The Olly Project
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The Olly Project

Cutting Your Boyfriend’s Hair Could Make or Break Your Relationship

My right-hand tingles with the powerful buzz of the clippers and I playfully tousle my boyfriend’s hair as we both look in the mirror, which is precariously balanced on top of the microwave. Trash bags line the floor, my desk chair is tugged out from underneath my desk and placed in the middle of the room, and my roommate and close friend optimistically watch as our room is turned into a makeshift barbershop.

I push up my sleeves and take a deep breath, trying to recall the five or six YouTube videos that I watched in preparation for this moment; I’m confident in the sense that I know he’ll look cute no matter what I do, but I’m still hesitant to start the process.

There is no “undo” button for this situation, but we both smile and I decide to trust him when he says that he trusts me, so we begin.

[fast forward twenty minutes]

My roommate and friend step out of the room so that he and I can talk in private. I’m frustrated because I have no idea what I’m doing (as much as I hate to admit it) and he’s getting tense, too. I feel embarrassed and defensive, which is starting to make it difficult to think straight. Sitting cross-legged on the ground, I can feel myself fighting the urge to dig my heels into the ground and stubbornly refuse to work together.

We’re both struggling to verbalize how we want to move forward.

I look up at him, and after a minute of quiet thought, I understand that digging my heels into the sand and refusing to talk about it won’t help anything. It will just make it worse.

As we face each other, I make the conscious decision to voice my feelings, listen to his thoughts, and be on the same team again. We talk, listen, agree to start over, and before I know it, I’ve uncrossed my arms and am back on my feet.

We start communicating again — we’re brainstorming, collaborating, conversing, and laughing. The black clouds that had started to form dissipate and I can feel the energy between us shift. We’re on the same page again. I still have no idea how to blend the back of his hair to the longer top and it’s turning into an unfortunate bowl-cut scenario.

30 minutes ago, I would’ve given up, but I trade in the clippers for scissors and we keep trying to fix it — a situation that I was trying to avoid but has us both smiling nonetheless.

At this point, it’s hopeless. Our eyes meet in the mirror and we both know we’re going to have to buzz it all off. After seven more minutes of ill-fated attempts to salvage what was lost a long time ago, I cheerfully hand him the clippers and let him do the honors.

The second that we chose to move into a productive discussion was a fork in the road of our relationship. I wasn’t aware of that in the moment, but when I look back, I can instinctively understand the gravity and significance of that decision.

We could have dissolved into irritation and enmity, but he and I both choose to willingly walk into the “arena of vulnerability” and figure it out together. It could have been messy or complicated, but we made it painless and straightforward.

Isn’t that the goal of any partnership? To shift from disconnection to collaboration without fallout or anger? I felt stuck, vulnerable and hesitant to continue, and I’m sure he felt trapped, too, unsure of how to handle this situation.

However, we consciously chose to meet on the intersection of understanding and teamwork — we chose to work together.

It never fails to surprise me how making the decision to dissolve the black cloud of frustration is a conscious choice — and not an easy one to make, either. It takes serious courage to swallow back your pride and engage in the hard conversations with someone you love. Facing emotional turmoil or uncertainty, choosing to show up and throw yourself into vulnerability in spite of all of that takes faith and trust, but above all, determination.

The next time you can feel yourself descending into frustration with your partner, try and take a moment to consciously choose to walk into the arena of vulnerability with them. You might be surprised at how well it works out — I certainly was.

Oh, and I won’t be picking up clippers anytime soon. Saving money in college is important, but next time, I think we’ll sacrifice the twenty dollars and go to an actual hairdresser.



An emotional awareness blog. Discusses complex topics like vulnerability, authenticity, courage, bravery, loss, and grief.

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Olivia Gaughran

Medical anthropologist, editor, and creator of The Olly Project @! Probably reading bell hooks or taking a long walk.