A Fictional Character Cut Off Eleven Inches of My Hair

A Fictional Character Cut Off Eleven Inches of My Hair

So I’m writing this scene about this woman, and some scissors spontaneously appear on a coffee table because she (let’s call her Rita) and my lead gal have embarked on a, shall we call it, craft project (this one doesn’t involve liquor, though most of them do). Meanwhile, I plug along attempting to hone my own craft (dialogue between the ladies that sizzles and whizzes and pops like a late night summer ping-pong game in a muggy Midwestern garage), when my lead walks to the kitchen for a glass of water.

Moi, as narrator, and Vous, as almighty reader, follow her, and a sentence later, when she returns to the living room, Rita’s extra long, glossy, gorgeous braid – her signature trait – has been amputated, and now sits on the coffee table beside the scissors.

Shaking, Rita looks up, runs two trembling hands over her now-bare neck, and says,

“Apparently it’s time.”

In no way had I planned to have scissors in that scene, or have my lead gal grow thirsty or step away just as something both symbolic and corporeal unfolded, but, this was the result. What a treat, to be surprised alongside my characters. What a treat to fall into that precious, subconscious trance.

When teaching an introductory composition course, I remember watching my students plop into chairs in the computer lab and begin pounding away at the keys. I was confused because I’ve never sat down to begin writing anything by ferociously pounding away at the keys. I called their attention. I invited them to slow down, to think, to feel, to write with purpose. Unintentionally, my muddled message ended in a proclamation: 

“People, typing is not writing!”

But I think that was far too simple a statement to capture any real truth.

Sometimes, the FINEST, most EXTRAORDINARY scenes flow from such a subconscious place it seems as if they’re typed via Ouija board.

Now, two chapters distanced from the chop-chop scene, this is what I know:

Rita cut off her hair as a sign of courage – a declaration that she isn’t going to hide anymore, that it’s time for her to be seen and heard and embraced as she is – now, today, despite the consequences. (And, as the author I can tell you, there could be some consequences.) Finally closer to fearless, Rita decides to donate her abundant hair, in hopes it has a second life where it doesn’t provide cover, but comfort.

For the next several days, while waiting in the Starbucks drive-through, and to pay for my goodies at World Market, and for the water to boil at the stove, I find myself playing with my own long hair. At my desk, as I track the subplots in a new TV movie assignment, I somehow weave a dozen messy braids from my scalp down my back. My husband greets me with a Bob Marley impression. 

Apparently it’s time. I aspire to be like Rita. I will embark on my own CHOP-CHOP, in the spirit of Fried Green Tomatoes, and everything else holy:


The next week, I did it. I cut off eleven inches of my mane. And you know what? I felt like I already had. Even my mom noted how I wasn’t fazed in the least. I think I had already gone through it, hunched over the keys.

I drove home from my appointment with a Ziploc bag of hair in my purse and mailed it off the next day. After such a positive experience, I’ve decided to continue growing and chopping and growing and chopping throughout my life. They say it takes (on average) five donations to make a single wig.

So it appears I’ve struck the age-old “chicken-or-egg” situation: Does life inspire art or art inspire life? Today, I’d say they’re equal. And for this, I’m equally grateful.

And feeling a little lighter on the dance floor, too.