A little over a year ago I decided to cut my hair. Before that I had always (except for one time long ago when I tried to have a $10 pixie cut-bad. news.) rocked long hair. My hair was always getting compliments because it was “the good kind of hair”-thick, course, just a little bit of wave, etc. It did basically exactly what I wanted it to on any given day and didn’t take up too much of my time.
When I first went to the hair stylist to tell her I wanted a pixie, she was horrified. So even though I went in with an exact example of what I wanted, she successfully talked me into something a bit less drastic. She was sure I’d regret it if I went for the full chop like I was hoping for.
We She settled on this. (Far right, holding my adorable niece Adley).
It wasn’t a bad hair cut, in fact I’ve seen it on many women and loved it, it’s just not what I wanted. After a month of trying to get it to look as sassy as I felt, my wonderful husband finally said, “Just do it. Go get your hair cut how you wanted it in the first place. You’ll never know if it’s what you really want until you do it.” And so I did.
Since that day I haven’t really looked back. I’ve worn it spiked, down, mohawk-ed. I’ve had it blonde mostly but I also went purple and maroon.
Currently I’m wearing it shaved on one side and a little longer in the front/on the top. I asked Zach a few weeks ago, “Hey, you wanna shave part of my head?” His response, “Never thought you’d ask me that but sure.”
Let me start by saying I understand that I’m super lucky to have a husband who puts 0 stalk in how I look. I get that I’m one of the lucky ones who has married a man who finds me (almost) equally charming and beautiful in my sweats as he does in my bridesmaid dresses. I get that.
But having my hair short has been one lesson after another in the hurtful ways we women think about ourselves. Almost every day I get a woman coming up to me saying something along these 4 lines:
“Oh man, I love your hair, I wish I could pull that off!”
“Oh man, I have always wanted short hair but I don’t have the face/look/hair for it.”
“I LOVE your hair! I would love to try short hair but my husband would kill me!”
“Love the hair, would love to try it but it would make my butt/face/belly/arms look HUGE.”
Every time I hear it I say something like, “Please don’t say that about yourself, it’s absolutely not true. I used to do that to myself as well, it doesn’t feel good. So stop it! And if you want your hair cut do it! Let’s go right now!”
Look, we are ingrained from a young age to believe our femininity is tied to many things-our hair is just one of them. In Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, (side note: you have to read this. Go reserve it at your library, I’ll wait. Ok then) she talks about how feminine norms are the foundation of shame triggers. “If women want to play by the rules, they need to be sweet, thin and pretty, (editor’s note: I would add, ‘with long hair’) stay quiet, be perfect moms and wives, and not own their power.
She goes on to talk about how any move outside of these norms brings a hailstorm of shame on the woman making such risky moves.
And boy do I believe it. Because we women have a constant stream of unhealthy self talk going on at any given time in our heads, right? I don’t want to boil it all down to physical appearances because it is not just that, but since this blog is about hair that will be the focus.
I think, for me at least, it took me so long to go for this hair cut I had been coveting for so long because it takes so much work to own your own power as a woman. So many of our bosses make it impossible, some husbands or significant others clearly make it really hard to do so, our kids might be testing our resolve at owning our own power. Certainly I think the biggest culprit is our society’s emphasis on masculine power structure being the end all be all, whether it be in really obvious ways (marketing, culture of war) or fairly subliminal ways (the ways in which we were raised and familial hierarchy structures).
None of this is to say that if you’re rockin’ long locks you are giving in to “the man”. I merely want us, as women, to start evaluating who we are letting take our agency. As a mother to a daughter I am constantly aware of the way she sees me look at myself. I am constantly aware that the way I talk about me is the way she will one day talk about herself. Whew. What a scary and brutifal honor.
What I want her to see when she looks at me is someone who owns everything she is-the beautiful and terrible. It’s taken me a long time to get to where I want to own all of that, there’s a lot of scary stuff in there, but if I don’t own it someone else will and that is far more terrifying to me.
Maybe one day our daughters won’t have to consciously think about owning their own power, maybe our culture will have let go of the (dated) masculine ideal, we can hope. But until then I’m going to show Dailah my struggle with it so that she knows it’s a choice every day.
So when Dailah sees her dad shaving half my head she’ll see a small shift in the world and know she’s on the right side of things.
Do you guys struggle with this? Is it just me? Beuller? Beuller?