In November, I went from “normal,” almost boob-length blonde hair to a pixie cut. About a month later, I dyed that pixie cut brown. Then I had it cut shorter. Then I cut it again, this time leaving the bangs a little longer. Then I dyed it even darker. Most recently I had it cut really short, mainly just to extend the time before I have to drop a bunch of money getting it cut again. I even was feeling adventurous enough to throw some highlights in it this time. The end result is this:
Despite all of the minor changes I have made to my hair in the past few months though, most people only make one observation: it’s short. It’s really short.
When people see my short hair, they almost always find a way to ask me what possessed me to make such a drastic change. The question doesn’t bother me – I used to do the same, back in the days when I was fantasizing about cutting it all off and would meet girls who had already done so. But my answer to the question always throws people off a little bit. I didn’t do it because I was trying to defy gender roles. I didn’t do it because I wanted to look like a certain actress, or fit a certain mold. I cut my hair for really only one reason: because I felt like it.
I’d always thought short hair looked beautiful on women, but convinced myself that I could never pull it off with an athletic figure like mine. I had thought short hair was something designated for only really petite girls (think Emma Watson or Carrie Mulligan). I also almost always had boyfriends telling me not to. Though my rather flat, straight long hair wasn’t anything spectacular, and I never had anyone complimenting me on it, the thought of me cutting it off was apparently horrifying to most guys. My boyfriend told me he would feel like he was kissing a boy. Guy friends agreed that girls with short hair just “aren’t hot” or that even if they are, they’d look even better with long hair. All of these anti-short hair attitudes combined with the many men’s magazines and websites out there fighting for women to keep their hair long made a very strong case against cutting it short. I’m not entirely proud to say so, but I let my worries about what other people would think dictate what I did. Thus, though I had had the urge to cut it short since I was about sixteen, I kept it relatively long. After I finished high school, I cut off twelve inches, leaving me with a cute little bob. It was alright, but a lot of work, and I eventually grew it back. I dyed it a million different colours, tried different types of bangs, curled it, and braided it. But I never had the guts to actually take the plunge and cut it all off. The thought of being repulsive to guys was too scary. There were also plenty of girls who encouraged me not to do it, saying that I would look like “a mom” or less feminine. And, most importantly, I feared that I would hate my own reflection.
But then I moved to Europe, and all of my fears were thrown out the window. I’m not going to pretend it was European fashion that inspired me to do this – in fact, short hair is probably just as common here as it is in Canada. The change came not from my change of scenery, but from a change in me. For the first time in years, I was not in a serious relationship. I was not surrounded by people who had known me for years and only with long hair who would try and convince me not to do it. I decided I wanted my year abroad to be a year of learning about myself, and therefore decided that picking up guys and pleasing people from home would not be my priority. Instead, my priority would be doing what I wanted. And what I wanted to do was cut my hair.
It was quite incredible, but for probably one of the first times in my life I realized I literally did not care about what anyone else thought. I called up one of my least judgemental friends here in France who I knew would never try and change my mind and headed to the hairdresser with a picture in hand. When I showed it to the stylist, she seemed hesitant. She asked me several times if I was sure, and before making the first cut held the scissors inches from my hair and said, “I’m going to start, this is your last chance.” I told her to just get it over with. I felt zero emotional attachment to my hair, and watching it fall to the ground in 12 inch pieces did not faze me at all. When I walked out with about three inches of hair I felt incredible. It took a little bit of time to adjust to the weight difference, and of course I had to shower and style it myself before I was totally satisfied with it, just like any other time I had gotten my hair cut. But all in all I was happy. Not once did I look in the mirror and think, “Oh no, what have I done!” In fact, I would wake up and forget I’d done it, then feel the small amount left on my head and feel nothing but contentedness. It is something I have not regretted in the least.
I suppose part of my love for it could be due to the extreme flattery I received from almost every person in my life after I cut it. All of my girlfriends loved it, some of them even saying I had inspired them to cut their own hair shorter. My mother and sister agreed, despite the fact that my sister had told me it was a bad idea. Two of my closest childhood friends told me separately that even though they had only known me with long hair, they can now not imagine me with my hair any other way than it is now. When I posted a picture of it on Facebook I got a ton of feedback. Most of my guy friends just “liked” the photo, while all the girls commented saying how great it looked, and how glad they were that I finally went through with it.
