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Speak now or forever hold your head in your hands

April 23, 2017 by Diane

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

After all, I’ve survived haircuts in the past. It goes like this: I show the stylist a photo, say, “I want this cut,” and my stylist says, “Your hair won’t do that. You’ll look like a man.” We dicker, I give in, and she gives me a cut that makes me look like a conservative middle-aged woman.

Which I am.

Minus the conservative part.

My hair has been earlobe-length for twelve weeks. Well, not the entire twelve weeks. It took twelve weeks to mosey to my earlobes, and I would have let it mosey to my shoulders, but it was starting to straggle, not mosey, so I decided to go for pert and fun instead.

I decided to get a pixie cut.

I scoured the internet for photos of pixie cuts and printed them out, including one of an older woman with a severe style that was the perfect example of what I didn’t want, and showed them to my BFF, Dave.

He liked the manly one.

“You’re taking beauty advice from a man, because…?” My old stylist said. I trusted her opinion, so popped in to get her feedback. By the time I’d popped out, I’d committed to an appointment with her, three weeks in the future, at a price I couldn’t afford.

Why didn’t I tell her the truth? You’re worth every penny, but I don’t have that many pennies to part with!

After squirming for days, I sent her a text message. I need to get my hair cut sooner rather than later, and since you’re totally booked, I’m going to have to cancel our appointment. It was the truth. I was attending a networking event and wanted to look professional, not scraggly.

My new stylist, the one I can afford, doesn’t know how to be brutally honest. When I showed her the photos, saying, “I want it short at the sides like this, with longish bangs, full in the back, and cropped close to the neck at the bottom like this,” she said,

“We can try that.”

I looked up. “But can you do it?”

“It will be very short in the back, but we can try.”

There was that word again. Try. I looked at her long Asian hair, with a wide strip dyed a sort of orangish-blonde, and put my head in her hands.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Until she brought out the clippers.

I’m not talking about toenail clippers. I’m talking about those electronic razory things that teenage boys use to buzz-cut their hair. The gizmo barbers use for a manly cut.

She brought out the clippers and started buzzing the back of my neck. Waves of hair plopped into my lap. I squirmed. What have I done? The more she buzzed, the more I squirmed, until finally, she put the clippers away and finished up with scissors.

The front looked great. Pert, the way I wanted. Maybe I was overreacting. I felt cautiously optimistic.

Then she brought out the hand mirror. She held it up so I could see the back.

I was speechless.


I thought I might be sick.

That’s not me. That’s…a BOY!

“Let me take a picture,” she said. She took several shots of the back of my head with her smartphone and showed them to me.

I batted it away.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “Don’t worry, it will grow.” And then, “It’s cool!”

I managed to write a check and drive home.

I stuffed a chocolate truffle in my mouth.

I called my mother.

“Just don’t turn your back on anyone,” she advised. I pictured myself backing out of every room.

I jammed the movie Sabrina into my DVD player and watched Julia Ormond dazzle Greg Kinnear and Harrison Ford with her girly pixie cut, and tried to drown out that inner voice screaming, WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY SOMETHING WHEN YOU SAW THE CLIPPERS?

Why didn’t I?

Why didn’t I speak my truth?

Because I didn’t trust myself to know the difference between a clipper cut and a scissor cut, even though past experience had shown me that razoring fine hair is always a bad idea.

The truth is, I sat on my truth.

What other truths was I sitting on?

Here’s one:

Writing a humor blog seemed like a good idea. A way to amuse myself, and, hopefully, others, while pushing my work out into the world. A world of seventy people, but still, my corner of the internet universe. And it was a good idea. Fun. Until I latched onto the crazy idea that a humor blog would be a terrific platform for literary fiction. All I needed were, oh, 10,000 subscribers, and I’d attract the attention of an agent or publisher, followed by a big fat cash advance for my novel.

Which meant attracting another 9,930 readers to my blog.

Piece of cake.

