What To Do With Women’s Hair

I chopped mine off.


I cut my hair.

Like, real short.

I deliberated long and hard beforehand — for most of my adult life — and like all decisions I deliberate on for that long (see: my bike and my boyfriend), once I did it: I freaking loved it.

It’s the best haircut I’ve ever had, in terms of sheer adoration.

I’ve Never Really Liked Long Hair

/ This is the most important thing in this piece. If you read nothing else, that statement alone will do.

I don’t like long hair.

I don’t like it on me and I don’t really like it on other people, either — men and women alike. I’ll take a bald head over a man bun, and I barely like bobs. That alone is reason enough not to have it. The end. Forever.

Hair is fucking weird

And our habits of tending to it are even weirder.

I see hair as fingernails —because technically it is — and I have the same “can’t unsee” aversion to hair that my brother had to Miracle Whip once he was old enough to read the word “dressing” printed on the front.

Some things, we just can’t come back from. And I don’t blame us — especially if we’re right.

When it comes to hair (and nails), it’s fine that we have them and I’m okay when they’re short and groomed, but the minute you start growing them out and “styling” them, I’m just like “pls gahd no.”

Hair Is Pointless, Really

My hair became this thing I carried around “just in case”— in case I wanted to style it on a Saturday night (I rarely did) or in case I woke up one morning finally knowing how to make it look good (I never did.)

I kept it in the way we keep the rain coat in the back of our closet, the oddly-shaped bundt pan, the electronics packaging…

My hair was like that windbreaker jacket we didn’t need to bring and end up toting around the mall, like ‘oh, it’s okay; I’ll just roll it up and tuck it under my arm.’

It’s not okay. It’s a nuisance and I don’t need it!

Most long hair doesn’t look good

People say pixie cuts take a lot of work to look good, but this is more true for long hair. Too often, women think they just grow it out and it’s sexy by proxy. It isn’t.

When it comes being long, most hair can’t pull it off.

My hair has always been limp and lifeless; the hair of a small child, baby-fine and so ferociously wispy it refuses to hold a curl. (Several stylists have tried to reassure me: “that just means it’s healthy!” to which I glare back in the mirror thinking, “well how bout we rough it up a little then, huh? Maybe drag it out back and then see how it feels?”)

I bound my hair up in a ponytail or top-knot 99% of the time, and when I didn’t, it’d hang listless around my face, sighing and sad, like “hey. I’m… technically here.”

It’s not that I hate my hair, because I don’t. It means well. It tries to hold a curl and humors me with some brief, fleeting waves when I take it out of a top knot (see profile pic), but only for a few magical moments during which I can run to the mirror and feel exalted at its effort— “almost!” — until it slowly fades back to its limp-noodle state, smiling up at me weakly like, “I’m sorry — I tried.”

Expecting my hair to look good long is like hitching a whippet up to a dogsled, or being a walk-on at the Olympics. It’s just not setting things up for success.

As Aspen Childers wrote:

“I hate dealing with having long and fine hair… No matter how much you brush your hair and have the dead ends trimmed, it always ends up looking stringy again by the end of the day. This will defeat all will that you may have left to style your hair.”

I’ve paid triple digits for haircuts with a dozen different stylists, all of which left me feeling like Justin Long’s character in The Breakup. I’ve tried color and conditioners and volumizing products, and have had more than one stylist eye me in the mirror and sigh, “it’s not you — it’s your hair.”

After all these years, I have to agree. It’s better for both of us if I stop dragging us through this.

I only felt more certain when I walked into the salon to get it done and saw all the other women sitting there with their foils and shit. I thought: this whole “hair” thing is ridiculous! We’re no better than poodles — except we shell out hundreds of dollars a pop for this ridiculous poodle parade!

Kim Quindlen wrote,

“I got tired of having to maintain such long hair… Some people love maintaining and caring about their long hair, which is absolutely fine. But for me, I was just getting tired of it and I didn’t like the way I felt about it.”

Me too. And finally, like the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, I’d had enough and declared, “off with her head!”

I used to wonder if I had “the face for” a pixie

But then I realized that I didn’t care.

I mean, men are running around all over the place willy nilly with their short hair, not a care in the world, and somehow all of them “have the face for it?” psh, please.

I also wondered if I would have to dress more feminine to “balance it out,” but then I realized I didn’t care about that, either. Which is really fortunate, because my entire wardrobe is black denim and t-shirts and I really don’t have the inclination to buy more.

In the end, it turns out I do have the face for it. But moreover: I have the personality for it. And that matters much more.

Men and “What My Boyfriend Thinks”

This is always the big question.

“What does your boyfriend think?”

To everyone asking (or wondering) this: honey. Do you hear yourself?

I mean, yeah, it’s awesome if my partner likes my hair — that’s definitely preferable over him not liking it (just like it’s cool if I like his) — but my hair isn’t a domain of my boyfriend’s preferences. (I didn’t, like, ask his permission. lol)

My boyfriend puts my happiness regarding my hair higher than his happiness regarding my hair. My attractiveness (and his attraction to me) isn’t based on hair.

(Which will really come in handy if I ever — god forbid — have to go through chemo or something.)

I guess I should count myself as lucky? It’s sad if that’s true.

“It’s NOT SEXY and men hate it.”

Lol… alright. Fine by me.

This only matters if you care about random mens’ opinions. But as someone who doesn’t:

You might as well be telling me what kind of sandwich “men prefer” right as I’m about to tear into my grilled cheese.

Like… cool, I guess? But that’s kinda got nothing to do with me.

