Monday, June 9, 2014

We Are Not Our Hair…or are we?

“How was your Memorial Day weekend?” a friend asked me over text. 

“Good, went to visit the family in Brooklyn, got a haircut, and BBqed.” 

“I just saw your facebook picture. You cut your hair that short?”

“Yes, I told you earlier I got a haircut.”

“You didn’t say it was that short!”

I went from having long coarse thick mostly black but about 20% white hair that was several inches past my back bra strap to a boy short haircut that was about an inch around and about 1.5 inches at its longest. It was drastic and when asked why I did it, I joked: “I need a change. I can change my job, move to a different city, or get a boyfriend. This is by far the easiest change.” 

My hair suddenly felt a pound lighter, I had phantom hair syndrome (similar to phantom limb syndrome, but where I felt I need to take down my pony tail before going to bed), I suddenly was way over using shampoo and conditioner, but was discovering how much upkeep short hair really was (Really? A trim every 4-6 weeks? There goes all the savings from the shampoo!) My hair follicles, used to years of being weighed down was suddenly liberated and didn’t know where to go, so they went willy-nilly everywhere: poking out of my head, making me at least 1.5 inches taller but made me worried about being a poofy-head but at the end opted out of using hair products since I didn’t want to wash my hair every day! On the flip side I also did a good thing by donating to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths program, similar to Locks of Love but for women with cancer.

I was prepared for all the change to my lifestyle but I wasn’t prepared for the reception. Friends, family, and co-workers all had different reaction, if not treating me differently. It made me realized how much I was partially (if not more) defined by my long black locks. Long hair has always been a defining hallmark of feminine beauty. From Barbie to all the fairy tale princesses to even most modern day women: they all have long hair that is shiny, inviting, feminine, mysterious, and luscious. It was a relatively phenomenon that promoted the short bob, along with flapper dresses and women’s liberation. Relative because hey Eve had long hair.

Going from mid back to top of neck length was an unexpected experience in de-feminizing. Females would come up to me and gush about how nice it looks, how it suited my face (which was surprising given the Asian lack of cheekbones and relatively smaller eyes), and how “brave” I was. “Brave?” I asked myself, “I didn’t fight in a war, defend justice, or defeated imminent danger. How is this brave?”

Males on the other hand didn’t know how to respond. They were similarly stunned like the females but lacked words. I don’t expect to have men normally comment on women’s hair but when one hacks off a good foot of hair one expects at least a “Oh you cut your hair” comment. Some men quickly recovered and say how it looks good on me; those are usually the ones with good female influence. Others just make a comment and gives off a vibe of “I don’t think it looks good but I don’t know what to say.” Others just sit there and pretend I didn’t lose a pound of hair. 

The funniest story was from work. I had a meeting with 3 older gentlemen. The Latin American and American (this sounds like a beginning of a bad joke but I promise it’s not!) were already there but the Israeli was running late. The LA and A men just took a look at me made no comment and proceeded with the meeting. When the Israeli finally arrived, he shouted “Oh my god! PJ, you cut your hair!” in this loud booming voice. “Don’t take this the wrong way but it looks great!” and proceeds to share that his wife has short hair too. Sometimes people surprise you.

All in all having short hair made me questioned not only how poofy or big head I have but also my femininity. I become more conscientious of wearing clothes that are more feminine and become starkly aware of how androgynous I look when I wear my normal t-shirt and shorts. My mom’s comment is that I look “asexual.”  When I go out, I notice less masculine attention was given. A friend of a friend also noted similar experience with short hair and was thinking about cutting her hair short again to escape such attention, while enjoying the convenience. 

So we are not defined by our hair (although a bad hair day does not help!) but it has been fun confounding people while they try to make heads or tails of the drastic chop.