Friday, October 22, 2010

A Wild Hair

At this moment, I'm embroiled in an intense debate...with myself. These are the worst kinds of debates to be involved in, really, because THERE'S NO WAY TO WIN! It's like arm wrestling with yourself.

This debate is about a haircut.

There was a time in my life (read: most of the time) when I would go out and get all kinds of crazy haircuts on a whim. In desperate need of a change? Get a haircut! And I've had them all. Spikey, long, bangs, no bangs, long in the front and spikey in the back, bob with bangs, bob with no bangs, red, black, red and black AT THE SAME TIME, blonde (oof--MISTAKE), buzzed completely off, and every stop on the growing out train between. I just get a thrill out of doing shit to my hair, and I'm a big fan of the big change. When I was a senior in high school, I had long hair. The dress I bought for prom was a short black fringed number--think flapper. I saw a bob-with-bangs wig while shopping, and when my mother refused to buy it for me to go with the dress, I decided to cut my hair that way instead. Not one to ruin a perfectly good reveal, I got the cut the day of prom so that the haircut and the dress were seen as a combo package. In fact, when one of my friends passed me while I was getting gas on my way to meet up for pre-prom activities, I DUCKED BEHIND MY CAR. Pumping gas into your 1982 Ford F-150 pickup truck is no way to make an entrance.

I have a hair appointment on Saturday. I've rounded up a couple of cuts I like and I'm kind of excited. I'm excited but nervous, and here's where the debate comes in. I'M AFRAID OF WHAT MY BOYFRIEND WILL THINK. I tried to come up with all kinds of lead-ins to that statement so that I could go ahead and excuse myself for being so lame right up front, but then I just took a deep breath and put it out there. I know. It's AWFUL. It's MY HAIR and I can DO WHATEVER I WANT WITH IT. I'm an INDEPENDENT LADY, DAMMIT. I am, however, reminded of the time in college when I told my then boyfriend that I was thinking about buzzing all my hair off. His response was a very strong and emphatic, "NO!" and I felt like I was facing the possibility of a breakup over a haircut. I didn't get the buzzcut. It didn't seem worth it.

Not that I think my now boyfriend would break up with me over a haircut. I think he's better than that. But he still might not like it, and this can cause a very strong reaction in men. As much as they try, they tend to still be relatively superficial creatures. They can love you and think you're great and still feel the need to be totally upset if they don't like everything about the way you look. Not that all have the same preferences. Not all men need a girl to wear makeup all the time. Not all men need a girl who dresses up. But if you do something to your appearance they don't like, they'll get all hung up on it. It's not that women don't also have preferences about the way their men look--we do! But a woman can sit right in front of her big fat husband and say, "I DON'T FIND FAT MEN ATTRACTIVE!" and he will simply think she's referencing some other fat guy. If a woman's man does something to his appearance she doesn't like, odds are really good that she'll just let it go. It won't have any long-term bearing on the relationship. She'll note all the other reasons she loves him and move on.

I kind of hate myself for all that gender stereotyping I just did.

The message is everywhere, and it's subtle. "Ladies! Change your appearance even a hair (haha!) from his preferences and suddenly he won't be quite so satisfied with you!In fact, he will still be telling his next girlfriend about that time you got a bad haircut and it made him not like you so much three years after you broke up!"

I don't want to talk about the biological imperative argument ("We're driven by the instinct to mate with the prettiest lady! Get over it!"), and I don't want to hear that tired line about how people-have-preferences-and-you-need-to-get-over-it-you're-probably-just-pissed-because-you're-ugly, either. I also am not going to defend the whole, "It's my body and I'll do what I want, so FUCK YOU, BOYFRIEND!" argument. I want to look nice for my boyfriend. This isn't something I begrudge him. But I want to look nice for my boyfriend while still being able to be myself, and this can be an extremely land-miney kind of territory when you're a girl. I got an "over my dead body!" look when I mentioned that I MIGHT want to get a mullet. A cool, Joan-Jetty kind of 80s rocker mullet. I'm not talking Billy Ray Cyrus or anything. But I didn't really want the mullet anyway, so I'm happy to let it pass.

I could run the pictures of the haircuts I'm considering past him and get his opinion, but this takes some of the fun out of it for me. Remember, I'm a big fan of the reveal. So, here I am, about to get a haircut (a haircut, not a complete facial reconstruction or a new job in another state), and I'm FREAKING OUT because it might completely destroy my relationship!

I do tend to overreact to things just a little, but I think there's a valid argument in there somewhere. Or maybe not.

Thing is, no haircut is worth completely destroying a relationship. That's the real point in all of this. All relationships walk that fine line between feeling completely free to be yourself and being concerned with the feelings of another person. And, while I might not get how one could have such strong feelings about one's love's haircut, I know that some people do have very strong feelings about this. I want to respect that (actually, I don't really want to respect that--I want to say it's ridiculous--but I'm TRYING to be UNDERSTANDING), but I also just want to go get the damn haircut! I feel at this point like I should mention that this really is about a haircut. It's not a metaphor for some other possible relationship issue.

Or maybe it is. It's representative of how even the easiest of loves can be difficult to navigate when we start pitting our individual preferences against the concerns of our lover. We tell the people that we love that we just want them to be themselves, and this is great when they're being awesome. But throw in one decision we don't like (like a bad haircut or liking Katy Perry), and we're suddenly not so sure we want to encourage such individuality. And while I believe that in most situations it's best to put the concerns of my lover on par with my own concerns (and then let them fight to the death in a cage match--just kidding!), this time I think I will simply go get the freaking haircut and stop arguing with myself (and my boyfriend's reaction in my head) about it.

It's just a haircut, after all! How upsetting could it possibly be?

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