"Gertrude had always looked like the dear aunt, and now with her topknot shorn away she did not look like anyone but herself." --Bravig Imbs
So I cut my hair off, again. It's shockingly short, about an inch and a half at its longest point, which is on top. And it's red, again. The friends I have now are surprised--they didn't see this coming. I explain that the blond, swingy bob cut isn't how I usually look, that I've actually had short hair most of my life and only grown it out a few times, and even then, never past my shoulders. I'm really a short-haired person. This is the real me. I say it, but I don't believe it now anymore than I did all the other times I cut my hair off and had to explain to my current group of friends about "the real me."
I cut it because my building has very weak circuits and my blowdryer kept knocking the power off. I cut it because I teach an early class this quarter and this requires no fixing at all. I cut it because I lost about twenty pounds last year and I promised myself that when I got my cheekbones back (sharper, stronger, bolder now, because I'm older) I could pull it off. I cut it because I didn't want to look preppy, or upwardly-mobile. I cut it because I wanted more queer visibility, because it seemed important that I not acquiesce to the tyranny of socially-normative standards of white female beauty (watch for women with short hair on tv tonight. You will not see one, unless she is an old woman in a posture-pedic bed commercial, or a crying contestant on a rerun of last season's America's Next Top Model.)
I cut it because this is the "real me," because it is my fate and my destiny to not be a pretty girl with a swingy blond bob. And if I didn't have to prep for class now, I would give in to the huge, nauseating, introspective confessional narrative welling up in my chest right now. I would settle into my desk chair and let this post really happen. I would unpack that super-melodramatic statement and think through why, having cut my hair off of my own volition, (and actually looking pretty smokin' in this cut) I feel so sorry for myself. Not regretful that I did it, but put upon that I had to.
I would tell you about how much I loved Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins, and how I refused to see The Sound of Music because she had short hair; how I begged and begged my mother to grow her hair out (she didn't); how she cut my hair off when I was about five because I used to knot it while I sucked my thumb (in my head I was making beautiful trees with the strands of hair, like the ones in the Lego playset I got to play with when I visited my grandma's house); how I cried because now I looked like one of the Blockheads in Gumby and Pokey; how I cut my hair off in early high school because I thought it reflected my perkiness and how not one single boy ever asked me out, a trend which contined until the end of my first year of college when, my perkiness broken, my hair almost chin length, I finally got a boyfriend; how I grew it and grew it and grew it until the beginning of my junior year, when I got married; how I cut it off again almost immediately after the wedding and wore it short until just before we got divorced.
But I won't. Class is in a couple of hours and though I've read, I haven't got a lesson plan ready and I've got a steady stream of students starting to drop by with various excuses as to why they don't have their papers for class tonight.
So, I cut my hair. It's short. It's red, (because unless you have enough hairs to highlight some of them, you can't really be blond, only all-over treacly yellow which I won't do.) I've already had one colleague call me butch, and another one call me Sinead O'Connor. I'm not sore about that; they were just being fond and doing the office banter thing. What really gets to me is my own irrational despair, indicative of something really deep and internalized--is it misogyny? is it homophobia? is it me-ophobia?--a belief that if you can't swing your hair while you walk down the hall, or toss it with your hands while you talk, or tie it effortlessly into a ponytail using the scrunchy you keep around the gear shift knob of your rabbit convertible, you're not really a woman.