Chop! Chop!: A Story In Photos

duranduran2The first time I had a bowl cut, with John Taylor of Duran Duran, circa 1993

I’ve been thinking about chopping off my hair for a few months. The motivations were many: I’m craving change and new adventures. When I was in my twenties and thirties, I had short hair, so I associate cropped cuts with being youthful and daring. There was this photo of Madonna and the way I’ve been listening to “I Don’t Care” by Icona Pop (check out Aino Jawo’s cute bowl cut). And finally, there was all the time I was spending blow drying and flat ironing, plus the hair potions and rubberbands and bobby pins and β€” it was just too much. I realized that I was becoming that girl. I was spending all kinds of time managing my long hair, and I didn’t even like it that much. It had become habit and, if I’m being completely honest, I also harbored a fear that if I cut off my hair, I’d no longer feel girly and pretty and feminine.

I think that last reason was the one that convinced me to do it. I don’t like my stuff to own me, and I certainly don’t want to be governed by my hair. So I watched this video for inspiration…

… and I collected photos of short hair that I like…

… and I calledΒ Jacquie Nguyen at Shag Salon for an appointment. I chose Jacquie because when she cut my hair in the past, she was precise and detailed, patient and calm with the scissors. It’s like she goes to a zen place when she’s snipping. I knew if anyone could recreate the bowl cut for me, it would be her. I also decided to measure the hair we liberated from my head so I could donate it to Locks of Love, an organization that makes custom hair pieces for kids who’ve lost their own hair.

Here’s how it all went down yesterday…

The classic “before” photo. Note how my hair is ALL OVER ME. At that moment, I was 100% committed. I couldn’t wait to have it off my neck and shoulders and ears.

But then when Dave showed me the photo of the back of my head, I actually gasped and said, “Oh! It looks pretty.” I was still committed, but feeling just a little bit affectionate toward my long locks.
Then Jacquie called me over to her chair, and I showed her the photos I’d collected. She wasn’t totally convinced of the awesomeness of the bowl cut at first, but she agreed to go for it.


To donate to Locks of Love, I had to put my hair in ponytails that were at least 10 inches long.


Jacquie combed out my hair (and made it look annoyingly nice under the salon lights)…


… then started making the four ponytails we needed to ensure we would get the maximum length.


She measured the first ponytail…

… and cut one off in the back first. I literally thought, “Well, there’s no turning back now.” This is the first time I’ve ever hacked my hair off completely β€” my other short cuts just kept getting incrementally shorter, there was no defining CHOP. Yesterday, it was simultaneously dramatic and a non-event to hear that scrunch scrunch scrunch of the scissors on the ponytail and then to see my hair in Jacquie’s hand.


Ta-da! (Smiling on the outside, maybe maybe freaking out a little on the inside.)


Soon, we were down to the fourth ponytail. SNIP!

For about 5 minutes, I looked like Emo Philips. I have to admit, at this point, I thought to myself, “I could stop here. We could turn this into a cute bob. I don’t have to go all the way short.” But in my heart, I really really wanted to go all the way short, even though my heart was pounding like I was in the middle of a WOD.


There are no photos of the interim work that Jacquie did. And that girl worked! She was a superstar! She squatted and spun me around and snipped and measured and clippered and spritzed and re-checked the photos and combed and sighed and snipped some more. Finally, after about 90 minutes, she looked at me straight-on, mussed my bangs a little bit, then said, “Cute!” and turned me toward the mirror.

I was super excited! I felt giddy! So giddy, I convinced Dave to take me to Happy Hour at Opa! for a celebratory glass of Prosecco.


Today, I updated all of my online avatars to accurately reflect the new me.

The end.


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  • Amy says:

    The first thing that went through my head was Christina Lavin’s “Prisoners of their Hairdos”:

    It’s cute, and reminds me of the 1960s Vidal Sasoon cuts! I cut mine off when I was 23, from bleached blonde (ok, and various Manic Panic’d colors) and shoulder length to bleached blonde and about 3/4 of an inch except for my chin length bangs. Later it was purple. I miss it, though I looked more boyish than I prefer (I’m stocky, with broad shoulders). I would have shaved it if I had a nice, round skull.

