Monday, November 19, 2012

The Haircut: Featuring Arielle Weinberg

Regular readers know that while keeping it surprisingly low maintenance, I still consider my hair an important part of who I am and of my beauty identity. It's long, curly(ish), and it's me. That simple. But other people have different viewpoints about the way we present ourselves and the reasons we make ourselves look a certain way. It's not always that simple.  My friend Ari who writes a great perfume blog, Scents of Self, first talked about cutting her hair on Twitter. I was intrigued because the experience and the emotion behind it are far outside of my personal comfort zone. That's why I asked her to expand on it and tell us the story here, on my blog:

The problem was that it was a Sunday. Everything in Baltimore is closed on Sunday, even the hair salons.

I'd had a fight with my boyfriend the night before. He'd just started his master's degree in London, and I was missing him more than he was missing me. I got off the phone feeling miserable and aggressive. I can't remember the treacherous thought process that led me from "I don't need him!" to "AND I DON'T NEED THIS HAIR, EITHER!" All I know is that at the time, I was utterly convinced that a drastic hair change would make me feel better. But the hair salons in Baltimore are closed on Sunday.

That's how I ended up cutting it myself, with a pair of red scissors from the kitchen drawer. I wasn't even smart enough to put it in a ponytail first. As anyone could have predicted, the end result was a highly uneven haircut that was a good five inches shorter than I had intended. Horrified, I immediately sought out a professional hairstylist, who cut my hair ANOTHER FOUR INCHES SHORTER and gave me Justin Bieber bangs.

My hilariously stupid haircut didn't upset me so much as it frightened me. From the second that I emerged from my middle school ugly duckling phase, my survival strategy has been to make myself look as conventionally attractive as possible. I do this to distract people from how goddamn weird I really am. My hair was one of the things that kept me safe. No matter how different I was, at the end of the day I was still a size zero with long blonde hair and a D-cup. This allowed me to pass off my strangeness as endearingly quirky, even "adorkable" (cringe). I am well aware that this is not a privilege afforded to my less conventional-looking fellow nerds.

I've gradually lost those protections over the last two years. The blonde color was the first to go. The dye began burning my scalp. I gained 24 pounds in the process of recovering from my eating disorder (yet another attempt to suppress the weirdness). At 5'0", that's a quarter of my body weight. Now my last nod to conventional femininity, my long hair, is gone too. And I am scared. I feel like people can finally see me for what I really am, and I am so afraid to let them.

Well, I guess they had to find out sometime.

Before: After:

Arielle Weinberg is a senior at Johns Hopkins University. She has too many perfumes and too many Pokemon. She has not missed a Non-Blonde perfume review in over five years. You can read more on Scents Of Self.

Top photo: Patti Smith by Robert Mapplethorpe. Other photos courtesy of Arielle Weinberg.


  1. Brave lady! You will not be sorry. Speaking from my own experience: being who you are is terrifying at first but you get freedom and courage in exchange. It's a good trade.

  2. love this post! and love Ari! thanks for baring your soul (and hair) to us!

  3. Arielle, let me say that I absolutely adore your haircut! You look gorgeous and what's more - you look happy!

  4. Arielle, I think it is a good thing that you chucked your old look and also that you are getting over the eating disorder! You look way cuter in the photo of you in your Rice sweatshirt. And the haircut is not hilariously stupid! When you get to be my age, you will find a sense of humor about your own looks to be very useful. And safe? Safe from what? It would be a shame to hide an interesting and curious mind such as yours behind those "protections". BTW, I like your blog.

  5. "From the second that I emerged from my middle school ugly duckling phase, my survival strategy has been to make myself look as conventionally attractive as possible. I do this to distract people from how goddamn weird I really am." HA! You and me both, honey! However, I didn't have the advantage of starting out as cute as you are. Long hair or short doesn't change that. As I told you at Sniffapalooza, you are channeling Louise Brooks/Gabrielle Chanel. (Wasn't that called a "shingle" cut back in the 1920s?). Is that your natural color? I like it better, don't change it!

  6. Wow...I really appreciate the transparency. What is it about us that makes us feel that we can hurt others by hurting ourselves. It's behavior I see so often in young women.


    Ari, I think you look super adorable (no "k" needed) with the short, shaggy hair and glasses. Whether or not you're conventional on the inside, your features ARE attractive by conventional standards and that means you can totally pull off the sexy nerd look and I bet everyone will assume you're doing it on purpose. If all else fails, move to Brooklyn and you'll blend right in. :)


  8. ari, you look so cute having emerged from your hair closet!!!

    having had long hair, super-short hair, dyed hair, permed hair, great haircuts, lousy cuts, and now growing out a super-short cut and sweeping my silvery bangs up into a quiff (probably the most frustrating thing one can do - go from super-short to long), i can assure you: if you don't like something about your hair, you can always change it.

    and bonus... it can be fun to play with your hair and your style! your hair looks healthy and shiny, and that's what is really important! that says "health" like few other things. and the current color is more flattering to your skin tone - so good for you for playing with the "sexy nerd" look right now. when you get bored with it, you can play with another look.

    people need to lighten up about style, in my estimation. play more, everyone!

    oh, and, here's a secret no one wants to admit: NO ONE IS NOT WEIRD IN SOME WAY. THERE IS NO "NORMAL." so enjoy your differences!

