Last November, after considerably wimpy hesitation, I finally bit the bullet and cut my almost waist-length hair off. It’s not a decision I regret in the least. For starters, it’s cut my truly excessive shower time by half. It’s also started numerous respectful, intellectual debates with my grandmother over whether or not I ought to invest in a hairbrush.
It’s nice that we’ve been able to achieve such frank intergenerational discussion. When the inevitable extended family gathering rolls around, we no longer waste time mincing words and offering pleasant greetings. We don’t need to. The sentiment of the occasion is better captured with a cursory glance at my gravity and style defying bed hair, followed by a perfunctory, “I don’t like it. Have a scone.” As I accept the offered baked good, I feel as though something truly meaningful has passed between us.
Sadly, it hasn’t all been rainbows and butterflies. The decision to get the cut has drawn input and criticism from a myriad of observers; concerned friends, and random strangers encountered on Hillsbus services. Even in the lead-up to the cut, agitated spectators wanted to have their say. Mainstream media advised that I should compare my face to geometric shapes in order to ascertain the haircut that would truly express my soul, ignite my inner goddess and solve world crises. I polled my family on whether they thought I was more of a rhombus or a trapezium but they declined to comment, feeling that it had just been too long since they’d studied geometry to provide me with truly accurate feedback.
My friends, on the other hand, jumped at the chance to provide unsolicited opinions. One frenemy informed me that she had the gravest concerns about my ability to “pull it off”, on account of the fact that my face looked “kind of like a potato, ya know?” Another friend expressed concern that I, as a queer female-presenting individual, was succumbing too much to the “lesbian aesthetic”, as though that were a bad thing. Others kept their feedback simple: “just don’t.”
Deeply disillusioned with my choice of friends, I turned to my humble refuge; the Internet, which recommended the “chic”, “sleek” and “femme” “pixie cut”. Being neither chic, sleek, femme, nor a mythical creature possessing intensely prominent cheekbones, I was disheartened.
Nevertheless, I eventually got the haircut. It was both anticlimactic (I did not become “chic”, nor did any inner deity emerge) and a revelation (I, a mere mortal sans visible cheekbones, had short hair and the world had not ended). I felt briefly victorious. I also had much less neck strain, which was pleasant.
Less pleasant, however, are the continued unsolicited opinions. My grandmother, for one, remains vocally opposed. The frequency with which teenage boys yell queerphobic slurs from car windows as I walk home has increased exponentially. Well-meaning acquaintances ask things like, “don’t you miss feeling beautiful?”, as if beauty is a basic requirement for my continued existence as a human being. People I’ve never met identify me as a lesbian, forcing me to reassert my bisexuality frequently.
It is absurd to me that a simple, personal aesthetic choice is the subject of such unsolicited input, that short hair on male-presenting individuals goes unremarked, but on anyone else is so widely critiqued. It is, quite frankly, ridiculous. It is also damaging to suggest that short hair is incompatible with feeling or being perceived as beautiful and should not be done if an individual does not possess high cheekbones and a pointed, “pixie” chin.Furthermore, the implication that beauty is necessary for self-worth is utter shit.
The perks of short hair are many. It’s fun, low maintenance and comfortable. There is no reason that access to this should be limited by gender, sexual orientation or the failure of a person’s face to perfectly align with a particular geometric shape.
People on buses will continue commenting obnoxiously. Well-intentioned idiots will keep hurling backhanded compliments. My grandmother will keep coming over and voicing her disapproval. And I will keep accepting those scones, turning up to 9am lectures with unfortunate bed hair and trying to explain to random strangers just what’s wrong with their reliance on societal norms and the gender binary. Maybe, eventually, society will wake up and remember that a haircut is a haircut – a temporary, purely aesthetic, purely personal choice. Then, maybe, we’ll start to see some change.