Woman in the Mirror: A Reflection on Short Natural Hair

Like hair clogging a drain, the topic of tresses floods the media. I think I’ll put my two snips in anyway.

Speaking of snips, I got my haircut on Christmas eve. No biggie. I’ve been cutting my hair for at least a decade now. Barbers and stylists occasionally click the clippers on with hesitation, perhaps fear. I understand this. How can they know upon first seeing me that I’m NOT one of those women who will tell you to “chop it all off,” only to gasp at the mirror when it’s over, literally cry, and say, “What have you done??? I didn’t mean for you to cut it all off.”

To put my stylists and barbers at ease, I try to use visual representations of what I want. I point to another customer. Flash a magazine photo. Pull out an old image of myself.

This time, despite making a mental note, I forgot to tote an issue of Essence in which women are dawning my dream cut. I had to settle for talking the stylist through the process. I sat in the chair of the already sour looking stylist in a salon that shall remain nameless. I told her, “Cut it all off.” She asked to start off with a #4 (clipper size). I said, “You could probably go down to a 2 or 1. I think the previous stylist used a #1.”

She paused. “A #1 is like a man.”

I nodded.

“Why you wanna do that?”

“That’s how I usually get it.”

Silence. In some reflective surface in the salon I caught a glimpse of the face she gave to a coworker.

At that moment I had to consciously process the situation. Could I really be receiving such poor customer service?

I got my ears lowered. She got an earful. Every woman in the salon commented on how great the cut looked, or bragged about how they used to wear their hair shaved, or how their daughter wears her hair cut even closer than mine.

I know it’s not mainstream for women to wear such short hair, but shame on anyone who calls themselves a stylist and is unaware that many women do, including celebrities famously known for their beauty.

Hair has been as sensitive and controversial an issue as skin color. The sensitivity and controversy have roots embedded deep in patriarchy and colonialism, spreading across continents, races, and generations. Several people have talked about the tension caused by tresses, from Tyra Banks to Chris Rock. Maybe someday I will compose an in-depth piece on attitudes about hair. For now, I just want to share the following.

I had relaxed hair until midway through high school. As a child, I prayed for long, straight, “pretty” hair that cascaded down my back. I had what many black people consider long hair, yet I still wore towels, shirts, or Mardi Gras beads on my head to know the feeling of longer hair. Perms burned me to tears.

When I went all natural at fifteen, I wanted to immerse myself in the natural black hair community (if there is such a thing). I wanted to tell all people to give up trying to conform to the Eurocentric standard of beauty. I had a big, Angela Davis fro. I wore twists, afro puffs, plaits, cornrows, girly hair accessories, and anything that allowed me to play in my wonderful, soft mass of hair.

Now, my hair must be measured in millimeters. It’s my favorite style to date, except for maybe the mohawk. I’m satisfied enough with my hair that I don’t care what styles other women wear. I do hope that more women experience freedom and love when they think about their hair rather than limitations and pain.

I leave this topic, for now, with quotes from Joan Juliet Buck via the Poetical Quotidian on Paul W.H. Kan’s website.

“Hair is time.
Women with short hair always look as if they have somewhere else to go. Women with long hair tend to look as if they belong where they are, especially in California. Short hair takes a short time. Long hair takes a long time. Long hair moves faster than short hair. Long hair tells men that you are all woman, or a real woman, or at the very least a girl. Short hair always makes them wonder…”

“With short hair you suddenly dislike the month of March, when the wind blows down the back of your neck. With short hair you begin to crave pearl necklaces, long earrings, and a variety of sunglasses. And you brush your teeth more often. Short hair removes obvious femininity and replaces it with style…”

“You can’t hide behind short hair. Your nape is exposed…”

“You may look a little androgynous, a little unfinished, a little bare…”

“People who used to look straight at you will love you in profile. Short hair makes others think you have good bones, determination, and an agenda. The shape of your skull is commented on, so are its contents. They can pick you out in a crowd, and you can be recognized from behind, which can be good or bad. But your face is no longer a flat screen surrounded by a curtain: the world sees you in three dimensions.
Chase to the cut.”

I love that.

Peace and Love from Sarah L. Webb

What’s in your hand?

7 thoughts on “Woman in the Mirror: A Reflection on Short Natural Hair

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  3. Love the quotes!
    As someone that has lived with hair about a millimeter short for over a decade, this post spoke to me. From male barbers not wanting to cut too “low” because how desire my hair to be as short or shorter than their own, to white men going “Oh WOW, your HOT” to fighting with my Mother on the missing length of my hair, to my life partner falling first in love with my lack of hair. I’ve embraced my crown and glory and have never looked back.

    Thanks for sharing!
    CJ recently posted..Weekly Copy Writing Special! Thursday 1/24-Thursday 1/31My Profile

    • Thanks for the comment, CJ. Glad to know I’m not the only one who’s dealt with resistance. Like you, I think it’s worth it. I just love my short hair too much to let people’s strange reactions force me to wear it any other way.

  4. Pingback: I Think I Need a Barber But This As A Man's World | S. L. Writes

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