  9. You look beautiful in both photos, because both are photos of you. You are allowed to have as many sides and facets as you may imagine. Hair changes; styles change; tastes change. Change is good.

  10. You are adorable no matter what your hair looks like or what you weigh. Embrace your weirdness! We are all a little weird. I'm sending you a virtual hug.

  11. Dear Ari, As one American Jewish girl to another: We always think we look funny, quirky, or pathologically weird. It's a feature of growing up in a world that can't possibly fathom the kinds of hatred -- a hatred that caricatured and focused on our looks! -- that Jews experienced in the past hundred or so years. It's not peculiar to you. There's a lot of literature about it. So don't feel alone.

    In a purely American vein, I always tell people that I have grown better looking in the past 30 years both relatively and absolutely -- absolutely, in that standards of beauty have changed to encompass many more ethnicities than in the days I was a young girl in the 1970s, when to be considered beautiful you needed to look like Christie Brinkley. And relatively, in that, even as I remain few pounds overweight, Americans as a whole (unhappily) have far surpassed me girth-wise!

    So, trust me, it gets better. You are a fox. You just don't know it yet.

  12. You look adorable with shorter hair!!!! I'm a hairdresser in a college town and trust me, you're much trendier with the new look. You look sassy and confident! Best of luck to you regarding your eating disorder, I know that is a daily battle.

    Much love sweet Ari,


  13. I met you in New York and was struck by how absolutely lovely you are - not just how you look, which is lovely, btw (and I don't mean that in that 'oh, poor thing...well, she's a lovely girl'. I mean you are just a Really Pretty Young Woman!

    But way more important is how freakin' FABULOUS your aura is. NOT weird - at least not weird in a creepy way. Weird is actually way more intriguing and attractive than 'conventional'. And it holds up better - with your aura you could cut your hair in patches and overlay it with mold...and you would still be lovely.

    And FABULOUS!!!!

    so don't sweat it, sweetie. And, fwiw, you actually look 'hotter' in the new style than the old. You're a beauty. And your sweatshirt is on backwards :-D


  14. I can relate a bit to your struggle, the work it takes to feel at home in your own skin and accept yourself for who you are, both personality-wise and looks. You're doing well, Ari. Kudos.

    Or winnowed down to its essence: empathy and support from me. :)

  15. Do we really ever see ourselves as others see us? You are lovely, my baby. What I've learned as I've grown older is this: young women are works of art, and most of them don't realize it. Don't ever agonize over your looks; your beauty and your generous spirit are obvious to everyone. Plus...gotta love a gal who takes the shears to her own hair!

  16. I'm joining the chorus of those who think you look way better with the new hair. Edgier, more elegant, and the natural colour truly agrees with your skin. A nerdy weirdo myself, I can tell you that as you approach the forties you will start appreciating yourself better. Just look at Patti Smith above and, say, Jenniffer Anniston. Who would you rather be? But why wait until the wrinkles come to feel good about your looks? I personally regret having felt so ugly and bizarre in my 20's, when I was actually not that bad. (People would tell me I was pretty, and I would immedeiately dismiss it as pity. Crazy me, people aren't that condescending...) Trust us. You are a SEXY NERD. Now go have some fun!

  17. Ari: I am now in my 50's and if I could go back and do one thing, it would be that I did not waste so much time agonizing about my looks. Nobody can achieve the magazine ideal because after the photographer takes the picture, they do a million things to it to make the subject look perfect! And who wants to be normal?!!!? That is boring!!! I have finally embraced my weirdness and after today's post by Gaia, I will be reading your blog!

    We can't all have Gaia's hair, even though it is a wonder to behold.

  18. Ari, your new haircut looks absolutely terrific! I love it! :) The colour suits you fabulously.
    I've read through your post nodding my head as I went through a similar phase, albeit longer (and no boyfriend fighting was included).
    I used to have long, thick blonde hair I was convinced was my one and only good feature. But slowly it began turning into a light brunetter variant and getting shorter and shorter.
    Now I look myself in the mirror and I love my short red hair. :) I also wonder if people think I am very brave to go to such a "statement" type of hairstly but when I look back, I didn't step from long blonde into short red in a day. It was a process of discovering what suits me best.
    I hope you will enjoy experimenting with your hair in the future - it can always grow back and be died into the colour you'r prefer. ;)

  19. Ari--your new hair is smashing. Color, cut, the way you have it styled, yes, even the Bieber bangs, they all suit your face very, very much. You are ridiculously adorable. And for the record--I know that hair is a personal identity thing, but I think you look much better with your new hair, in a comfy hoodie, and cute glasses, than the long blonde hair. I hope that soon your comfort level catches up with your new cuteness and healthier self.

    Much love your way. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Love this post, both of these blogs, and love your haircut! look how cute you are!

  21. I must thank you for the efforts you've put in penning this website.
    I really hope to see the same high-grade blog posts from you in the future
    as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has inspired me
    to get my own site now ;)


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