Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hair trauma

Now that we've talked about pubic, armpit, and leg hair, it's time to consider the hair on women's heads!

When I was a pre-teen, I had hair almost down to my waist.  It was one of my prize possessions.  I loved it.  I watched Cher on TV and loved the way she would flick her hair back with her pinkies so I tried to emulate that gesture.  I tried parting my hair in the middle as well, but that didn't look so good, so I went back to parting it on the side.

When I was 13, I was signed up to to go the Cotillion - a fancy dance at the country club that all children of a certain social class went to to learn the social graces.  Here in Richmond those include dancing lessons, but in Norfolk at that time, they were simply a series of dances without the niceties.  My mom invited the son of a friend of hers to accompany me to it.  This was a guy I'd had a crush on since I was 3.  He'd given me a tea set for my 3rd birthday, and I'd loved him ever since - hey, I'm easy!  He was really cute too! 

A few weeks before the dance, Mom and I went to the fabric store where she bought me some green and blue plaid material with a slightly shiny finish to it.  She made me a lovely high-waisted long dress with ruffles at the shoulders.  I felt quite special (if awkward and gawky).  Mom told me all I needed was to trim my hair and I'd be set.  I wasn't interested in trimming my hair - I loved the way it was - but a friend of hers was over at the house and said she would do it for me if I wanted her to.  I was hesitant but ultimately agreed.  We went outside so we wouldn't get hair in the house.  Marty took the sheers and began to trim.  I asked her to only cut one inch.  She promised to not cut anymore.  A few minutes later, I saw Mom out of the corner of my eye motioning "More, more!" to Marty, asking her to cut 4-5 inches off.  Marty complied.  I was so angry, I was fit to be tied.  I picked up my cut hair off the ground and thrust it out at Mom - THIS is one inch?????  I didn't have the wherewithal to get angry at Marty because she was an adult, but I was livid.  I didn't talk to Marty for another 2 years, and I certainly didn't trust her as far as I could throw her after that.

Sounds like I had a lot of emotion around my hair...

That seems to be the case for lots of people.  I found an article in the Daily Mail (and English paper) which says:
Men find long, wavy locks the sexiest hair style on a woman, according to a new poll...
Long hair is traditionally strongly linked to femininity which we're sure is the reason that almost half of men have singled out this long, thick, wavy hair as their number one sexiest style.
Despite men choosing long, natural looking wavy hair as their top style, most women would have to create this style using styling tools as not many are naturally blessed with these lovely locks.

Men prefer Gwyneth Paltrow's mid-length straight style to Victoria Beckham's pixie crop....

Men also appeared to have a strong preference for shiny hair - with 72% billing it as sexy over hair without gloss.

Karen Moore added: "While men strongly favour the soft, natural, touchable styles over smarter, groomed looks, little do they know that these long luscious curls and straight sleek styles are often the ones which take the most effort to achieve...
Girls should also take note when styling their do, not to overdo the styling products as 79 per cent of guys admitted to loving running their fingers through ladies' locks.

This could explain why half of guys also said they like girls who wear their hair down rather than in a smart up-do.

The poll also discovered that 80 per cent of blokes reckon you can tell a lot about a girl from her hair style, but 18 per cent admitted they rarely notice if a girl changes her locks.

And a quarter would never be brave enough to give an honest opinion of a new hairstyle.

The comments to this article were even more interesting than the article, in my opinion.  People came down strongly of both sides of the issue.  For example:

I've been growing my hair down to my waist since I was 10 and I still love it and my b/f also loves my long hair. He loves playing with it. I use the frizzease range to control it, as I have naturally frizzy and curly chestnut brown hair. The amount of compliments I've had about how it has mainly been about how lucky I am to have it, which without blowing my own trumpet proves it is rare nowadays.
- Liz, Bursledon, Southampton,, 10/12/2008 16:23

I'm off to have the shortest haircut I can get without going bald. Any woman who wears her hair to please men has a lot to learn. She might attract a certain kind of man with her tresses but she'll probably end up wishing she hadn't.
- Mary, Leicestershire England, 10/12/2008 16:21

Women who cut their hair short are either lazy and don't want to take care of it or have bad hair. My hair is long, not too long but long enough to show off my fantastic locks. I have always had wonderful hair and everybody, including men, always make remarks on how beautiful it looks. Some people are lucky, some people are not, I guess....
- Melissa, Putney, London, UK, 10/12/2008 16:21

It's a shame to generalize men in one large group. My husband actually prefers my hair shorter, and if it is longer he likes it pulled up.
I did, however, date a man in the past that told me outright: "Don't cut your hair any shorter." He was also a raging sexist stuck in the 1950s and was intimidated by a strong woman.
Ladies, keep your hair the way you want.
- Sara, Texas, USA, 10/12/2008 15:53

My darlin' husband has a thing for long hair too.  And to keep things fair, I have to admit that I have a thing about his hair too... When we met, his hair was normal length, perhaps heading towards needing a cut.  One day about two weeks after we met, he showed up at my house with what I call a concentration camp cut.  I was stunned by how short it was!  I didn't find it appealing at all.  He's intensely good-looking, but this cut just didn't work for me.  He said he goes to the barber about every 6-8 weeks and gets his head almost shaved - it's easy that way.  Yikes!  Since then he has had me cut it.  I leave a lot more length on it, but he still prefers the 6-8 week cuts, so now his hair gets shaggier than I like it, and I ask him pretty frequently if he would like me to cut it.  And his eyebrow hairs - his are springy, and he enjoys playing with them when he's thinking, twisting and twirling them.  We haven't quite figured out a happy balance with all that.