And my gentle message to anybody still arguing it does: bro, you and I don’t even exist on the same plane. We are two ships passing in the dark. And that is kindest possible way I can put that.

It’s not anyone’s job to embody anybody else’s ideals of physical attractiveness.

Men treat me differently — but not how you think

If anything, they’re more deferential— rushing to hold doors, breaking eye contact rather than staring me down, or staring wistfully rather than predatorily.

Maybe men recognize I have more balls than they do? Maybe it’s just the south? Maybe they dig it? Or maybe they’re that uncomfortable?

I have no idea. But it’s definitely not worse.

“I love short hair on women”

Neat.

Look, bud… I know you think you need to tell me this; you’re not alone. But I just want to make clear: lol, I don’t really care. (See “sandwich,” above.)

The “professional” consideration

Is real.

You can get away with dodging dudes in your private life, but your professional success will hinge on likeability and likeability hinges in part on attractiveness.

I cut my hair only after being at my job a while — not while job hunting. Also, I’m in my 30’s, where the thing is easier to pass off as “oh, she’s just past her peak.” (So. You know. They forgive you your “indiscretions” or whatever? lol.)

Women hate it too (i.e., our self-loathing “femininity”)

This is way bigger and more serious.

My mother is one of those women with hair “down to her butt.” (It’s really waist-length, but she’d love for me to say it’s longer.) It’s been long and softly wavy since she was a teenager, and I have tender memories of gently twirling the tips of her braids as a small child.

My mother was the most aghast when I cut mine, texting “wow what!!” and a day later adding, “did you cut it yourself?”

I had trampled a deeply-held viewpoint on womanhood.

After cutting her hair and getting blowback, Olivia La Bianca wrote,

“It really throws a new light on the subject of what is ‘acceptable’ as a woman and what is not… this one issue simply dragged me down into a spiral of continual revelations about femininity and where women stand in society.”

It causes a rift when women cut it:

“In a world where women’s appearances are under constant watch, it’s no surprise that any time someone makes a change, people gawk in either disgust or amazement. It’s become the norm to assume that a woman is trying to prove her independence to the world anytime she is in the infancy of her single-dom and changes her look.”

But it’s not a woman’s job to carry the weight of outdated expectations.

Sometimes we are just one person, doing our own thing.

“You’re so brave!”

Hahaha… oh, sweetie… if your idea of “brave” is short hair, then life must just be a series of terrifying events for you.

You need to get out more.

We hide behind our hair

I took an improv workshop with a coach who forbids jackets or hats while performing, because clothing becomes armor.

Same goes for hair.

After cutting 12 inches off, Kirstin Van Zuiden admitted,

“I know I hid my lack of self-confidence behind my hair at times. If I absolutely hated how I looked… I would curl my hair, it would look cute, and people would notice that instead of how insecure I was.”

Kim Quindlen chopped 12 inches as well, and afterwards wrote,

“My hair was my security blanket… I was almost too attached to my hair. I didn’t like caring about it that much.”

When women cut their hair and then feel “ugly,” the issue is never short hair. The issue is them. And their insecure (i.e., self-loathing) ideas of identity.

Sexuality — and sex

Some people think women with short hair aren’t into sex. I have to laugh at this. (And after I’m done laughing, I encourage you to run that by my boyfriend, who will laugh at this, too.)

Others think it’s about sexuality. And to that I just have to sad-smile and wonder, “how do you make it day to day, you dear creature?” Life must be incredibly hard and scary for you.

A lot of stylists won’t do it

Nobody ever talks about this part, but it’s true.

I actually went in for a pixie a year ago and my stylist, whom I’d been seeing for years, outright refused to do it. Shortest she’d go was a bob, and even then I had to beg her to cut the back up to my hairline.

Is it professionalism? Some “haircuttery ode?” I don’t think so — I think it’s just fear. And by that I mean their own.

Stuti Bhattacharya wrote,

“The ‘concerned’ lady in the parlour told me it wouldn’t ‘suit’ me. Pumped up and slightly maniacal, I told her I would leave and get it done elsewhere if she didn’t do it.”

And Amber of My Life in Limbo wrote,

“The stylist held a lock of my hair between her fingers, looked at me in the mirror, and said, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ Everyone acted like this was such a huge risk to take.”

The stylist who finally cut mine was super excited about it. It still attracted the attention (read: anxiety / agonized concern) of the other stylists, who milled about around me or glanced over from their own clients with their long, stupid locks, but as the hair fell away, all I thought was, “it’s just you and me, Stylist— we’re the only two in this room.”

For the the first time, my hair actually felt like mine

Most women who get short hair cuts love them, but some admit feeling self-consciousness the first few days. I didn’t.

I all but paraded out of my apartment the next morning, bits of newly-chopped hair wigging out and “roostering” straight up in the back and me not caring, like “look at my hair! LOOK AT IT!” I immediately loved it and have only grown to love it more.

By the afternoon of the second day, I was so comfortable with it that I altogether forgot about it. (Perfect.)

Here are the top things I realized after cutting it

  • I have 82 cowlicks. (Okay, it’s actually like four, but hot damn, son.)
  • My neck is freezing. (Why don’t men talk about how freaking cold their necks are? omg.)
  • My helmet itches. Like a thousand poky, “post haircut” hair bits. (Note: this did go away after a few days. But I looked like a crazy person at stop lights there for a minute.)
  • I didn’t know how to dry my hair. (I know this sounds ridiculous — “a towel, you dummy!” — but you don’t realize how muscle-memory-ingrained your shower routine is until you step out and have no idea what to do with your hands — or the towel.)
  • tbh I wish some dude would mansplain “styling” to me.
  • I love it.
  • …so much.

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