The Terrible Haircut that Got me into Medical School


My all-important medical school interview was tomorrow, so it was critical I look my best. Professional. Confident. And, after viewing “Legally Blond,” pretty wouldn’t hurt either. Staring in the mirror, I saw a cross between a Shih Tzu and a sheepdog—yup, some serious trimming was in order. But therein lay the problem—I could barely afford my rent, let alone some fancy hair salon. I had always gone to the Vermont School of Cosmetology and surprisingly obtained a decent cut—the teachers hovered over the students like mosquitoes at a picnic and then at the end of the haircut, the professors tidied up the hair-dos until they looked as good as at a fancy salon. Not bad for five dollars! I called the school to make an appointment but unfortunately, they were booked solid for the day. The alternative beauty school in town could fit me right in—that should have been my warning--but I foolishly thought, “How bad can they be?”

A grumpy receptionist handed me a two-page form to read and sign. I laughed aloud when I read the statement, “I understand and accept my haircut is performed by students and not professionals and by signing this agreement, I abdicate the right to sue the student or the school if the haircut is deemed unacceptable.” Sue the school? Over a silly haircut?  Surely this was just a legal formality. I signed the form still snickering.

My haircutter, who looked as professional as a punk rocker, escorted me back to a beauty chair. Unlike the other school, where the student had to first draw a picture of the cut and describe, in detail, to their instructor exactly how she'd achieve it, this school just let the students “have at it.” Danger, Danger, Will Robinson!

I informed my student I wanted a Dorothy Hamill cut. The Olympic skater's haircut was all the rage in 1981. The girl furrowed her over-pierced eyebrows and said, “Dorothy who?”

I described the  stacked wedge cut as best I could and the girl began to cut—let me re-phrase that—hack at my hair like Paul Bunyan with a chain saw. Since the school conveniently provided no large mirrors at the beauty stations for me to inspect what she was up to, I had no idea of the disastrous result until her professor moseyed over and screamed, “What the %*&^$  have you done? That looks terrible. Terrible! What on earth were you trying to do?”

“A Dorothy Hamill cut,” the student muttered, shamefaced and shaking.

The instructor shook her head in disgust. “That’s not a Dorothy Hamill cut. Not even close.” Arms crossed, she hissed, “You did the same thing you did last week.” The instructor then circled around me like a vulture looking for roadkill, flung my hair up (what little was left of it), and said as though I were deaf as a wig on a mannequin, “There’s not a thing I can do to fix this. Not a thing! You’ve ruined her hair and she'll just have to let it grow.” She stomped away, leaving both the student and me in tears.

I grabbed a small mirror out of my purse to inspect the damage and my mouth dropped in horror. The back was only four inches long and the bangs were so short and uneven it looked like a kindergartener had clipped them with hedge clippers. Cross-eyed.  I wanted to crawl down the sink drain and bawl at the sight of my butchered tresses. Even Peter Pan had a more feminine looking cut. The first thought that crossed my mind? I want to sue this place! I’ll never get into medical school looking like a freak.

First impressions were so important. How could I show up for a medical school interview looking like my head had fallen into a corn auger?

I decided to be upfront from the get go about my hair-don’t. That way, they wouldn’t think I actually chose to walk around looking like a savage Indian tribe had scalped me.

As it turned out, I ended up entertaining the committee with my exaggerated rendition of the story. After hours of interviewing other potential students with such stuffy questions as, “Why do you want to be a doctor?” they no doubt appreciated a little humor. In fact, at the end of the interview, one committee member said, “Medical school will present many challenges. You have shown us you can handle disappointment and disaster with humor and strength.”

You mean my terrible haircut might have helped me get into medical school? Maybe I wouldn’t sue after all!