April 17, 2017
The cliché goes, when you’re frustrated, you chop off your hair. I had the frustrated part down: Winter is cold and seemingly endless, politics are giving me nonstop anxiety, and I am pretty sure I’ve watched everything decent on television. All I needed was a trim, but I wanted something more.
I briefly considered getting my longish curly hair cut into a jaw-length bob à la Phoebe Waller-Bridge in “Fleabag.,” But then I forced myself to look at old photos of myself with short hair and realized that I mostly resembled Shirley Temple, which is not the look any woman in her 30s should probably be going for.
I found Adriana Rizzolo on Instagram, where she describes herself as the HairWitch. She is a hair stylist and yoga teacher in Los Angeles who shares videos of herself chanting in Sanskrit and has many tattoos. On her website, one of the services she offers is a “Haircut and Healing.” I signed up for her mailing list and received a notice that she would be cutting hair in Brooklyn for a few days. (She comes roughly every eight weeks.) I’m a sucker for anything with New Age trappings, which always remind me of my childhood in California.
Getting an appointment proved tricky. After emailing her and hearing nothing, I started getting paranoid that she had searched for me online and didn’t think I would respond to a healing. I emailed again, and this time she apologized and suggested a date. I responded in the affirmative, waited for confirmation but, again, heard nothing. I persisted and a date was set. The HairWitch may need an assistant, or a lot of us have been seeking out healing.
Ms. Rizzolo was working out of Sparrow, a scruffy salon in Greenpoint the size of a large bedroom. Her own hair was enviably long and thick, as if she wakes up in the morning with the kinds of beachy waves that keep Drybar afloat. She was wearing an outfit that was sort of bohemian folkloric — a white tank top and neckerchief over a peasant skirt with a medicine pouch around her neck that I like to imagine held some kind of special crystal. She greeted me and put on Stevie Nicks’s “Edge of Seventeen,” which seemed like a good omen, as Ms. Nicks has both tousled hair and the right high priestess vibes to soundtrack a healing session.
I watched Ms. Rizzolo in the mirror as she sprayed on some Yarok Feed Your Ends leave-in conditioner on her hands and then ran her fingers through my hair. “The crown chakra,” she said of the top of my head. “There is a lot of information there.” I wasn’t sure what my seventh chakra was telling her, so I made sure to note I wasn’t looking for a big change, just a good trim, maybe a few more layers in the back.
She pulled out her scissors and began cutting my hair dry, curl by curl — maybe the second time in my life someone has cut my hair that way. This was not about precision. Instead of pruning a hedge, which is what getting my hair cut often feels like, this was more like flower arranging, defining the shapes but mostly letting them fall where they wanted to go.
“What do you want to let go?” Ms. Rizzolo asked.
Some people view haircuts as therapy, but I’ve never been one to spill to my stylist. Yet I found myself opening up to her easily, talking about how I felt an array of feelings about my relationships — confused, angry, sad — and wanted to shed some of their weight and let things go in order to better come into my own.
Was it emotional muck? Yes, but the point, it seemed, was to just let it out without analysis. Ms. Rizzolo mostly nodded and murmured agreement while continuing to cut. The process seemed to be more about the catharsis of talking and the gift of having someone do nothing but listen and empathize. By the end of the cut, my eyes were glinting with the beginnings of tears.
She then led me to the sink for a shampoo and conditioning and an extra-long scalp massage with some reiki healing. (In addition to hair and yoga, Ms. Rizzolo is also trained in reiki and meditation.) She separated my curls, wound them into place, and diffused them dry.
But there was one more step. She got out a sage stick and some palo santo and lit them on fire, wafting the smoke around my head.
“I gave you some shape and movement, but sometimes your hair just needs space to grow,” Ms. Rizzolo said, and hugged me goodbye. I told her I would try to take her yoga class next time I was in Los Angeles.
Some haircuts are transformative, literally cutting off the old to usher in the new. Or they’re styled to look perfect for a day but impossible to replicate. This wasn’t like that, but it is what I wanted. In the end, I looked and felt just like a particularly good version of myself.