I hopped on Twitter, and tried to entice followers to my website by sharing my blog posts, a form of virtual arm-twisting of strangers. Which is just…icky. Aaaand, to get those 9,930 blog subscribers, I needed like a million Twitter followers, and I had about 1,600. So Twitter, which started as a platform for my platform, became a bad math equation and a popularity contest gone haywire. It brought up feelings from high school, when I was lousy at math and anything but popular.

Yes, my amusing little blog had morphed into a full-blown Twitter addiction.

Every time I wrote a post with the goal of getting more subscribers, every time I checked my stats on WordPress and my followers on Twitter, every time I considered setting up a Facebook page, and, oh, how about a page on Medium?—which I did—I squirmed inside.

So I meditated on the question: to blog, or not to blog? I begged my higher self to give me a clear sign, first thing in the morning when I woke up.

And I got a sign.

An image.

Of me in a straightjacket.

It made perfect sense!

I’m hampered by the blog’s name: Squirrels in the Doohickey. I’m boxed in by the theme: writing about the nutty stuff we do, say, and think when confronted with the stuff that drives us nutty. I tried sneaking non-humor pieces on: Before the Bulldozers Came, When Innocence Wore Your Brother’s Baseball Glove, even the early Only the Lonely. These were some of my favorite posts. But they weren’t keeping with the theme. An agent or publisher would raise an eyebrow and tell me, gently, that a humor blog is not a platform for literary fiction.

I know that. Like I know clippers are razors in disguise.

So, what is my truth?

I remember why I enjoyed sharing humorous anecdotes in the first place: hearing my mother’s laugh. She has a great laugh. When I tell her my latest squirrelly encounter, she gives a sort of choking, squeaky laugh, then says, “Another one for the book.”

But that’s not the book I want to publish.

I was talking to a co-worker about Steve Martin. There’s Steve Martin the comedian. Steve Martin the film actor. Steve Martin the writer. And now, Steve Martin the banjo player touring with his band. Steve does it all, but not necessarily at the same time. He chunks his life into whatever pulls him, and I envy him that focus! At some point, when he was doing stand-up, he held up a mirror so to speak, and said, that’s not me, I’m an actor. And off he went.

In the mirror, I see a humor writer. Fair enough. Part of me is a humorist. But lately it feels like that’s not me. I’m a fiction writer.

So my truth, right now, is to blog for the joy of it, with no other outcome than this: if I make one person’s day, get one person to smile or chuckle or shoot coffee out their nostrils, it’s worth it. No pressure to attract more whatevers. No pressure to churn out a post every week on the dot. Just blog when something amusing strikes me, and leave it at that. So I can focus where my heart is leading: writing fiction.

One thing is certain: whenever I feel uncomfortable, unsettled, and I start squirming, it’s a clear sign I’ll soon be holding my head in my hands, muttering, “That’s not me.”

Although, truth be told, I am a bit of a tomboy. With this new pixie cut, jeans rolled at the cuffs, sneakers and a sweatshirt, I have the urge to shoot spit-balls at strangers, and make farting noises with my armpit.

And I have an extra bounce in my stride.




  1. Joan says:

    Love it….everything about it! I love your revelation, I love the humor and all around writing of this piece (as always), and I bet I love your new do… I can imagine you really rocking it! Great job Diane!

  2. Eliza says:

    Now that’s making lemonade when life gives you lemons!

    • Diane says:

      Great idea. I should open a lemonade stand! I have the urge to start a meetup group for ages 50 and up, where we play like kids one afternoon every month. Roll down hills, have two-legged races, make forts and mud pies, fly kites, play tag.

  3. mb says:

    Your posts often do make my day! I’m a new reader, and a writer, and I really enjoy the way you write about…well, writing. I enjoy your take on writing struggles and life struggles. I’ve read a lot of advice and tips as far as fiction writing goes — in fact my degree is in writing — but your posts are so uniquely grounded and so relevant to my writing life. “How to have Faith in your Novel-Writing” is how I found your blog, and it gave me a real confidence boost in the middle of a dark period.

    As somebody who’s just muddling her way through right now and has had her fair share of bad pixie cuts, I’d like to say thanks for having the courage to share your voice. I know it makes my life a little bit better.