    • Mel says:

      That’s kind of a crazy song! Thanks for sharing — I never heard that before.

      It is very Sassoon, isn’t it?! I always loved those wedge-y, precision cuts.

      I was tempted to shave all my off so I could play with the color. It’s dyed black so the only way to change the color is to either let it grow out, then try a new color — or shave it all off. If I got really lean, I would consider a buzz cut πŸ˜‰

  • CathyL says:

    I’ve been contemplating a pixie cut all summer! You are inspiring me to go for it!! I just keep telling myself, “it WILL grow back.” In the meantime I’m letting my hair get shaggier and shaggier. This Sunday I have my appointment. I think your story will be a huge help in the courage department!!!

    • Mel says:

      That’s the thing: HAIR GROWS! It was so much fun to have the whole experience, and now, a few days later, I’m even more glad I did it. It’s Sunday! Did you chop it off?!

  • Anita says:

    Looks fantastic!! I bet you feel ‘lighter’ too!!

  • BikramJen says:

    You look great! I went through a major chop about 3 years ago (kept my eyes clothes the entire time) and LOVED it! So freeing, and no more need to move the ponytail around during yoga! Also, so great that you can give your beautiful ex-locks (sounds kind of weird put that way) to such a worthy cause! Rock on!

    • Mel says:

      I’d forgotten how easy short hair can be. Wake up, tousle and go! The gym was so much easier — no braids or ponytails getting stuck in my headphone wires or under the barbell during back squats.

      I love thinking about a cute little kid wearing my hair. Weird, but awesome.

  • Karen N says:

    I love it!!!

  • Brad Rutledge says:

    Yeah, I’d buy a cookbook from that woman.

  • Brenda says:

    I have been having dream all Summer about cutting my hair short. Funny thing, I almost never remember my dreams. You may have just started a trend!

    • Mel says:

      I almost never remember my dreams, either. It’s pretty unusual when I do, so I try to pay attention to the ones that stick around. Maybe you should snip?!

  • Holly says:

    You look fantastic with that cut!

  • Kel says:

    You look fabulous! My hair looks just like your in your before picture…bangs and all! I am not ready to go back to short, but you are SO rocking yours!

    • Mel says:

      I really liked having that Bettie Page hair for a long time. In fact, I have a wig that looks just like that… just in case I miss it at some point πŸ˜‰

  • Sonya says:

    OMG! I love, Love, LOVE it!!! Wish my face was not so round (and, yes, fat) I look like a pumpkin with hair when mine’s that short, but once I’m at my goal size I will SO be cutting mine that short! You look adorable and sassy with the new cut!! Yay, You!!

    • Mel says:

      Thank you! I was concerned about my face being too round, too, because I’m 25 lbs above my preferred weight right now — but I just didn’t want to wait for change, so I decided to go for it. Feel free to call me “sassy” anytime πŸ™‚

    • Karen B. says:

      Me too. I liked my hair short when I was 114 lbs but now I’m 138 and have a round face that looks SO round when my hair is short. I keep it very long.
      Plus, I’m 50 and I’m rebelling against the “old ladies must have a short hairdo” thing.

      • KimS says:

        Karen, I rebelled and kept long hair too. I would get irritated with a cousin who kept telling me that woman over 50 shouldn’t have long hair. I never grew mine long until my mid-forties and I was determined to wear it long. Then at 57 I had to have my thyroid removed and my hair started coming out in my hands. So, last summer I cut it super short. I mourned it at first, but now I really love it. I get out of the shower, run my fingers through it and go. It’s very liberating!

  • Melissa says:

    Love love the hair

  • Carla S says:

    I love it!! I had short 80’s and 90’s hair too and have been thinking of doing the chop and going back to that. Something is in the air for sure! Oh and JOHN TAYLOR!!! 80’s me is jealous. Can not wait for Well Fed 2. Well Fed has changed my life and how I feel about cooking. Thank You.

    • Mel says:

      No one, and I mean NO ONE, loved John Taylor as much as I did, back in the day.

      I can’t wait for Well Fed 2, either! We’re almost done with editing — goes to the printer on August 22. YAY! I’m so glad you found Well Fed helpful.

