we had to fork out 9 grand for a new one.  For two weeks I watched a backhoe and men with shovels demolish our front yard.  At the same time, I lost my literary agent, my editor and my publisher in the space of two days.  The manuscript I thought was sold, is not.

I began to lie in bed in the mornings and cry.  Sit at my computer in the afternoons and stare at the blank screen.  I felt as if I was running a marathon through warm jello.  I felt unable to make a decision, to accomplish anything at all.

Then one day in the checkout line at the grocery story I was flipping through a magazine when I saw a photo of Jane Lynch.  With her cute short hair that looked like all she had to do in the morning was give her head a little shake.  Which may or may not be true, but at that moment I realized that I needed to be in control of one thing in my life, and my hair was pretty much the only option.  I took the picture to Dolores.

She looked at it.  She smiled.  She nodded.

“Time for a change?” she said.

I wish I could say that I now look like Jane Lynch.  I wish I could say that all the other problems have been resolved.  But of course, if they had, there would be new ones to replace them, for such is life.

This much I can say.  I’m in control of my hair.

When I get up in the morning I just run a comb through it (or my fingers if I can’t find my comb) and I’m ready to face the world.


  1. Fay Tosh says

    I love your books. I’ve read Bread Alone and The Baker’s Apprentice a few times and have both the hard cover copies and the Kindle versions. I check your Kitchen blog every month or so to see when the third book will be available. Actually, I have all of your books and enjoy your website as well. My friends have enjoyed your books too. I just wanted to let you know you have lots of fans.

  2. Lisa says

    Sorry, I find is an odd word it never really covers what you are trying to say in response to person’s sadness, problems and events that adversely effect their lives. But I am sorry to hear your news of your parents and I hope they are now settled into there new place and things get better for them and easier for you.

    So, so, so glad you have a new / old agent – I eagerly check in every now and again for updates on the third instalment. After reading Bread Alone, three years on we are still making our own bread and finally invested in a lovely old Hobart we named Bumphrey. Please never give up on the getting the book published dark or otherwise!

    Hope the rest of 2013 treats you kindly and please post a new image pic!

    Lisa, London

    • says

      Bless you for your kind thoughts and I’m thrilled that you’re waiting for part 3. I’m revising as we speak. Yes, this year has been sort of surreal, but my parents are doing better, thanks.
      I have to say, I love that you named your Hobart Bumphrey! May I use it somewhere?
      warmest wishes…

  3. richard says

    I’m so sorry about your parents. Aging is hard enough without the extra drama.
    We have a septic system too although it hasn’t died yet. I hope that never happens as we have a beautiful yard and the cost is quite expensive as you’ve found out.
    You looked cute with short hair before so I’m sure you do again.
    Good luck finding another agent. Still looking forward to reading Bread Blues or whatever its evolved into.

    • says

      Richard! How lovely to hear from you! Hope all is well with you and Sue. At least I don’t have to elaborate on what I’ve been doing…
      The book is now titled Baker’s Blues and I’m working on revisions for my new agent, who was my first agent…sort of like a divorced couple getting married again.
      Hopefully it won’t be much longer before it’s sold and in the pipeline. Thanks so much for leaving a comment and please let me know when you guys plan your next visit to Santa Fe.

      • richard says

        We will be down there late september. Sue’s sister from Los Alamos is here now and we had a wonderful dinner the other night at Serafina. You would have loved it. And, of course, the food and wine was great!

    • says

      Hi, Ms Mifflin–You’ll find out at Thanksgiving. We’ll be coming through on our way to Asheville. Hope you and John will be around.
      Miss you lots; hope all is well. xojr

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