I cut my hair on Saturday, going from a shoulder-length style with long, heavy bangs to a pixie cut. There is something so very, very satisfying about dramatic change; I am so pleased with it, especially since I’ve been talking about doing it for like two months. Although of course I waited until the coldest few days in Tucson’s recorded weather history to go for it.
Straight away, S asked if I was dreading the gauntlet of comments I would have to endure at work, etc., and I said no because on the whole, I am fine with this sort of thing. But nearly a week into my haircut, I have gained new sympathy for his perspective, because in fact I am annoyed by a tiny subset of comments my cut has inspired. Specifically, two male colleagues have responded with much dismay, and a third with barely-masked dismay. (I gotta give mr. barely-masked props for keeping it in: thank you, sir.) It’s fine that they feel this way, of course. I’m quite judgmental myself, so it would be profoundly hypocritical of me to fault their opinions.
What I do fault are the two-fold assumptions that underlie both of their opinions, which are: a) that their viewpoint is universal to all men, and b) that this perspective is in any way influential or relevant to my decision making. I was told, haltingly, in tones of sympathy and remorse, that “Men like longer hair,” “Men like ponytails,” and “I preferred your hair long,” and “You look 14.” The looks of shock and concern, coupled with the tones they took, annoyed me more than the actual remarks: it was as if they’d discovered in me some tell-tale sign of emotional or psychological distress, as though I’d been cutting or purging or something. I said to them both, cheerfully, “Sucks for you!”
…because my hair has nothing to do with them. My appearance has nothing to do with them. I do not dress for them. That they commented at all suggests to me that they’ve mildly/casually sexualized me in some way, which, whatever, they’re men, but Jesus. Have the courtesy to keep it professional. I’m not friends with either of these guys; they’re colleagues from other departments who I sometimes don’t even see for weeks at a time.
Of course the other side of the casual sexualization coin is aging, about which much has been written: the idea that as young(er? ish?) women we express self-righteous wrath at treatment of this sort, and that later, as we grow older, we yearn for it. Somewhere online, I saw an anecdote from a girl who complained to her mother about being catcalled on the street, to which her mother retorted that when she herself was catcalled, her thought was, “Still got it!” Is this push/pull of notice me/leave me alone tied to white girl crazy?
Maybe, given another twenty years, I’ll be grateful for the notice random male colleagues pay my hair, and by extension, me.
But somehow – I doubt it.