Then there's his stuff about MY hair... When I cut my hair shortly before our wedding, it wasn't a deal-breaker, but Chris had some strong feelings about it.  I love having my hair short.  I like how it looks.  I feel cute and pert and athletic and strong and sexy and artsy - yes, all of that when I have a good cut!  I had a hairdresser who was such an artist - I could go in to him and tell him I wanted to look vivacious and fit, for example.  He'd cut it; I'd go back to work and people would use those exact words to compliment me on my hair - he was amazing!  But he's moved out of town and I haven't found anyone to replace him yet.  At any rate, Chris has had such strong feelings about my hair that lately I've been trying to grow it out for him.  My feminist side rages against the idiocy of growing my hair long for my husband when I like it short, but it really seems to matter to him.  Can't I just do this one small thing for the man I love so much?  For the last 6 months I've let it grow.  Every day I've caught sight of myself in the mirror and have felt less than because it doesn't look good.  It's messy.  It's unkempt.  What will people think?  It looks like s**t.  I feel like s**t.  But I'm the artist who preaches about Women's Body Image - I should love everything about myself, right?  That should include my hair, no matter how it looks.  Right.

One day recently Chris was running his fingers through my hair and complimenting me on how beautiful I looked.  I burst out, "I dont' feel beautiful!  I feel like shit!  I hate my hair like this.  It looks like shit!  I'm glad you like it, but I hate it.  I feel like shit!"  We were both stunned.  Chris pulled back abruptly like I'd hit him.  After a moment he quietly said, "You don't have to have your hair anyway for me.  It's fine.  Do whatever you want."  I felt awful for my outburst.  I wouldn't hurt Chris for anything, nor he me.  It did help me become very aware, however, of just how strongly I felt about it.  I decided I should probably get my hair cut if I felt that strongly about it.

Yesterday I was driving home from the art supply store and passed a salon which I know has a very good reputation.  I decided to go in and see if they had any appointments available.  They did.  Brittney took me into the salon and asked me how I wanted my hair.  I told her I wanted it short, but she would have to keep it as long as she could.  Confusing, huh?  I told her about my dilemma with Chris - that he likes it long, but I have to have the feeling that it looks good.  She did a great job trying to satisfy both of us.  In the end, she gave me about 3 different cuts as she tried to leave it long but give me a style I could feel good about.  It was a tough job!  When I got home, Chris came down to greet me.  He hugged me and ran his fingers through my hair then pulled away and looked at me quizzically, "Did you do something to your hair?  It looks really lovely."  I smiled and said I'd gotten it cut.  I felt better.  He liked it.  I no longer feel like shit.  My hair looks pretty good.  It isn't horribly short, and this time it won't grow out into a mullet like it was doing before.  So maybe, just maybe, it'll be possible for me to have long enough hair AND not feel like shit! 

Can it be that we can both be happy with my hair?  and evolutionary perrogatives can be satisfied as well?  Time will tell...

What a silly thing to have such strong feelings about...


  1. Boy, do I get the whole head hair thing. I was "blessed" with curly hair...ultra kinky, frizzy, curly hair. Unfortunately, not blessed with a face that can carry it off without looking, a-hem, shall we say, mature. As a teen, all I wanted was straight hair. Slept in orange juice cans for rollers. ouch. I remember the few times I wore my hair naturally as a teen, the feedback from my peers was awful. I was called a dog one evening at the beach. Thankfully my ego was healthy enough to handle that, but it still smarted. On the flip side, hairdressers and older ladies LOVED my hair. Talk about mixed messages. I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard " have such pretty hair. I wish I had curly hair like you." In my younger years, I'd have gladly traded.

    The only decade I wore my hair as God gave it to me was the 80's - big, thick, curly wild hair. It was wonderful. I began going gray at age 19 and began coloring it soon after. Today I have white hair under all the L'oreal and the texture has changed to a softer, less course curl. White makes me look like my grandma, and I'm just not ready for that - although I love the white color. Again, the face/hair combo doesn't work.
    My husband likes my hair medium to short. ! He likes long hair, but he prefers mine shorter. It's more flattering to my middle aged round face.
    Notice my face comes up a lot when talking about hair. Don't you think that's what it's all about anyway? How our hair makes our face appear?
    I can go without makeup, I could care less about designer clothing or what shoes I have on as long as both are comfortable. But my hair...

  2. I am not the usual American male.
    I actually LIKE running my hands through a crew-cut short hair on a woman. Also doesn't get in my teeth or face when enjoying my face near or on her face.