My Hair Is Not Community Property, So Don't Tell Me I'm Not "Allowed" to Cut It

I don't understand why so many women seem to regard my hair as community property, about which they are entitled to make decisions.
Publish date:
April 10, 2014
short hair, long hair, long hair don't care

I have pretty good hair, as mainstream society measures these things. While it isn't blonde, it's really thick; it's curly enough to have personality without managers thinking it's "unruly" and all that BS that gets thrown at women (most usually, black women) with kinky curly hair in a professional setting. I also have an amazing stylist, who colors and cuts it on a regular enough basis for my hair to look deliberate without me doing a whole lot to it.

I'm not sitting here bragging just to feel good about myself -- I hit a good genetic combo and I found a really good professional (and can usually afford her) and so I actually have very little to do with my hair looking awesome.

(Man, Kat earns her money, OK?)

Perhaps if I had struggled more with my hair, I would understand why so many women (most often white women, in my personal experience) seem to regard my hair as community property, about which they are entitled to make decisions.

I think a lot of the "Long hair, don't care" crowd can relate to hearing, "You aren't allowed to cut your hair!" every time they've contemplated picking up (or having someone else pick up) the hair shears. Long hair is this fetishized indicator of beauty that turns regular rational folks into body fascists, even when they're usually down with personal autonomy.

And it's meant to be a compliment! I posted a picture of a short hair cut that I am contemplating. A woman I know commented that I shouldn't cut my hair because it's beautiful and I responded that it will be beautiful short, too. She felt hurt, I think, that her compliment was rejected -- and I felt frustrated that people think they get to tell me what to do with my own personal head of hair and, at the same time, guilty for hurting her feelings. It's a lose-lose situation, and compliments should just not be that fraught.

I'm also frustrated that people -- strangers -- try to touch my hair.

I'm a person with friendly resting face and a head full of often crayon-colored hair. And the longer it gets, the more often strangers reach out to touch my hair without permission.

It's invasive. Because our bodies don't belong to other people -- and that includes our hair.

There's a certain irony here. In high school, I had a couple of friends with really long and straight hair. It was always beautiful and they always had friends braiding it or brushing it for them. No one wanted to try that with my own tangled mess, and I was envious of the ease with which other people tended to their hair.

And now I just want people to back off unless specifically invited or trusted.

That's one notable difference, I guess, between 15 years old and 36 years old -- boundaries, I have them now.

There's a certain intimacy that comes with tending to each other's hair. And maybe this sense of communal ownership and entitlement has roots in that -- it's a way for women to feel connected to each other, maybe, based on all of that high-school hair braiding. But as with other kinds of intimacy, it's really best when we get to choose that for ourselves.

I used to joke that marriage was not for me because I could barely pick a hair color for more than six months. All these years later, I'm happy with Ed and my hair has been varying shades of blue for even longer than I've been married. So in some ways, yes, I think I've settled down a lot. (Though I haven't settled, if that makes sense.)

But I'm still interested in trying new things with my hair, especially new things that keep it out of my face. And some people seem to fear that sort of change -- what if my hair gets messed up?

Well, hair grows. So if my hair looks tragic in a short style, I'll get Kat to do something else with it and I'll grow it back out again. I'll experiment with color. I'll maybe learn to do more things with it than pull it back in a bun, which is literally all I do with it now that it's long enough to be pulled back in a bun.

I want to be clear -- I think it's fine to prefer someone with long hair and even to tell them so. Everyone does get to have an opinion and if I were to post, "Hey, I'm thinking of cutting my hair, what do you think?" then I'd totally expect some people who just don't like short hair to chime in. Valid.

But if you tell me I'm not allowed, we're going to run into problems.

My haircut appointment is coming up fast. I'm cutting off all my hair. It's going to be awesome. And if you've got any short haircuts you love, I would love to see them in comments!