Written by Patch columnist Marsia Mason
Roughly 20 years ago, I was sitting (dozing) in a Home and School meeting. I was doing my “good mommy” thing, but because I don’t like meetings of any kind, ever, my eyes were flitting around the assembled moms, taking in which mothers were spiffed up, who was wearing too much makeup, and who, like me, felt smug and accomplished because their belt matched their shoes.
As important world issues were discussed, I noticed we were all sporting the same hairdo—the chin-length bob. Some deviants had bangs, but most of us had side-parted dos that just grazed our chins. When we agreed with what was being said—and we tried to agree with everything that was being said—a wave of gently bobbing bobs filled the multi-purpose room with purpose.
I left that long-ago meeting determined to change my hairdo. I did not want to look like everyone else. I had a similar epiphany two days before graduating from high school when I cut my waist-length hair to a bowl-shaped pixie that had me looking like Mr. Spock, minus the ears and cool, form-fitting shirt. That had been such a disaster I’m surprised I was contemplating such a drastic change again. But we have all heard over and over again that change is good. So off I went to get a very short, very spiky hairdo that fit my short, spiky self for almost 20 years.
It was so easy to care for during the school years when I basically lived in my minivan. Just a little product fingered through my hair and I was good to go through four runs to the middle school, two trips to the Upper Elementary School, one Shop-Rite excursion, a dash to the dry cleaner and Wendy’s drive-thru, and a mad whirl of activity that culminated in a hot dinner for four at 6 p.m. Ta-dah! Not one hair on my head had moved all day!
Ever the contrarian, I decided three years ago, that I just had to have flowing tresses again. I had spent most of my pre-crew cut life twirling the same strand of hair and I wanted to twirl one more time before I reached the age when women are obligated to wear their hair short. (I have yet to determine who made up this rule, but every woman seems to know that past a certain age, you will be hunted down by a group of mad stylists who will forcibly cut your hair into something matronly and age-appropriate should you attempt to sport long hair.) Besides, my hair had been so easy for so long, it was time to put myself through the torturous process of growing it out.
Three years of straggly hair, childish barrettes, flat hair and cowlicks and I am now back where I started 20 years ago with a chin-length bob. Is this an achievement or is this hair hell?
Women have a tangled relationship with their hair. Only 7 percent of the female population in the U.S. admits to loving their hair. On any given day, the other 93 percent would like to divorce the tresses that distress us so much. According to a telephone poll of over a 1,000 women, 44 percent said their mood had been affected by a bad hair day and 26 percent have cried after getting a bad haircut. I have never cried over a bad haircut. Instead, my solution was to don a sombrero. For two years.
We all know breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but 45 percent of the women polled said hair maintenance was more important than eating breakfast. Really? Almost half of the women polled would rather mess with their hair than have a nice breakfast? Pass the Wheatena, sister. Another 35 percent claimed they would rather spend more time fussing with their hair than getting more sleep. Again, I would sooner wear a box over my head than miss any shuteye.
I decided to do my own unscientific poll. I asked several of my co-workers how they felt about their hair. Without exception, they all grimaced and groaned, then proceeded to either tug at a lock of their hair or perform the hair “pat-down” while bemoaning that it was too thin, too curly, too straight or too frizzy. My cohort in the Children’s Department, Ms. Robin, gives herself a buzz cut every few weeks, so I guess it’s safe to say that she, a) always wanted to be a barber, or b) just doesn’t want to be bothered with it.
Just to even things out, I queried a few men as well. When asked how they felt about their hair, most of them laughed at me. One said, “Fine, thank you,” and one man was bald and belligerent. (Okay, I probably shouldn’t have asked him.) Men just don’t have the same relationship with their hair because, unfortunately, a woman’s perceived value more often lies in how she looks. Whether we like to admit it or not, being a woman means being judged, firstly, by our exterior. Maybe that’s why we spend so much time obsessing about our hair. Here’s what Hillary Clinton had to say about her locks: “If I want to knock a story off the front page, I just change my hairstyle.”I’d like to say I’m happy with my hair, but I can’t, because I’m not. I miss the ease of short hair, the way it took 5 minutes to style and dry, the way it never fell in my eyes. But for now, I’m sticking with the bob because I know I could never, ever go through the heinous growing-out process again. If I cut it short again, it’s for keeps. My hair will be short forever. And at my age, forever has an expiration date.