  • Kara says:

    You look great! I am in awe of women with short haircuts. A really short haircut on a woman says, “I am a woman, and I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I am completely comfortable with myself.” I am too chicken to cut mine off, so I will live vicariously through you!

    • Mel says:

      You know, I haven’t been feeling like myself since my thyroid-hormonal woes started a few years ago, and my long hair really helped me feel “girly.” I just decided a few weeks ago that I need a fresh outlook and a fresh look. I was feeling pretty chicken, too, but hair grows, so I swallowed my fear. Whew!

  • Nicole says:

    You look beautiful!!! very feminine! Definitely highlights your facial features and lets your light shine through!

    • Mel says:

      Thank you so much! I was worried I’m too “thick” to pull it off right now, but I feel like the “old” me again, in a good way.

  • Susan says:

    You look fabulous and very happy!

  • jody says:

    I love the new do! Now stop making me contemplate chopping all my hair off. πŸ™‚

  • AH says:

    I chopped mine off on Tuesday this week,from shoulder length to shaved on one side and asymmetric on the other..very different and I love it!I love your as’s to short hair!

  • Michelle says:


  • SharonKC says:

    You are rockin’ that short do! Looks great on you.

  • Ilene says:

    Love, LOVE your short hair, you will love the freedom of just wash and go, also you can do a lot with short hair, spiked, plain bangs, slicked back, etc….. Cut mine short last summer to not have to worry about working out and wearing a helmet, etc… and I haven’t looked back… my hair is also salt and pepper in colour and I get a lot of compliments on it…

    • Mel says:

      It’s already SO much easier. I didn’t have to blow dry today, and it looks super cute. What a relief to be able to get up and go without spending 20-40 minutes dealing with my hair. Yeeesh! Why did I wait so long?!

  • Ilene says:

    BTW my hair is much shorter than that avatar, not sure how to change the pic…

  • Tamzin says:

    I wore my very short for much of my life–as a model in the mid- to late-80s, when short hair was fashionable, it worked really well. As I aged, I thought longer hair made me look more feminine, and saves me a ton of money on monthly trims, but I HATE taking care of it, and more often than not, wear it in a pony tail or twisted up. I wonder if I’ll ever have the guts to chop it off again! Yours looks FAB!! I’m a little jealous!

    • Mel says:

      The one thing I’m not looking forward to is going to the salon every 6 weeks. I HATE going to the salon. That was one of the advantages of it being long and straight — I only had to get a trim every 8-10 weeks.

  • Katie says:

    Looks badass! I just grew out my pixie cut, and I kinda miss it. The funniest thing about having super short hair was how many women talked to me about it. Seriously. Every single day, some lady (usually in a bathroom) would tell me I was “so brave!” Which is kinda crazy, because it is HAIR, not a life or death situation. But I like excuses to strike up conversations with strangers, so I didn’t mind!

    • Mel says:

      I know what you mean! It always kind of feels like a backhanded compliment when someone says I’m “brave” for my hair or my big tattoo… but I guess it’s meant to be nice, right?! And yes, it is a fun excuse to talk to people. It’s especially weird here in Texas because most girls have long, blonde hair.

  • Vive says:

    Yay for you! I get it. I’m your age (a month or so apart) and last year I was looking at myself in the mirror and thought that even if my hair looked good, the person looking back at me didn’t feel like who I was any more. So I cut my hair off. Not quite so short, but shorter than I’d had in two decades. I’ve been experimenting since. And feel more like myself. And I second what Kara said — there is power in a woman with short hair. Looks great.

    • Mel says:

      It’s neat how once you cut it shorter, it gets easier to experiment with it. I’m kind of looking forward to playing around with it more. I might even go shorter sometime πŸ˜‰

  • Woah Mel, you look gorgeous! FYI I kinda like girls with short hair, just sayin.

    • Mel says:

      Thanks, Josh! So nice of you… and I love guys who like girls with short hair. My husband Dave has a tattoo of a showgirl on his arm that was inspired by 24-year-old me, with my short hair. I kind of think he’s always preferred my hair short, although he’d never say because he always tells me I’m beautiful, even when I look awful. You sweet men are keepers.

