Tuesday, January 24, 2012

the long and the short of it — hair, that is

I just got a very short haircut, very similar to how I wore it in college, and I feel so free. Like a ton of weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I am getting lots of compliments and even shock, at my "bravery" to cut my hair. It got me thinking about different hair lengths that I have had through the years.

Sitting in the playground watching my daughter swing (with her luxurious long locks) I see that she is also free, and soars. But maintaining her hair, keeping it free from tangles, is admittedly, a chore. As I look around at the other women, moms, in the area, every single one of them has shoulder-length or longer hair. And every single one of of them also has their hair tied back in a ponytail or a twist or some other way to keep the hair out of the way, out of their face.

New do
"Of course, the only people who like it are gay men and my girlfriends. Straight men across the board are not into this hair!" Michelle Williams, who embodies the modern pixie cut, (Huffington Post, "Do Most Men Prefer Long Hair On Women?") 
Long hair is so tied to ideas of femininity. I got my haircut last week, after thinking about it for quite a while (I had a '20s-style bob, with long locks in the front, shorter in back, but still far above the shoulders. It's been quite a few years since I've had really long hair.) I wanted a change, a noticeable change. When I picked my daughter up from school after the salon visit, she didn't hide her disapproval of my new look. Normally I'm her idea of perfect (I'm going to enjoy this state of being for as long as it lasts), so I have to admit I was a little hurt at first. When I asked her why she didn't like my new 'do she said she liked my hair better long. Why? She couldn't really answer.

Halle Berry and Charlize Theron
It's hard not to relate her reluctance to see her mom with a short hairstyle as something she has been programmed not to like. Although I have avoided spoon-feeding her Disney princesses, Ariel's long red locks are pretty hard to avoid. She barely remembers when she had an adorable pixie haircut a few years ago (she's almost eight years old), but she hasn't wanted to have short hair since.
Only Snow White has "short" hair
When I was pregnant and had very long hair one of my friends predicted I would chop it all off as soon as I had my kid. I resented the implication that being a mom would mean that I had to change everything. I had already made some hairstyle sacrifices, not dyeing or highlighting my hair for nine months. Did she expect me to start shopping for mom jeans immediately, too? I actually kept my longer locks for quite while, and since my daughter was born, have experimented with different looks, lengths, and styles. My recent chop has more to do with my Florida lifestyle and desire for a change. I love being outdoors, walking on the beach, and I was tired of tying it back or brushing it out of my face. Now it's no muss, no fuss.

Emma Watson and Audrey Hepburn
An ex-boyfriend once told me with authority that I looked best with shoulder-length hair. You can guess what length it hovered around throughout most of our relationship. Do men really prefer long hair? Are long-haired women sexier? Is it a biological preference as some have said, that longer hair, because it takes longer to grow, somehow imparts the message that a woman has better health (might be a better mate)? Or is it all the centerfolds viewed since boyhood featuring long-haired beauties that cause men to think long hair is where it's at? Women and men seem to want long hair on our heads, but nowhere else on our bodies.
Hair is time. Women with short hair always look as if they have somewhere else to go. Women with long hair tend to look as if they belong where they are, especially in California. Short hair takes a short time. Long hair takes a long time. Long hair moves faster than short hair. Long hair tells men that you are all woman, or a real woman, or at the very least a girl. Short hair always makes them wonder. Short hair makes children ask each other — usually at the school-yard gate, when parents are late — "Are you a boy or girl?" Men married to women with short hair should not have affairs with women who have long hair kept up with many little pins and combs. Once you have cut your hair you have to remember to wear lipstick, but you can put away the brush, elastics, and the black barrettes in the form of shiny leaves with rhinestone hearts. When you cut your hair you lose a nose and gain a neck. A neck is generally better than a nose. It does not need to be powdered, except on extreme occasions. It does, however, need to be washed more often. Joan Juliet Buck, ON SHORT HAIR (c1988)
Michelle Williams and Marion Cotillard
There are tons of pop culture examples of short-haired beauties, but the tyranny of long hair remains. I don't know if I will get the urge to grow it out again after having it short for a while. But I don't feel I need to have it any particular length to feel pretty. If anything, I feel even more feminine. People can really see my face now. I like my new hair. It's fun and flirty.

Since my initial shock at the kid's lackluster reaction, she has gone around telling everyone we know, "My mom got her hair cut!" It's not exactly an endorsement, but she is at least enjoying celebrating and advertising the change, if not the style.
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