But one may wonder, how did the males in my life really react to it? This is interesting, as if you run a simple Google search on “Short hair vs. Long hair on girls” you will be presented with pages and pages of articles explaining that men cannot stand short hair on a woman. And after all, though I didn’t cut my hair to repel guys, I cut it knowing that it may make me less attractive to some. However, I must say I was pleasantly surprised with the results. For the most part, I have gotten only positive feedback from the men in my life. I’m sure a few of them hate it, but they have respectfully kept these thoughts to themselves. Though my dad jokingly calls me a little boy, plenty of boys have told me that it looks just as good as my long hair. There are even a few males, including my often painfully honest roommate, who have told me I even look better with my hair cropped. My most recent ex told me he loved it, despite the fact that I had long hair when he met me. And the ex who was so against it, who had said he would feel like he was kissing a boy, saw a photo and in the least charming way possible told me he still finds me attractive. Not one person has tried to discreetly convince me to grow it out again. Not one person has questioned my gender because of it. I still take just as long to get ready, and cannot say I look any less feminine when I’m finally ready to go.
Though I cut it for a very simple reason, I am keeping it this way for some of the unexpected benefits that came with it. Not only do I feel more comfortable than ever in my own skin, but it makes me stand out from the crowd a little bit. When I had “normal” length hair, I was always frustrated by the fact that people I met would never remember me the second time I saw them. When I’d have to re-introduce myself to someone I’d feel like I was so boring and plain I couldn’t even be considered memorable. Now, everyone remembers me. I have been told that every time I’m brought up in a conversation with people that don’t know me very well, they still remember me enough to say, “Julia, the one with the short hair, right?” Though I don’t intend to be defined by my hair, it is nice to run into someone a second time and not have to re-introduce myself. I also find that a lot of people think that I’m older than I am, thus I am treated slightly differently. It’s not as if middle-aged women are bonding with me, but I have noticed that older people address me more respectfully than they once did. My short hair allows me to be more creative with the colour as well – I can get away with reds or dark browns that would have been way too harsh when I had long hair. And best of all, I save a ton of money on shampoo!
I will re-iterate once again that I cut my hair for myself, and not for boys. However, one of the last major benefits of cutting my hair short is how it has changed my interactions with the male species. It seems to me that since I cut my hair, I have gotten a lot more attention from guys. This could have something to do with the fact that before, I was usually in a relationship. Or maybe it’s just that European men are way more open-minded. But to be honest, I think it has more to do with the way I carry myself. Now, I feel like people notice me when I walk into a room. I make more of an effort to smile, mainly because I feel happy with the way I look. When I enter a party or bar, it seems there is always one guy who sees me right away and comes over to talk to me. I have two hypotheses about this phenomenon. The first is that guys assume that because I have short hair, I don’t get chatted up very often, thus they have a better chance. The second is that there is a select group of men out there who prefer really short hair, and since it is less common, they make a beeline for any woman they see with it before it’s too late. Both of these theories are probably wrong though. I’m beginning to realize that the guys who talk to me talk to me for the same reason they talk to any other girl – they find me attractive overall, not just because of my hair. Though I cannot deny, the length of my hair must send a certain message.When I was in Spain over winter holidays, a great American guy came over and started a deep, refreshingly stimulating conversation with me. He later told me that he came and talked to me because of my hair – he said that to him, my short hair screamed confidence, which suggested I would be a good conversationalist. I know it’s wrong to judge people based on their appearance…but in this case, I’ll take the compliment!
Basically, I’d like to conclude that short hair does not equal the end of the world. In fact, it can open up a whole new world of cool people, fun hair colours, and easy conversation starters. But when it really comes down to it, it doesn’t really make that much of a difference. It’s not like I lost or gained any friends because of it. My teachers suddenly aren’t handing me better or worse grades based on the length of my hair. I’m not getting bullied or harassed because of it. Really, nothing much changed except for the few benefits mentioned above. And funny enough, the guy I’m seeing now has never once mentioned it. When he asked me for my number, I can’t imagine it was because he thought I had such a great personality, he was willing to “get past” my hair – the night we met we danced together and chatted a bit, but in a noisy club a riveting conversation wasn’t really possible. I think I can safely say he asked me out because he was attracted to me…not just because of my supreme mastery of the French language and my undeniable charm (for those of you who do not know me well, I am kidding about these things).But now that we have been dating for a few months, I can guarantee that my hair is of very little importance to him. In fact, he has never mentioned it at all. I asked him once if he preferred short hair, and he said he really doesn’t have a preference – he just thinks I look great. And when it comes down to it, he’s right. It’s not about your haircut; it’s about how you feel. And as you can probably gather, I feel great.