Yesterday, it arrived, a picture of me with very short hair. My friend
is cleaning out her Mom’s house and she sent it to me, this picture. I remember that bike, a source of much joy as I roamed where ever I wanted, and the jeans….I”ll never fit into those puppies again. And of course, I remember that awful haircut. Ugh…I look like a boy.
Sunday, I went to a sermon by a historian on feminism. I couldn’t help thinking with the arrival of both of these items into my universe, that for for me, ironically, feminism symbolically boiled down to my hair.
Feminism is defined online by Merriam Webster as the belief that women and men should have equal rights and opportunities. The sermon discussed the the myths of Feminism. Feminists as angry, bra burning, and a group exclusive to women. I do not fit into that mythology. But I do believe we women should have the right to grow our hair out.
I grew up in an Italian family with some old world constructs about the role of women. At about thirty, I decided I was not going to stay in that role and as a symbol of it, grew my hair out.
For years I had wanted to grow my hair out, but as soon as it looked like it might actually reach below my chin, I’d go to the hair dresser, ask for a trim, and she would say after 8 years of knowing me, “You’ll never grow your hair out.” I was trapped in a story about my hair, that began when I was nine.
It went like this, my hair was shoulder length one day. I loved it. I told my Aunt, my second mother, how one day, I would work in an office and have shoulder-length hair, “ok,” she said. And I practiced for my fourth grade picture where my hair is shoulder length. And then, one day, something happened. It was the early 70s and I think pixies were in style.
My mother took me to our hairdresser for a hair cut. I went to the chair, and the beautician asked my Mother, “how do you want this cut?”
“Short,” she said. “He (meaning my father) wants it all off.”
In my early thirties, somewhere between the hair dresser’s comment and my self-reflection, I made the click between my behavior and the words I heard as an over-pleasing young child. I grew my hair out 25 years ago, for the most part, it has remained, long or longish. Betraying a construct isn’t easy, but in the end, loyalty to something that binds your hair, or your soul, isn’t balanced. So, I guess, I became a feminist.
I recently asked my husband, as I’m aging now, when he thought I should get my hair cut real short again so I don’t look witchy? “when your 90” he said. He knows the story, of course, and he too, is a feminist.