  • Mom says:

    10 Inches! ****** 20 Years!

    You look just like you did in the photo with John Taylor,with the exception of color, of course.

    Love your new do and love you too. :o)

  • Lydia says:

    Great cut! Hurray and congratulations!

  • Romanesque says:

    Look how much easier to notice and appreciate your pretty, strong shoulders with the new cut. Congratulations!

  • Jen says:

    OK – I’m tellin’ ya straight, Mel.

    YOU TOTALLY ROCK! You’ve done what I’ve been DYING to do but lack the guts. Makes me want to go get it cut without telling ANYONE and just showing up at home like nothing’s happened.

    Girl, you inspire. I’m serious. AND I had the same ‘do as you in that pic with you and JOHN TAYLOR (only dark brown hair). Actually shaved my head in 10th grade with a flat top. (Sigh – used to be daring in my younga days…)

    Love all the pics!


    • Mel says:

      No reason you can’t be “daring” now.. seriously! It’s only hair. I know it’s scary, but it’s also exhilarating. Such a safe way to take a little risk. If you’re tempted, maybe just keep thinking about it until you feel like you can do for it.

      Thank you so much for the sweet compliments.

  • Liz says:

    YES! Short lady haircuts. I’m strongly in favor of them (obviously). Especially the part about stuff not owning you – hair holds a lot of power. You look absolutely radiant!

    • Mel says:

      LIZ! You are always such an inspiration. And yeah, once I realized I was SCARED to cut it, I knew I had to cut it. And now I’m, like, “what else new can I try?”


  • Martha says:

    I LOVE IT! I can see how happy and unencumbered you are without all that hair! I begged my stylist to cut it all off a few weeks ago and she flat out refused. She is the second one to say no to me when I’ve asked.

    I have the feeling it’s something about my scrawny neck or aged profile that’s stopping them in their tracks, but they’re all too nice to say so. πŸ™

    Anyway, on you it looks TERRIFIC!

    • Mel says:

      I feel like stylists that won’t cut hair they way you want are like doctors that don’t listen — they need a stern talking to or they need to be replaced.

      I would bet all the money in my bank account that you neither have a “scrawny neck” or “aged profile.” You’re just beautiful the way you are, I’m sure of it.

  • Joan says:

    Oooh, so much better! Love your new cut!

  • Jennifer G says:

    I noticed the new photo yesterday and thought it was absolutely fabulous – sassy. When I hit 30, I went from hair down to my butt to nothing below the nape of my neck. In one cutting session. And I’ve never regretted it. Too bad I don’t look as great as you do. You really do look amazing – to match your amazing recipes.

    • Mel says:

      OMG! That must have been so dramatic to go from hair that long to that short. FABULOUS!

      Thank you for the lovely compliment, but I bet you look fantastic, too!

  • Pam B says:

    I’ve been dreaming about going back tΓ³ my 80’s hairstyle too. But mine looked more like John Taylor’s

    • Mel says:

      In my imagination and, thus, in my world, it’s always the 80s and I’m in Europe. ’80s clothes? YES! ’80s music YES! ’80s hair? YES! In my world, it’s always like the video fro “New Moon On Monday.”

      • Jen says:

        My day just got about 100,000,000% better at the thought of the world being like the video from “New Moon on Monday.” You ROCK.

        Also, your haircut is fabulous.

        (I’m trying to decide what to do with mine. I’m considering a bob, but I’m afraid of aiming for Swing Out Sister, but looking more like Scarily Aggressive Mary Kay Lady.)

  • Stompy says:

    You look great! Locks of love makes your hair cut extra awesome.

  • Nicole says:

    I didn’t know where else to email this to you. you have probably read it but thought i’d pass it on in case you had missed it. it had a lot of new info in it that I had not seen before. other ways of treating my hypothyroidism besides giving me a RX and pushing me out the door – I have not found anyone up here in anchorage Alaska that seems to know anything about hypothyroidism. anyway. this had new info, for me anyway, just sharing. thank you. NIcole

    • Mel says:

      Thanks for sharing that article! This is a fine place to do it, but if you want to email it, my address is on the top of the home page, under my photo.

  • Julie says:

    You look beautiful. I’ll bet it is easy upkeep too. Nice in that Texas heat.