    • Diane says:

      Oh, Meg, thanks so much for your kind feedback. I’m truly touched. It’s nice knowing that I’m not alone in my struggles with writing, and that by sharing, it helps another writer. Write on!

  4. Tonya says:

    I’m so glad you’re back to your blog. Your humor is something I truly look forward to. Maybe the lesson here is how we all straightjacket ourselves one way or another. In my case, “I can’t be a writer–I’m not an expert about anything” turned into… “I just love PNR/UF/SFR stories so much, but there are some that are missing from that universe. I’ll tell *those* for my own enjoyment. Even if they are ‘only’ genre tales.” {{hugs as you find your path}}

    • Diane says:

      Yes, tell the stories that are missing. Blaze your own trail. Not an expert? Bah. You have several published novels. That sounds like expertise to me.

  5. Riley Bates says:

    You amaze me! I love this post and everything I read from you; I don’t care what you write, I always look forward to your blog.

    I very much relate to not wanting to be put in a box. Aside from time and my messy life right now the number one obstacle that keeps me from blogging is the fact I can’t figure out my blog focus and have nearly zero confidence in my writing skills.

    “One thing is certain: whenever I feel uncomfortable, unsettled, and I start squirming, it’s a clear sign I’ll soon be holding my head in my hands, muttering, “That’s not me.”–LOVE IT!!!

    • Diane says:

      Confidence? Bah. Here’s a secret: all writers lack confidence at some point, and it seems the more we learn the craft, the more we criticize our own abilities. So write what’s in your heart, and see where it leads. Show it to others. Get feedback. The focus will come.

      That said, there are times when blogging needs to take a backseat to other life’s events. Give yourself a breather.

  6. Sarah says:

    I’m just… I love this post so much. ALL OF THE LOVE. (Cue screaming stick figure…you know the one.) And, also, just an FYI, I see myself in this post. I’m going through the exact same thing with my blog. As a matter of fact, had a convo today about bring joy back into blogging and ditching the other crap (numbers, stress, obligation, guilt…) And it’s showing badly on my blog. Eh. Whatever. I’m happier. 🙂 Cheers, fellow joy-blogger.

    • Diane says:

      Three cheers to the joy-bloggers! Yeah, it can get pretty discouraging when the blog numbers don’t add up, but screw the numbers! It’s all about the craft, right? Writing. Whatever form it takes. And if there’s no joy in it, what’s the point? God knows there are enough blogs in this world to keep folks entertained. Bring joy to yours, and others will feel it too. Loved your post, by the way.

  7. Pearl Allard says:

    Diane, I enjoy your writing. I can only imagine how much more I’ll enjoy it when you do, too. “This above all: to thine own self be true.” Not sure if quoting Hamlet from Danny Devito is a good idea, but maybe there’s something in that, too. As you pursue what you are meant to do, may you always have courage to let your hair down. 😉 Praying God’s greatest blessings for you.

  8. Marie Rogers says:

    My last haircut was when I was in the 5th grade, back in the middle of a previous century. My mother talked me into it. I got a perm, too, and instead of curling, my (formerly straight) hair frizzed. I looked like Larry from the 3 Stooges. Now I keep it long and braided, or up in a bun. Not stylish, but so what?
    Keep doing what you’re doing. I love the squirreliness of your blog. The joy of writing comes through, and that’s what will attract readers over time.

    • Diane says:

      You haven’t had it cut since the 5th grade? Wow, that’s one hair experience that made a lasting impression. It must have been awful!

      Thanks for the positive feedback. I truly appreciate it.

  9. Dave says:

    I admit I’m not a Writer so I’m not conversant with agents and publishers, but I have to wonder what’s wrong with a humor blog? Are they expecting you to write Jane Eyre? Bleak House? I’d rather read something fun.

    • Diane says:

      Ah-ha! If I get any flack from a publisher or agent, I’ll tell them Dave said he’d rather read something fun. And since you are among my audience, that’s good enough for me!

  10. Gale Langseth says:

    Kick ass! That is _you_ kick ass, not those hedgeclippers gone haywire you mention up there! Go… *drumroll* …YOU!

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