To Bob or Not to Bob? On Chopping Off my Hair

Juste-Aurèle_Meissonnier_-_Design_of_Scissors_and_Cane_Knob_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Last week, after two long years of having hair so long I practically forgot what it was like not to constantly be somewhat Pre-Raphaelite, I chopped off my hair into what we can call a long bob.

It was a terrifying event. I woke up one morning about three weeks ago and suddenly went from “I will keep my hair long through the rest of my youth” to deciding that I wanted to bob my hair. I declared my intentions, Beauty Editor Rory and my very fashion-forward grandmother encouraged me, I looked at pictures online, and I insisted that that was what I was going to do.

Then I looked in the mirror on a very good hair day, saw my long hair, and promptly lost my resolve.

To bob or not to bob?*

I went back and forth for two weeks, but I kept coming to the same conclusion: to bob. Hair is hair, and hair grows quickly. Hair length doesn’t define our femininity, and our partners certainly don’t love us any less for having shorter hair (thank you, stereotypes). I didn’t feel like I had much to lose, and the desire kept pushing me forward.

I have very thick hair that tends to wave and voluminously frizz, no matter what I do to it. (The waves and volume, I love, but I could do without any of the frizz.) I consequently had decided that the only way to go was to keep it long. I had, in the past, layered it and had some volume removed, but once my hair passed my collar bones, it triangulated and became impossible to leave down as is.

Once my hair got much longer, it stopped being frizzy, but then it became much heavier, and leaving it down became uncomfortable in a different way. It would get stuck on things (how many times did I wake up in the middle of the night because I’d got stuck on and yanked my own hair?) and it would get in the way.

I consequently ended up braiding it every. single. day. and I got really sick of it. My grandmother started shaking her head at me, insisting that I looked like a nineteenth century peasant. Which you know – classism aside, okay. I aspired to be Laura Ingalls Wilder as a child… at least for a while. But I never really saw her as my aesthetic fashion icon.

In the end, I went for it. I had a dream that I chopped off my hair, and ignoring the dream symbolism that says cutting off hair means impending death, I decided that it meant that my subconscious was on my side. I called my hairdresser when I woke up and that was that.

I thought I’d feel greater emotion as my hair fell to the ground – I thought that at the very least, I’d feel sad. That I’d feel regret and start counting the days until my hair would grow out again. But I didn’t. All I felt was relieved lightness.

I felt better. I felt less frumpy. I even felt younger. (Not really a big deal in your mid-twenties, but welcome nonetheless.)

So often we hear that cutting off your hair is momentous, that it’s a moment of rebirth or rebranding. And I think it can be in a way that doesn’t really fit with what we’re told. Pop culture stereotypes like to tell us that women cut their hair off in the aftermath of break-ups or because they’re new mothers or because they’ve hit fifty and aren’t socially allowed to have long hair anymore. It’s full of nonsense of the sort, and really, I think the only reason a woman should ever do anything regarding her looks is because of how she feels about it.

To me, cutting off my hair was a way of getting back to myself. Because it’s supposedly ultra-feminine and because I have such thick hair, I always kind of felt like I ought to have super long hair. I unabashedly love my femininity and I kind of vainly think my hair is a gift, but I never had the patience to blow dry or style it – so I never really felt it live up to its potential unless it was done by someone else. (Confession: whenever I’d need to have my hair look nice and want to leave it’d down, I’d have Rory go at it with her ghd iron and style it.)

With my hair short, I can wash it, apply a few products, and then just let it do its thing. I don’t need to fuss over it, and now I can actually enjoy my hair rather than just get it out of the way. I can own it now, and that I feel makes me look and feel more confident and yes, even more feminine. (No, we don’t ever need to do things to look more feminine, but let’s stop pretending that owning our femininity is a bad, patriarchal thing to do.)

It’s been over a week now since I cut my hair, and I haven’t regretted it for a second. Not once have I looked in the mirror and wished my hair was back. Not once have I felt like crying for my loss. (What was it that made us cry after haircuts as children?)

If anything, I’ve decided that I want to keep my hair like this. I had a bit of the thickness taken out as I got it cut this time, and as a result, my hair gets to wave and be voluminous without poofing into a frizzy triangle (the main reason why my hairdresser refused to make my bob any shorter).

I love it and feel like I get to own my hair again instead of hiding it into a braid.

Definitely to bob.

*I’m an academic-in-training with degrees in English lit – Hamlet jokes are par for the course.

Featured image, Design of Scissors and Cane Knob, is a 1748 illustration by Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier. (Wikimedia Commons.)