At the moment, I have long hair. I’m not talking about Rapunzel-style locks here, but it is well past my shoulders now, a length it hasn’t been since I got married 12 years ago. I’m occasionally still startled by the sight when I look in the mirror. My short hair had become something of a signature, and I liked it. It felt like me. Now I feel like I’m wearing someone else’s hair. I just wish that girl were here to deal with it for me, because long hair is a lot of work.
So why the change? Originally, there was no intent. I was pregnant with Avery, and we were broke. Decent haircuts are expensive, so I kept putting off getting one. My hair got longer, bolstered by pregnancy hormones. People started to compliment me. It’s funny, most people – men and women alike – love long hair. It doesn’t have to be cut particularly well, either. It’s all about length. When magazines take polls, long hair wins every time. Moreover, if you happen to favor short hair, you’ll have trouble finding inspiring new cuts, unless you buy a magazine specifically geared for them. Short-haired beauties are not well-represented among fashion models, so it’s tough to find them in the pages of most magazines. When I still had short hair and found a picture of great cut, I’d get extremely excited. The hair stylists I would bring my finds to would be nearly as thrilled as I was. Apparently they don’t get a lot of opportunity to experiment with fashion-forward short haircuts.
Judging by the compliments I receive, people seem to prefer my hair long. Here’s the thing: I don’t. It was fun for awhile, the novelty of it all. I liked being able to put it in a ponytail or a messy topknot. But the truth is, my hair is not well-suited to being long. I have extremely fine hair, and not a ton of it. I don’t mean I’m suffering from hair loss, or anything (although those who see my bathroom floor might question this). It’s just that when my hair reaches a certain length, it loses significant volume. Worse, it tangles. Well, it more than tangles, actually. It mats. I can comb my hair in the morning, throw it back into a ponytail, and do nothing more active than the laundry. By the end of the day, the hair in the ponytail is so snarled it requires spray after spray of children’s detangler to set it free again (if you notice that my hair smells like a Jolly Rancher, you’ll know why). At night, at the suggestion of my hair stylist, I take each side, separate it into two parts, and twist the sections round and round each other before securing each with a cloth hair tie. This routine is necessary to prevent waking up with the beginning of dreadlocks, a look I can assure you would not work for me. In the shower, I use handfuls of conditioner and finger comb. Post-shower, I apply gobs of a leave-in conditioner that allows me to drag a comb through before applying an oil to the ends – you guessed it – to prevent tangling. Again, I do not have a lot of hair. The hair I have just ties itself in knots no matter what I do, kind of like headphone wires. The last time I was sick enough to go a few days without combing my hair, I looked homeless. It was scary. It took a whole lot of oil and a very painful 45 minutes to resolve.
So why, given all of this, is my hair still long? Part of it is that I am too sensitive to other’s opinions. I’ve had dozens and dozens of compliments since growing it out. If I hear another, “Wow… your hair looks so pretty long!” I might actually scream. Oh, yes, and it’s also been implied that I look younger with long hair. Gee, thanks. Also, I’ve lost some but not all of my “baby weight.” My face is rounder than I prefer it, which leaves me feeling less confident about shorter hair. You can hide behind long hair, and I have.
The whole thing reminds me of when I was 10 or 11, and had my hair cut short, probably because my mother was tired of listening to me yell while she tried to comb through it. We were at a roller rink and some lovely little girl looked at me and said, “The boys‘ line is over there.” Her message was clear: Without long hair, I could easily be mistaken for a boy; I wasn’t pretty enough without it. It’s been 34 years, and part of me still fears that might be true. Unfortunately, that fear ratchets up several notches when I’m on the heavier side.
My husband thankfully doesn’t care either way. He’s tired of having to hose down our bathtub to prevent Avery from falling… all that extra conditioner. Also, my hair ends up everwhere. I bought a haircatcher for the drain, which does help. But it doesn’t prevent it from clogging the bathroom sink or ending up all over the floor. If he comes home one night and I’ve given up and chopped all of my hair to my chin, he’ll love me just as much. I love him for that.
And me? I think my hair is pretty for about 10 minutes after I comb it. But it’s a crazy amount of work, and the level of breakage suggests my hair isn’t very happy being long. I’m torn. I want to feel pretty and confident, but I’d like to feel like myself as well, and I’m not sure if long hair is part of that. I haven’t seen any pictures of great short cuts lately, either. It’s a tough decision. I don’t know what to do. To cut or not to cut, that is the question.