Hair is weird. Especially for women. We have this strange attachment, with all the feminine symbolism associated with it. Why is having short hair such a rebellious act? When I was in sixth grade, I had hair that was just a little bit below my shoulders. However, I quickly decided that that had to go, and cut it to a chin length bob. Now, it definitely wasn’t my first bob, and it probably won’t be my last, but something about that haircut haunted me.
I didn’t cut my hair for four years after that. Aside from a couple inches of dead ends here and there, I grew it out uninterrupted until it was almost to the bottom of my ribcage. I swore I’d never cut it again, in fact, I had nightmares about taking scissors to my hair – no exaggeration. Of course, most promises are meant to be broken, and so it was only reasonable last summer when I cut off five inches, but my hair was still pretty long and largely unaffected.
Enter: A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
I’ve been talking about getting a short hair cut for over a year; I told myself I’d do it after my school’s production of Trojan Women (you can read all about that one here), but I wimped out because I “had to keep it long for the fall show”. The fall show turned out to be A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and my part called for insanely curly hair. I spent a week sleeping on rollers and going to school with a bandana tied over my curls, but it was worth it to see how good it looked for the show. Of course, the show had to end sometime, and when it did I was faced with a grim reality.
I was almost embarrassed to have my hair up in a ponytail, because thanks to the curlers at least a quarter of it had broken off at the nape of my neck and made me look scraggly and feel gross. Then came my magic solution: it was finally time to get the haircut I’d been talking about for months.
Game time: appointment scheduled.
I came home after a half day on Tuesday and stood in front of my mirror. It was 12:23, I had an appointment with my hairdresser at 2:15, and it was anyone’s game. I picked up a pair of purple sewing shears and snip. Half of my hair bobbed to the chin. I held out the other half and snip. Gone. Just like that. It felt good; it felt really, really good.
It was 12:23, I had an appointment with my hairdresser at 2:15, and it was anyone’s game.
Of course, I went to my hairdresser and had that bob turned into a classic men’s cut, and went to school the next day with a beanie on. It was quite fun to see everyone’s reactions to my new short hair, but one thing I noticed was what I heard. “I could never do that” and “I wish I had the guts to cut off my hair” were common sentiments expressed to me.
Hair. Why is it always hair? Why does it have to come down to hair? Hair dictates so much of what we do, both socially and physically, and it’s kind of ridiculous that it has so much power over us. Long hair has been ‘in’ for the last seventy or eighty years. Before that there were about 15 years when the bob was all the rage (thanks flappers!), and for pretty much all of recorded time before that, women were expected to have long hair.
I recently watched the movie How To Be Single. One of the most memorable moments of that movie was when one of the main characters has a mild breakdown and yells, in front of a crowd of children, about how unfair it is to be dating as a woman. One of the points she makes is about hair and how we’re expected to have a ton of it from the eyelashes up and absolutely none from the eyes down. She then proceeds to ask the kids “do you think this is all real?”, gesturing to her hair, and then pulls out clumps of her extensions. Her point hit home and her action struck a chord with me; why do we put so much emphasis on hair?
As a girl, people treat you differently when you have short hair.
The same can be true for guys with long hair. It’s because somewhere somehow it became an unquestionable truth that long hair equals femininity and no girl can be a girl without her femininity. There’s this fear that many girls seem to have that if they don’t fit the traditional feminine look they won’t get dates. Often it’s what holds them back from a lot of incredible fashion choices they’d otherwise make, and that’s something that needs to stop. In this day and age if someone identifies as a girl she should be treated like a girl, no matter what she looks like.
I, for one, have never been happier with my short hair.
I can run and swim and drive with all my windows down. I don’t have to worry about things like knots or tangles or even bad hair days, because let’s face it there’s always a hat. My hair is soft and healthy and very, very me. I’m free.
Contrary to the title, I’m not saying that everyone should go out and cut their hair like a boy’s and especially not just because I did it. I do think everyone should do what they want with their hair and not care so much about the short hair stereotypes. Have you been wanting to dye your hair a crazy color? Do it. You’ll love it, and if you don’t you can always fix it. Get that undercut you’ve been loving in pictures, it’ll look just as amazing on you as it does on other people. The thing about hair is that it grows back, and it’s a part of you, and I fully support using that part to express yourself.15
Also published on Medium.