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Tuesday, June 25, 2024
The Observer

Trading hand sanitizer for haircuts


If you’re a friend of mine, a family member, or honestly anyone who’s interacted with me in the last few weeks, I’ve probably asked you the same unanswerable question:

Should I cut my hair?

It’s always the same conversation. I feel like I need a change, but I like being able to braid and style my long locks. Maybe I should dye it? But I graduate in a year and don’t want to do anything too drastic, since I want my graduation pictures to still look like me. What about bangs?

This is about when whoever I’m speaking to rolls their eyes. And I get it! I clearly don’t want to change up my hair for purely aesthetic reasons — if I did, I probably wouldn’t have brought up bangs. I don’t really know what I want, because all I want is something different. I’m not sure whether it’s the 70-degree Saturdays, the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine coursing through my veins, or my last year of college staring me straight in the face, but I can feel myself itching for a change.

I’ve always felt like my hair signified who I was, or who I wanted to be, at any particular moment in my life. Haircuts have always been a big deal to me — they’re never just about trying out new styles, they’re about deciding who I want to be and how I want to look for the next six months of my life. When I look back on pictures, I’ll be able to know who I was in that moment just by looking at my hair.

Like most aspects of my personality, this probably has a lot to do with spending my teenage years as a die-hard fan of Taylor Swift. Never one to favor coincidence, Swift deliberately changes up her hair every time she enters a new “era” — as a result, any fan worth their salt can identify what year (sometimes even what month) a picture was taken based on nothing but her hair.

Obviously I’m no Taylor Swift, but I’ve carried her philosophy about hair into my own life. I chopped all my hair off a week after I graduated high school — it didn’t matter that I had done the same thing six months earlier and “all my hair” was more like four inches. It was symbolic! I was entering a new phase of my life (a new era, if you will), and I wanted to feel like a new person.

You, reader, obviously don’t know what my hair looks like now, if bangs would frame my face well or if going blonde would wash me out, so I’m not asking about that. What I’m really trying to figure out is whether the time is right to cut my hair. My life isn’t going to change drastically in the next few months — I still have a whole year of college left, I’m spending the summer in my hometown. But something’s clearly different enough to make my hair feel extra heavy on my shoulders.

It is, of course, impossible to ignore the flurry of COVID-19 vaccinations, around the world and especially on the tri-campus. The fog we’ve all been living under for the last 13 months is beginning to lift, and the first rays of sunshine are shining through the clouds. I had the fortune of being eligible in my home state first, so I’m only a few days away from being fully vaccinated. Maybe my inexplicable urge to cut off my hair is a response to this — maybe a new phase of my life is beginning.

But is that really fair to say? When talking about going back to bars and concerts and family reunions are people referring to a new world, or do they talk about “getting back to normal?” Is this really a new phase of our lives, or did we just put our old one on pause?

The months we spent in quarantine were certainly impactful for many. Some spent it learning more about themselves, others spent it making or breaking their relationships. Many people lost things central to their identities, like jobs or family members, while others discovered new passions and began to chart a new life path. For others, life this summer will look functionally the same as life in February 2020, with a more masks and a less winter coats.

With the exception of being 13 months closer to being able to legally order a drink at a bar, I don’t particularly feel like a different person. My life didn’t tangibly change in any way due to the pandemic, but I don’t know a single person whose perspective hasn’t changed. Didn’t we all spend time thinking about those nights our friends invited us out, and we decided to stay in? Or those summer trips we elected to not even plan because we couldn’t bear the thought of not doing a summer internship? Or the times we chose sleep over the brunches our grandparents invited us to? Of course we couldn’t have known that this would happen, but you can never plan for when the ground shifts beneath your feet.

I may be returning to, essentially, the same life I was living before COVID, but I hope I don’t return to the same perspective. I hope (after a few more months of mask-wearing and hand-sanitizing) that fully-vaccinated Ellie is more spontaneous, adventurous and appreciative than wait-what’s-a-coronavirus Ellie.

The more I think about it, maybe I should cut my hair. Or get highlights. Or get bangs. Apparently fully-vaccinated Ellie is no more decisive than before.

Ellie Konfrst is a junior majoring in political science, with minors in the Hesburgh Program for Public Service and civil & human rights. Originally from Des Moines, Iowa, she’s excited that people will finally be forced to listen to all of her extremely good takes. She can be reached at or @elliekonfrst13 on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.