The way I wear my hair goes through phases, but as of late, I have been leaving it short pretty consistently. Baby fine hair runs in my family, so I really like styles that work with how thin it is instead of trying to fight the genetics. I have a round face, so I love to frame it with long front pieces, bangs, and choppy fringe. I won’t lie: on occasion I will see enough shampoo commercials and pictures of gorgeous, flowing locks to influence me to valiantly grow it out that “one more time”. After a few months, it gets between my chin and shoulders, I ask myself why I wasted my life growing it out, and I cut it again.
I have had a sew-in weave before. It got so itchy that I cut it out myself. I had perms during my preteen years when my hair was longer. They didn’t magically make me popular or change the way the rest of me looked. I remember when 11-year-old me had that perm in sixth grade P.E. class and the new girl who had just moved to my town from another country asked me if I was a boy (it was an honest and innocent question on her part, but still very traumatic for a girl new to puberty). Then I think of the recent time when I was working at my second job at a clothing store and a middle-aged woman I had just rung up told me the back of my head was thinning and I needed Rogaine.
I am a frequent receiver of polite smiles and nods when it comes time to attend special occasions; whereas others will spend more than a haircut’s worth of money on an up-do, I may spend an additional five minutes in the mirror, and that is that. I have been cautioned not to be surprised if my hair causes me to attract other women. If it did, that would be my business (do your thing, my lesbian sisters), but I have a boyfriend whose hair is longer than mine.
I really wonder where all of the hair-motivated stress and labeling in society come from. I think of those old episodes of America’s Next Top Model where Tyra Banks assigns each model to a makeover and those girls cry and cry over having their hair cut. I hear “I could never do that” so often from my peers in regard to hairstyle choice.
It really shouldn’t surprise me that hair has this magnitude of an influence on the self-worth of women of all ages in our modern society, but it does. I think of women who have to endure chemotherapy and consider the loss of their hair to be the loss of a part of their identity and femininity. I think of Muslim women who wear burka and hijab whenever they leave their homes. I respect these groups of women who make strides to find strength in their womanhood unique from traits tied to their hair. Other women can learn something from these women whose hair we cannot see- how to value themselves better and judge others less.