“If I were cutting my actual hair, I would need to be hospitalized” were the last words I said before discovering that I was, in fact, cutting my actual hair.
It all happened while filming a video where we were supposed to look like we had bangs—but with the help of clip-ins. Once clipped in, they needed to be trimmed to the most flattering length. So, while cutting my thick-and-thank-god-temporary bangs, I tragically chopped off a chunk of my actual hair, giving myself the worst possible accidental bangs. Because I'm really not a bangs person. The last time I had them was when I asked for the “Lizzie McGuire” at age 13 and left with the “Gordo.” I was so scarred from my two-year stint as an unkempt sheep dog that I vowed to never get bangs again.
So here I was, 14 years later, cameras rolling, looking into a mirror to find a haircut that would’ve been offensive even if done by a preschooler. My friends were worried—we all can get so maniacal and perfectionist about our appearances. This was not only "not perfect" but aggressively bad. But as the mirror revealed my nightmare coming to life, I found myself not needing to be hospitalized, not panicking, but rather, laughing. I’d made a mistake, sure, but even 30 seconds later—I survived. I altered my appearance in a seemingly catastrophic way and nothing changed. Everything was the same. I’d unknowingly let go of my white-knuckle grip of control and the world didn’t collapse.
My friends, as well as every human who had eyes, asked me if I was going to go to a professional to get them fixed. My boyfriend’s helpful suggestion was “Just cut the cowlick off.” The socially appropriate thing to say seems to be, “Of course,” but I know no haircut is going to help this. And even if it would, for the first time in my adult life, I wasn't going to attempt to fix a problem. I wasn’t going to chug Biotin (mainly because it makes my freshly waxed ‘stache come back by 5:00), I wasn’t going to fix it. I was happy and relieved to live with a mistake. If I had one mistake, it made it more OK for me to accept other mistakes. I’d cracked my hard-boiled egg of perfection and was giddy at the thought of what else I could finally let slide.
At this point, I’ve come to love the bangs. Overnight, I went from L.L. Bean Mom to L.L. Bean Mom Who Listens to St. Vincent. I would’ve never gone to a hairdresser and asked for these bangs. It would’ve been like going to the doctor and asking for a cigarette. But I’m thrilled at the outcome. And oh baby what a nice reminder about life. That even if things go perfectly and are completely in your control, you could be missing out on such fun surprises. I loved how awful they were and how silly they looked. These dumb bangs gave me a freedom. They reminded me to not clutch onto an idea of perfection so tightly that I forget to be surprised by life.
I’ve used control as a coping mechanism for depression, grief and body image but guess what? Some days are still gonna suck, people you love are still gonna die, and on any given Tuesday, I might accidentally give myself a J.V. Britney in 2007 style haircut. No matter how hard I try to control my life and the outcome, a rogue pair of hungry scissors is always going to be looming in the background. So instead of clutching for dear life to avoid change, my accidental bangs taught me to loosen the grip, say yes when no feels more comfortable and trust that no matter how big, small, put together or disheveled, I am still me and I am enough.
Alyssa Limperis is an actress, comedian, and writer in NYC. You can find her co-hosting her UCB podcast Crazy; In Bed, acting in her web-series Business Casual, and in her therapist's words, "posting excessively on Instagram" (@alyssalimp).