Blog Post #10/Lesson #734623786483256
SO, I had the CURLIEST, unruliest, can’t-put-a-hairbrush-in-because-it-will-get-caught-and-break-off-in-my-hair, hair. Like, that scene in Princess Diaries where the hairbrush breaks off in Mia‘s hair? That was my reality. That was when I was younger though. I was born with really curly hair, and the curls were so tight my hair didn’t grow down until I was probably four years old. I had an afro, and I’m not exaggerating. So, I tried for years to grow out my hair, I cried and cried because I didn’t have princess hair, but eventually, the curls were weighed down enough that they disappeared.
Anyway, sorry for the long beginning, I promise this set-up will make sense. So, I cut my hair once, to just above my shoulders when I was ten years old, and I was devastated. I really was out here looking like Lord Farquaad. Anyway, after that, I swore NEVER AGAIN to try to rock a bob. For a decade I lived by this vow, and I think the biggest reason was actually boys. I mean, I was definitely traumatized from my awful bob, but I think the biggest issue was the hairdresser, she really gave me that triangle cut.
So, I was never a… what’s the opposite of a lady’s man? A boys gal? I’m not sure, anyway, I didn’t get all the boys, my milkshake did not bring them to my yard, but one thing I was told over and over again was how beautiful my hair was. People were constantly running their hands through it, playing with it. It was the first thing anyone noticed about me, and all the time people would tell me to never cut it. My mom especially was vehemently against it. She even told me “You won’t look as good, you won’t be beautiful”. And it felt true. I was terrified that all of my worth was tied to my hair, that my one beauty in the world was these locks.
Girls are told over and over again that there is only one way to be beautiful. You should be skinny, blonde, have long hair and a big butt and breasts, but no stomach, arm, or leg fat. Your face has to be symmetrical, you have to shape your eyebrows, put on makeup, straighten or curl your hair. You should wear clothes that are flattering but not revealing, not too tight but not too loose. You can’t have acne or crooked teeth, and glasses are a definite negative. In many cases, you’re told you have to be Caucasian to fit the ideal. We’re told over and over again that these things are what make us beautiful. That, if we want to be desirable to men we have to fit this criterion and to divert, is to be undesirable, or at least, not as desirable.
Why were we taught this? Why have I worried my whole life, even as a little girl, about fitting this standard of beauty? Why are women telling other women this? None of it truly makes sense, but it’s because we live inside of the male gaze. We live in a patriarchal world where, for so long, women were treated like trophies and servants. Women are still trying to slough off that culture now, and these beauty standards are just another way to make women feel small and to keep us in line, in our place under these men.
Having long hair is no picnic. It gets everywhere, it takes forever to do anything with, feels like a heat blanket turned all the way up on your head in the summer, and will actively try to strangle you in your sleep. Eventually, after seeing picture upon picture of these beautiful bob haircuts, I made up my mind. I would do it. My mother pleaded with me not to, argued with me not to, but I wasn’t letting anyone else make the decision for me. I would take the power back, at least in this small way.
I got the haircut. I had expected to be really emotional, maybe even cry, but the whole time my hairdresser was cutting it, I had this huge smile on my face. I felt this weight come off of my shoulders.
I don’t know if you can tell, but I loved it.
It felt like I had finally done something for myself, and I was living my BEST LIFE.
So, shortly after, my friends and I go out (I was 21, we were all way over the legal drinking age, please don’t drink underage). We love going dancing and hanging out together. So I’m waiting to get a drink, and a guy starts talking to me, and I’m being nice, I’m always open to making friends, we may even be flirting a little. Anyway, he asks me what’s going on in my life, and I tell him about my haircut.
Immediately. IMMEDIATELY, he says “Oh, I wish you hadn’t cut it, I love long hair on girls.”
First of all, how dare you. Second of all, how dare you again. Finally, I just made a face back and said “Oh well, i didn’t do it for you, and I love it.” I walked away, but the whole time, I was wondering where this man got the gall to make a comment like that. Who taught this guy that was okay? I guess the answer is society.
Either way, I learned that day that loving yourself and making decisions about your life and your body for yourself feels better than any acceptance you can get from a man, or from anyone else. The happiness I found within myself was much more satisfying than having that long hair was. So I guess the lesson, like many of the others, is that other people suck, and the one person you’re going to be stuck with your whole life is you, so it might be a good idea to learn to love yourself.
Reader, you’re amazing, and the special things that make you, you, are beautiful. We don’t need to fit into the same mould. We aren’t factory made. Each of us is a snowflake, and no two of us, not even twins, are the exact same. These beauty standards are only made to hold us down, and we shouldn’t let them. Take back the power. Wear whatever you want. Cut your hair or don’t. Wear makeup or don’t. Just do what you do for you.