  • Peach says:

    Rock ON with the short ‘do! You look amazing and I love that you donated. Doing the same thing is on my life list: Cut my hair super short and rock it. I admire your ladyballs. Hope that isn’t weird. πŸ˜‰

  • Cathy M says:

    For a super spy, the short hair just makes sense. It’s ready to go in just a matter of minutes, so you don’t miss out on important mission stuff messing with your long locks. And, for disguise purposes, short hair fits under a wig so much better! It looks great. Glad you’re happy with it!

  • nalani says:


  • Laura says:

    I love it!! Way to be brave and just go for it. I’ve had short-ish hair for years and am trying to grow it out. I’m in the shaggy-can’t-do-anything-with-it-for-work phase. Ugh. Reading your post makes me want to go back to the short tidy cut that I had!

  • Jill says:

    Ohmygosh – too cute! I love it! I have been toying with cutting my long hair back into a pixie and now I may just have to take the plunge. Enjoy your super cute cut, short hair is so much more fun and sassy.

  • Lisa says:

    Very cute and still very “you”. πŸ™‚ I had waist length hair that my parents wouldn’t let me cut…then I turned eighteen and got a pixie cut. I remember tossing my braided (old) hair at my dad when I walked through the door, ha ha. Memories! I grew it shoulder length a few years later, then went to chin length, and finally let my new stylist give me a pixie cut again two years ago which she had been begging me to do for years. Growing it out again now but am certain I will return to pixie again – I change the color several times per year – I guess I get bored easily!

    Your cut looks great with the shape of your face!

    PS: I love the Linda Evangelista short hair pic above – she is absolutely stunning, then and now!

    • Mel says:

      Wow! That must have been amazing going from waist-length to pixie. How fun!

      My husband, a.k.a., the sweetest man in the world, has always told me I look like Linda Evangelista… which I don’t see, but I LOVE that he thinks that.

  • Heather says:

    Love it! I have been collecting short hair pictures for a while, myself. I have 2 young kids and hair below my shoulders and over 50 extra pounds. I keep dreaming of how easy it would be to get ready in the morning, without actually gathering the courage to cut my hair off and expose my true double-chinned self to the world. Because you know long hair hides double chins. Going to go browse through my short hair pics, thanks to you.
    Rock on with your beautiful, inspirational self!

    • Mel says:

      It *really* is so much easier to get out ready fast in the morning — and it tends to look cute all day. Sometimes my hair kinda “pooped out” as the day went on when it was long.

      I totally understand where you’re coming from regarding your “extra” weight and long hair. I felt like I was hiding inside my hair, too. I absolutely understand. I’ll also say, however, that now that my long hair is gone, I feel lighter and bouncier. Hair grows! You could feel really great if you try a new look.

      Good luck whatever you decide!

  • Trish says:

    I’m having a problem with my hair thinning. I’ve had longer hair for a while and always wore a ponytail, but back in March I said “screw it” and whacked the ponytail off (I did go to a salon to have it neatened up). I’ve had short hair most of my life; the main reason I had long hair was because my husband liked it but he likes the short hair now. In the mornings I wash it, put in a little mousse–I’m a Jersey girl, gotta have my mousse–and blow-dry. Done in five minutes and it looks good. As do you.

    • Mel says:

      I feel ya! My hair has been getting thinner, too — partially from flat ironing (breakage!) and partially because of my thyroid challenges. But now it feels nice and thick and healthy. YAY!

  • Kellyann says:

    Totally you!… Shit kickin’ Kitchen Goddess all the way.
    Looks so So good!

  • Mel you look so beautiful and happy! And guess what… I’m SOOO happy too!!!!!! (Think back to what we discussed on our walk in Austin around the lake… Dat stuff. YEAH!!!)

    Huge hugs to ya!

  • Kathryn says:

    You go girl! I noticed your changed avatar and I thought you looked totally badass! I love it!

  • Tanya says:

    Way to go! I love it! You look adorable and glamourous at the same time. Funny, this week I decided to go crazy and get bangs and put a red tint on my hair (which is super dark like yours). It’s fun to play around with hairstyles.
    By the way, I am SO JEALOUS of you and John Taylor! He was my favorite!

