By now I think we all understand the societal pressure which is thrust upon women to look a certain way. We must be feminine, but not too girly. We must be bold, but not too startling. We must be ourselves, but only if that self is attractive, unassuming and understated. We claim to celebrate individuality, but this celebration is limited to a very restricted type of look.
Today I want to talk about hair.
Throughout my adolescence I loved nothing more than expressing myself with my hair. I bleached it, cut it, shaved it, dyed it. I would have a new look every month. This phase was not short lived and my passion for colourful hair stayed with me for over a decade. I became known for my hair. Sometimes I was a striking redhead. Other times I was a blue haired mermaid. But most of the time I was Pinky, the wacky Arts student who did whatever the hell she wanted whenever the hell she wanted to. I didn’t give a shit what people thought about me or my hair. I was a liberated woman.
At the beginning of last year, something changed. I had just graduated from university and voices all around me were telling me that it was time for change. It was time to grow up. Nobody would hire me looking the way I did. I had to blend in. Be professional, be attractive, be mature. Dye your bloody hair.
I succumbed to the pressure. I dyed my hair a natural colour and over the year I let my natural blonde grow out. I grew it long. Very long. And ohh it was lovely; everybody told me so. “How is it so healthy? Is that really your natural colour? Oh it’s so lovely and thick!” The compliments, although well-intended, reinforced this idea that it was better to be beautiful than to do what made me happy.
I began to see my hair as my best, or perhaps my only, positive feature. I became obsessed with having it as long as possible. I felt that the longer my hair, the more attention would be taken away from the other aspects of my appearance that did not fit into those beauty standards. I found myself refusing to wash it, refusing to style it, because I wanted to prevent anything from damaging my only beautiful trait. I felt proud of the fact that the weight of my hair had caused neck problems… And that’s when I realised something was seriously wrong.
My hair was controlling my life.
It had to fucking go.
I wanted to shave it. I wanted so, so badly to shock everybody like I used to, by shaving all that hair off my head. Alas, one unfortunate truth prevented this… I work at one of the fanciest schools in Sydney. I somehow doubt that baldness fits their professional dress standards for women. As uppity as I seem to be, I am not ready to risk my career for the fight for equality.
So I did the next best thing. I took kitchen scissors and hacked half a metre off my hair.
I gave myself a bob cut and it was the most liberating fucking thing I’ve ever done.
Before I cut my hair I worried that, if I did, my husband would be less attracted to me. I worried that my students would think I was boring. I worried that other women would be disappointed. I was so scared of regretting my decision, but the second I heard that first ‘snip’ I knew I had made the right choice. That snip reminded me that it doesn’t fucking matter what other people think. It doesn’t fucking matter if I fit into some bullshit standard of beauty. I’d somehow become so lost in the idea of being beautiful that I’d forgotten how it felt to be free… but now this angry little feminist is back with a vengeance.
It’s time to find myself again.
It’s time for another hair adventure.