I was in the hairdresser last weekend having my hair cut. I like to keep my hair short because I think it suits me: so I have a gamin cut aka a pixie crop – though the word pixie is a bit inappropriate when applied to a 50-something woman. My hair has been short for well over a decade … and I love it. I am a “shower-to-out-the-door-in-20-mins” gal – can’t be bothered with blow drying and products and curlers. When I was working this gave me an extra forty minutes in the morning – time always better spent under the covers than under a hairdryer.
No-one raised an eye in NYC. Or while I was travelling the world. Once in London a friend asked me if I thought the reason I was still single was because my hair was short. He was well intentioned – and backed away as soon as I responded: “Possibly – but where does it stop? Men like big boobs too … shall I have implants?”
But back to Saturday – I am sitting watching the hairdresser at the station next us discuss me with her client. I know they’re talking about me as we are all facing the same mirror and, while I can’t hear what they are saying over the whine of the two hairdryers they have going – their eyes keep darting in my direction.
Eventually I asked Pascaline to stop cutting, gesture to them to turn off the dryers and said: “What’s up?”
The woman smiled at me: “Oh we were just saying we think you are so brave.”
“To wear your hair so short.”
“I’d love to myself, but my husband prefers me with long hair. Says it is more feminine.”
“OK, well it’s good I’m not married to him then, I guess.”
She chortles: “Are you married at all?”
“Not even a little bit.”
She rolled her eyes: “Lucky you – not having to listen to anyone else’s opinion.”
And back on went the dryers.
Should be pointed out here that my new pal has a good 10 years on me. And a head full of extensions and highlights. She’s a shade of blonde that belongs on a surfer-chicadee 40 years her junior. Once the drying had finished – they embarked on a program of straightening irons and relaxer spray. Nothing natural about that head of hair.
But that’s ok, because it is more feminine.
I’ve had comments from some of my gay friends who think I must be lesbian because I don’t have a boyfriend and my hair is short. Apart from pigeonholing lesbians – which a gay man should know way better than to do, it does rather reinforce that short hair equals undesirable. To men anyway. Gay or straight.
I wonder if Halle Berry gets that a lot? She strikes me as someone who would have a pithy retort ready. What about the young girls? Anne Hathaway has said she loves her crop (done to help portray consumptive Fantine in Les Miserables) but can’t wait for it to grow back. But then Rhianna just took the plunge. And we know she likes the fellas. And they like her right back. Maybe you have to be beautiful to carry it?
A recent picture of the Vogue’s fashion editors shows most of them with long hair. Way past an age traditionally considered the cut off point. US Vogue is the fashion bible for those so inclined: they must know what they’re doing. Which a £60 billion industry that is the hair extension business would seem to underline.
But, as a Guardian article points out – that’s not a pretty success story with a happy ending. Apart the fact that women in Asia are giving their hair to strangers in the west for a pittance, the application and upkeep is expensive and time consuming. Then there’s the damage to the scalp. One just has to look at Tyra Banks’ ever growing forehead to see the havoc that constant weaves have wrought on her (receding) hairline.
Still there is massive demand. Which means millions of women are faking it to look like something they’re not. Why, I wonder? To satisfy images set by the media? Or those demanded by men?
What the heck happened to Women’s Lib?
As I wandered through the shopping mall on the way to the car – I got an appreciative look from a rather butch lady – but also from a mixed group of teenagers who told me my hair looks “cool”. My favourite barista called from the cafe – “loving the hair”. And I bumped into a (straight) male friend who gave me the once over and said: “been to the hairdresser – nice”.
So it seems that this short hair thing has to be down to personal conditioning. What femininity and womanliness means to you. Well, I’m not a fan of conditions: short hair works for me, and I am keeping it that way. I never have a bad hair day and my wardrobe is part of the overall look. What you see is what you get. No expensive add-ons. If that makes me brave – I’ll gladly take the compliment.
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