Friday, October 07, 2011


Hair brings one's self-image into focus; it is vanity's proving ground.  Hair is terribly personal, a tangle of mysterious prejudices. 
-Shana Alexander  (1925 – 2005)

After many years of having short hair I am in the process of growing it longer.  Seven months ago I decided I would grow it out no matter how shapeless and overgrown it looked.   I stayed away from my hairdressing until last month and let me tell you it wasn't easy.  I did do a little home trimming to keep my hair out of my eyes but I ignored the curly  mullet that was growing at the back of my head and I ignored the way my hair poofed out in a frizzy halo that  framed and at the same time hid my face.  Knowing that the mullet was proof of the fact that hair grows more quickly at the base of your skull and knowing that curly/wavy hair has more volume than straight hair and can overwhelm a small head did not make the growing out period any less emotionally painful. Every time I looked at myself in a mirror I had to stifle the urge to run, not walk, to the nearest hair salon to have my hair cut short, short, short. Why do I want my hair longer?  I don't know, it just seems the right time to do it.  I do know that anytime I cut my hair short after having it long usually meant I was ready for some kind of change in my life either emotionally or mentally.  Maybe the same thing is going on now.

The interesting thing about a woman with short hair  is the assumptions others make about her.  One boyfriend was very disappointed with me after I cut my hair saying a woman was sexier with long hair.  A college friend was shocked when I showed up at school with short hair blurting out that now I was old since only old people (i.e. women) wore their hair short.  I've also had people tell me I must be gay since I wore my hair short.  Why is long hair on a man (not the norm) seen as a sign of rebellion while short hair (not the norm) on a women is seen as some sort of defect? * Shana Alexander was right, hair is a tangle of mysterious prejudices.

*I am not saying being gay is a defect, I am saying some people in our society see it as a defect.


Rain said...

I was told when I was maybe 25 that women needed to have shorter hair as they get my age. Long hair wasn't flattering. I more or less ignored it. I wore it all lengths during my adult years but never short. When I got into my fifties, it was mostly brushing my shoulders and because I'd had a surgery that turned it really dry, I began to color it, playing around with all sorts of colors that weren't natural. By sixty I was tired of that and began to grow it out in streaks. In other words avoiding the skunk stripe. Eventually it was all natural which meant a mix of gray and whatever it was by this age. I mostly cut it myself and don't like to fool with it anymore than I have to but do wear it fairly long by the standards of women my age, certainly nobody at the reunion had hair my length as most were wearing theirs as they had in high school which meant bubble cut. I think I was about sixty two or so maybe when I was having my hair permed still and in a salon that I liked in Tucson. The lady had long hair, which always gave me reassurance as long hair is something you can't risk having a perm over-timed (had that happen once). She said more women my age and hers were wearing their hair long or so she had noticed in Tucson. It's not uncommon to have long hair in the area where i live but the norm is still short.

la peregrina said...

I remember my grandmother having long hair.  It was thick, pure white and grew past her waist.  She had one long braid when she went to bed at night and put it into one or two braids during the day and then pinned it up.  So, even though she had long hair she wore it "short."  Is long hair on an older women considered unflattering because we grow up with folk tales portraying older women with long hair as being evil or crazy?  Is that message, buried deep in our consciousness,  so uncomfortable for us that we as women do not want to be identified with it? 

Rain said...

I don't know what changed but I have always liked the feel of long hair on my back and knew even in my 30s that it probably wasn't most flattering. I didn't care. I liked how it felt. I don't wear my hair up often for the same reason.