  • Hala says:

    So cute!! Love the cut! It’s so funny that it seems to have been the week for chopping hair off – I have been growing out my hair for the last 2.5 years, and then two weeks ago I was just. done. I chopped it off and it feels great! Yay for short hair! πŸ™‚

  • Nicole says:

    ladyballs. I love it. gonna steal that and use it. I am always amused by your readers and you. thanks for the laugh.

  • Tara says:

    Two people mistook me for you at AHS this past week until someone piped up, “No, Mel just cut her hair!” I had to come check it out. You look stunning. πŸ™‚ Rock on girl.

    • Mel says:

      HA! The confusion around our identities is a really nice compliment for me because you are SO beautiful.

      Thanks for the sweet words on my new ‘do! I’m still in the honeymoon phase where I’m LOVING how it takes no time at all to get ready πŸ˜‰

  • Nicole says:

    You look awesome! I love short hair myself. I’ve been cutting my hair into variations on pixie cuts for much of the last 20 years and it just feels so fun (plus, its great in the heat of summer). πŸ™‚

    P.S. John Taylor! I used to run a fanzine for him in the mid-to-late 90s when he was solo and we would email back and forth sometimes. He is such a sweetheart. πŸ™‚

    • Mel says:

      I’m pretty excited about playing around with different short cuts, now that it’s all chopped off.

      John Taylor. Sigh. That is all.

  • Kris says:

    Love it Mel!
    You look so SEXY & SASSY!
    Work it girl!

  • Kristen says:

    I chopped mine off too this weekend! I was MUCH shorter than I asked for. I cried for two days. But you are right HAIR GROWS. Everyone *seems* to like my hair…I suspect slight pitty.

    Love your bangs!

    • Mel says:

      I’m sorry it made you cry, but try not to despair. Hair grows SO fast and with short hair, it looks really different every week because of growth. Hang in there. I bet you look GREAT!

  • Trisha says:

    I just wanted to tell you I think you look adorable & fab. I just cropped all my hair off this weekend too & it was pretty liberating. Rock on, you look awesome, gal.

  • Sara says:

    I don’t know about you, but every time I decide to cut my hair it suddenly goes through a “cute” period. It’s like somehow it knows what I am thinking and is working really hard to preserve all the reasons I have long hair in the first place. And suddenly, I can barely stand to entertain the thought that just a few moments before was so enticing. Cut it off? But it looks so good right now…

    But then, I don’t look as awesome as you do with short hair Mel… Rock on girl! (in the 80’s Joan Jett/Chrissy Hines kind of way…just to be clear). πŸ™‚

    • Mel says:

      Lucky for me, I felt like my hair totally looked crappy in the days leading up to my cut. Of course, the day OF, I thought it looked good, but by then, I was committed in my heart.

      Thanks for the compliment!

  • sue obryan says:

    Love the hairdo — beautiful!

  • AKM says:

    Oh, Mel, your new look is DIVINE! I just adore it, and I’ve been thinking of doing the same thing! Like some of the others above, though, I have a big ol’ Charlie Brown head and round face and I always think that I don’t look as feminine with short hair. Who cares, though, right? My femininity is what *I* make it and how *I* define it! I may go hog-wild and just do it soon! And again, you looks so beautiful!

    • Mel says:

      1. You are super nice with the compliments… thank you!

      2. I love this: “My femininity is what *I* make it and how *I* define it!”

      That is 100% right. Treat yourself and get the haircut you want. I was VERY worried about cutting mine off because I don’t have the best body image right now, but being bold has given me a huge boost.

      Plus, hair grows. It’s the easiest thing to experiment on…

  • Kelly MC says:

    How curly is your hair without blow drying or straightening?? I have pretty wavy hair, and this San Antonio 106 degree day is killing me! I’m afraid it’d look like an Afro now!

  • Suzannakins says:

    I love it. It’s like “Whoa, eyes!” It draws so much attention to them!

  • Gloria says:

    Just cut mine off this week. Went from having below the shoulders or longer hair for 15 years to a chin length asymmetrical bob. People love it, and I am liking it too, especially during yoga and my runs.