Max has known me for 15 years. We know about each other ups and downs, relationship problems, the details of the birth of his daughter – the way a certain intimacy happens with the person who has been cutting your hair and has seen your face age in the mirror at regular intervals. I let Max do whatever he wants. I don’t know what I want when it comes to hair and I trust his French instincts and his expertise can “see” me better than I can.
Today Max decided it was time to go short.
“I am sick and tired of seeing you with long hair”.
“Yeah, me too. Go for it”. And before I could have any second thoughts, my long, layered tresses were on the floor, much to the amazement of the two girls standing around. “That’s a change” one of them murmured.
“Oh, it’s only hair. It grows back” I said nonchalantly. But it’s not only hair. Every woman who has shed her mane knows the feeling: lightness, giddiness and boldness all rolled into one.
My first pixie cut came compliments of a Vidal Sassoon butchered haircut – the next hairdresser I went to could only chop it all off so I could start over. I kept it for a long while, until my boyfriend (then to become husband) gently asked if I could grow it back. And I did. That was 17 years ago. After the tragic in-between state was over, I held various degrees of length but always on the long side. Until today. When a new wind blew into town, Mary Poppins style.
I am too far removed from pop culture to claim to have been inspired by Beyoncé, Miley Cyrus or Jennifer Lawrence – but I live around the internet enough to know that some of these women, Jennifer Lawrence in particular, were crucified for their hair choices. By male fans in particular. I happened across an article, very well written, the argument clearly explained and faultlessly laid out, on why women should not fall in the footsteps of beautiful celebrities who shed their manes – in a nutshell: if very beautiful women can’t pull it off, why should you? The author – you guessed it – was a man.
Since long before Rapunzel, Goldilocks or Juliet, long hair in women has held a sexual connotation: thick, beautiful tresses made for desirable women and, judging from the 20 year olds parading around Los Angeles, the myth endures. From a style point of view, I concede that longer hair is easier to pull off and fun to style – not every face structure works when fully naked but, in part, the choice of keeping one’s hair long has to do with disguise, even insecurity for some.
Sofagirl will tell you I was the biggest flirt she has ever met – I am Italian after all – and twirling a strand of your hair, raking your fingers through it, pulling it this way and that across your face, can be an instrument of seduction. One men fall for. Long hair equals femininity and, in the Christian archetype, the image of the woman as a Virgin.
Maybe it’s naive to think that feminism could level the playing field and maybe ruby lips, various displays of body parts, mini-skirts and the likes are all a rite of passage of developing sexuality; of a woman’s discovery of herself and her impact on the opposite gender. Maybe it’s not all bad. Unless we come to the realization that we are dressing and styling ourselves just to send sexual signals, or as the only way to feel desirable. That perpetuates the objectification of women we have fought so hard to dispel. At some point, we have to look in the mirror and decide what we like for our sake’s, not other’s.
I happen to like the way I look now with short hair: my face is lifted and younger looking, my eyes take center stage but, at 51, I spend less time worrying about looks, as long as I feel I am put together. It’s more about the way it makes me feel: a bit more chic, different, lighter, more in your face. This is me, with nowhere to hide, an attitude that took me a long time to build.
I will keep it for a while. Then maybe I will grow it back. Or maybe I won’t. One of the best things of womanhood is the wide array of choices available to us when it comes to styling.
And to Max. Merci. For still understanding a girl and pushing her to go where she didn’t know she was headed.
Images of Beyonce and Rapunzel found in the public domain