What I Learned From Growing My Hair Out

Here’s what I know from doing a reverse Beyonce.
Publish date:
August 19, 2013
Beyonce, short hair, long hair

Now that people like Beyonce and Coco Rocha have taken the plunge and cut their hair off, it seems like every other news outlet is running a story on the pros and cons of going short. So I’d like to offer all would-be Beys some short-haired wisdom, from the perspective of someone who’s been there and had the buzz cut:

It’s just hair.

For the first 22 years of my life, I had short hair. Short short hair. RiRi circa Rated R short; Linda Evangelista in a Steven Meisel picture short. Sadly, I look like neither Rihanna or Linda Evangelista, which meant I was constantly mistaken for a boy if I was working my androgynous (read: jeans and this oversized denim shirt are the only clean things in my room) look.

But I loved my pixie cut, in all its variations of “short” and “shorter” -- no brushing, no fuss, and barring an ill-advised experimental period with hair wax, I didn’t spend anything on fancy products.

These days, I wake up on some mornings suffocating in a pillow of my own hair. (Anyone else get this?) I brush my hair before I shower, and even then I still fish out Cousin It-sized hairballs from the shower drain. And whatever you do, don’t look too closely at the cream carpet in my room. Let’s just say: It ain’t pretty.

So what have I learned from my journey between opposite ends of the hair spectrum? If my highly subjective experience is anything to go by, people will treat you differently. When I had short hair, women admired my courage, as if sitting in a hairdresser’s chair was comparable to, say, volunteering for the Peace Corps (“Oh my god, I could never do that...”).

Men, on the other hand, were weirdly fascinated. They’d treat me like an exotic creature from the wrong side of the gender tracks: “Oh my god, what an anomaly! A woman who doesn’t give two craps about having long hair! She must be a lesbian, or a teenage runaway; maybe an alien.”

Guys would hit on me with lines like, “I don’t usually like girls with short hair, but...” Or even better: “You’d be prettier with long hair.” Looks like someone made it to Chapter 2 of "The Game"! Sometimes the attention manifested itself in creepier ways: When I had part of my head shaved, male strangers would try to touch my hair. Nice.

Don’t get me wrong -- some of the attention (not of the creepy touch-my-hair kind) was flattering. It’s always an ego boost when people think that having five inches less hair than most girls somehow makes you brave or edgy. But sometimes, I still wanted to say: “Look, I cut my hair short because I’m really lazy and hate washing my hair. This isn’t some grand referendum on my personality. And no offence, weird guy down the road staring at my hair (see picture), but I really don’t want to talk to you.”

Either way, my lack of long, luscious lady locks became a thing, something I’d be defined by as soon as I walked into a bar. And don’t even get me started on the number of shop assistants who told me that I’d need to wear more dresses to “compensate” for my apparently less womanly hairdo.

So why did I grow it out? Out of the same laziness that made me keep it short. I went traveling and couldn’t be bothered to have it trimmed abroad. Five months in, I suddenly realised, oh, I can put my hair in a little ponytail now. I liked the ponytail; it was cute.

Intrigued, I decided to take it as far as it could go. Let’s crank this up to 11, hair follicles! Two years on, I’m now the proud owner of boob-length hair. (Seriously, if anybody knows of a classy way to describe hair long enough to cover your nipples -- message me.)

Once my hair grew to my shoulders, friends starting asking me things like, “Does it feel different? Do you feel girlier?” One person said, approvingly, “You look like a real woman now.” Um, I’ve always been a real woman; what did you think I was before?

Long or short hair, I never felt differently on the inside. And barring all the theoretically cute things I can now do with my long hair (if you haven’t noticed by now, I am extremely lazy, so that braided Khaleesi up-do is never going to happen), I dress pretty much exactly the same.

Nevertheless, people tend to assume that making any kind of decision about your hair has to mean something: something about your femininity, your womanhood, even your sexuality or relationship status. Newsflash! It doesn’t.

In my case, the sheer novelty of having long hair sealed the deal for me -- even if it does mean I have to vacuum a hell of a lot more than I used to. Plus, whipping your hair back and forth in a ponytail is one of the best ways to clear a dancefloor for you and your friends. (Pro tip: Do not do this for four hours straight at a music festival, you will give yourself mild whiplash.)

So if you’re thinking of getting short hair, here’s my advice: do it for yourself, and not for anyone else. People might judge, mock, make unwanted Felicity references -- whatever. Your haircut doesn’t have to say anything about who you are as a person, unless you want it to. If you don’t like it? It grows out.

Life is short and you only get a finite number of times to try as many things as you can: Cutting your hair isn’t on par with, say, bungee jumping or petting a lion cub, but anything that adds to the sum total of your experience on earth can only be a good thing, right?

And just for the record, Beyonce: Getting extensions in a week after you cut your hair is totally cheating.