The Oldilocks Cut
Long hair has always been a symbol of femininity and beauty in our society. It flows like a river cascading down a woman's back, drawing admiring glances from men and women alike. For many women, our hair becomes a part of our feminine identity, a defining characteristic that sets us apart from others.
Society has conditioned us to believe that women with long hair are more feminine, more desirable. Men, in particular, have a vested interest in our hair. I remember a man telling me to my face that I looked much better with long hair after I had cut it short. He told me he was disappointed!
But what happens when that defining characteristic no longer serves us? When the weight of our hair becomes a burden, a reminder of our youth and the pressures we faced to conform to society's narrow definition of beauty?
In my mid forties, I found myself grappling with the societal pressure to conform to narrow standards of beauty. I realized that this pressure not only affected women, but also men who were conditioned to view women through a certain lens of beauty.
To explore this issue, I wrote a short story about a man who falls in love with a programmed image of his partner that conforms to societal beauty norms. Through this story, I sought to express the loss experienced by all parties involved in perpetuating these beauty standards. As consumers of beauty, we are all limited by society's expectations of what is considered beautiful.
This story was also a critique of myself, as I recognized my own struggles with conforming to these expectations and shortness when deciding what is beautiful. It was an attempt to understand the limitations imposed upon us by societal beauty standards and to challenge these limitations in order to create a world in which all individuals are free to express their unique beauty in their own way.
Turning 57 next month, I have begun to see my hair for what it has meant to me: a symbol of my youth, the expectations placed upon me as a woman, and the influence I believed my appearance held. Although I cannot fully shift away from defining myself through my appearance, age has forced me to embark on a journey to challenge societal norms and expectations of beauty in order to retain my dignity.
Pictures of me the week before my hair cut
So, I made the decision to cut my hair short. As the scissors snipped away at my locks, I felt a weight lifting off my shoulders. I was shedding my old self, the self that was so dependent upon my looks for my female power. Aging has a way of forcing us to seek our power elsewhere and I fully admit I was not fierce enough to give it up on my own.
It is crucial to acknowledge that hair length and style are personal choices that should be respected and celebrated. Women may choose to maintain long hair, get a crewcut, dye their locks orange, or braid their grays for various reasons, including personal preference, cultural identity, or self-expression.
For many Native American men and women, long hair holds deep cultural and spiritual significance. It is often seen as a symbol of strength, power, and virility, with some indigenous cultures even believing that memories and life events are stored within the hair. This demonstrates that hair length and style can carry different meanings and importance across various cultural backgrounds.
Unfortunately, current societal beauty standards exert pressure on women to conform to certain norms, which can limit their freedom and autonomy. These expectations often perpetuate harmful stereotypes and marginalize those who do not fit within the established norms. As feminists, it is our responsibility to challenge these limitations and work towards a world where all women, regardless of their hair length or style, can define themselves on their own terms.
By fostering a culture of acceptance and inclusivity, we can empower women to express their individuality and embrace their unique identities. This includes recognizing and celebrating the diverse cultural and spiritual beliefs surrounding hair, as well as advocating for a broader definition of beauty that encompasses all women. In doing so, we can help create a more equitable and just society that values and respects the autonomy of all individuals.
In the end, cutting my hair was a transformative experience. It allowed me to shed the old version of myself and embrace the woman I was becoming. And while my long hair may have been a symbol of my youth, my short hair is a symbol of my strength and resilience.
As I age, I find myself mourning the loss of my youth. My energy wanes, my enthusiasm and mental processing slows, and my lust ebbs. It is a saddening realization. But in this process of aging, I feel something else emerging.
Is it a drum beat, or a wave of energy outside of myself? Perhaps it is a newfound sense of solidarity that comes with letting go of our physical bodies. Is it the outlines of something real, a recognition of the changes that come with age. Perhaps it is a new way of seeing the world, and myself.
This haircut is like an icy cold shower on a winter's morning. It forces me to confront my aging body and embrace it with pride. It is a way of stepping into the next chapter of my life with courage and confidence.
As we age, we must either let go of societal expectations and embrace our unique experiences and perspectives or spend our time and energy trying to meet the impossible standards of beauty.
It is a new journey, and one that we must approach with openness and curiosity. With each new step, we can redefine what it means to be beautiful, and empower others to do the same.