I was the girl with the long hair. Wavy, chestnut strands that generally reached my waist, although the actual length has varied over the last few years. The only time that it was every shorter (by my standards, not even near being shoulder-length) was when I had waited too long between trims and some hairdresser had convinced me that I just had to cut off three inches. True, I had grown lazy (and cheap!) with my haircuts and whenever it actually occurred to me that I need an appointment, my ends were dry and snarled. You see, I've never been the kind of person who "does" their hair. No hour-long straightening sessions. I rarely even blow dried it, doing it only if I absolutely needed it. For example, it's minus thirty degrees celsius outside and I have to leave, like, five minutes ago. Even sparing regular torture, my hair could get itself into terrible shape. Having hair that long means nothing reaches the roots. It would dry out. Hair that long gets caught on chairs and in car doors, in zippers and under purses.
In someways, I got spoiled by my luck. I think I have pretty good hair. It's got enough weight that it mostly behaves and it's thick and wavy enough that I can generally get away with not doing much to it. But that last bit was exactly what had been driving me crazy during the last two years. I didn't bother to do anything with my hair so I always felt like it looked like exactly that; "Hello, nice to meet you, I didn't do anything to my hair today." I've thought about starting a hair routine but just thinking about it exhausts me. I've got my makeup down to about five minutes and that's all I really want to hand over in the morning. So instead of actually doing anything to my hair, I began to fantasize about all the wonderful short hair cuts I'd seen. I blogged about it. I thought, "maybe not a full hair cut, maybe just bangs!" I blogged about that here and here. I drove everyone around me crazy with all the pros and cons. Pros and cons? Oh yeah! I can turn a hair cut into a philosophical discussion - or at least one that has a lot of sides and is way more complicated than anything related to hair should be. "I need something different." "But I love my hair.""I'm sick of the same thing.""Will another haircut look like me?""Do I want to have the same style forever?""A new haircut will inspire me to 'do' my hair""Can I handle a haircut that needs to be 'done'?"
But I did it.
About a month ago. I shut the heck up and just went for it. I cut off fourteen inches and stuck the ponytail in an envelope. I did it for the first time in my life. In spite of the fact that my father sent me two (not one, but two!) very serious texts, begging me not to do it. My father's messages hit the core of my worries about my hair. Ever since I can remember, my father has loved my hair. Or more specifically, he loves long hair on women. He really does believe that long hair is ultimate in femininity and beauty and in a weird way I was concerned about missing that too. I don't think I'm a woman just because I have long hair but I do know how easy it has been for me to fall back on it. No matter how I was dressed, if I pulled my hair down, there was an instant feminine quality to my presentation. My hair was too long to not be obviously female. It was also a security blanket for me - you can literally hide behind your hair. You can play with it when you're nervous or thoughtful or bored. And for me, most of all, more than even my own ideas about femininity or image on a broader scale, was what my hair represented to me. Twenty-five years of companionship. All those years of looking in a mirror and seeing it frame my face. It felt like a pretty big deal to me, if only me.
By the time I was in the hairdresser's chair, I was ready. I really had spent some serious time thinking and preparing to let go of all of that weight. A sort of mourning, perhaps?
I have been enjoying the new "haircut," even in spite of the fact that I have to style the bangs every morning. It has been nice to have a defined style to my hair and I definitely enjoyed receiving my thank-you note from the charity that received my hair. All fourteen inches will be going to make wigs for children, most often little girls, dealing with hair loss. When I read their website explaining that young girls are their primary applicants because they tend to have the hardest time with hair loss, it made me feel that I was both right and wrong about all this hair business. There is a certain silliness in the rather drawn out decision-making process about my hair length. I have the luxury of growing my hair, ignoring my hair, damaging my hair and then discarding my hair if I choose. I have that choice. But on the other hand, taking my hair so seriously is not just about vanity when I think about it in terms of identity. Should I be flippant about it just because I'm scared of sounding superficial? It certainly is as serious as we want to make it - we/I have that option. But if it can be a powerful thing for a child that is sick, should it not also be something special to the rest of us? Isn't hair, its styles and customs, so closely linked to our cultures, traditions and family?
The weight we give it is our decision, much like its length.