"It's undeniably daring to have short hair: a simultaneous refusal to be 'pretty' and a provocation for others to see you as so." - Alice Gregory in her New York Times article "The Implications of Very Short Hair"
I've never had great hair. It's been adequate, and sometimes better than adequate, at various times over the years. But more often than not, it's just been average: straight and resistant to attempts to curl it, thin (though not, save some postpartum breakage, thinning) and fine, ever-darkening dishwater blonde once I lost the butter color of my early childhood. I used to joke that I befriended women who had the hair I always dreamed of having - thick, dark brown, and wavy or curly - and a quick look at pictures of me with girlfriends in college or my bridesmaids confirms the truth behind the humor.
My father used to braid it every morning, before elementary school, in elaborate configurations based on what he learned for those long-ago Boy Scout macrame badges, but once I was in charge of styling it I stuck with simple, tried-and-true methods: a ponytail or pulled-through ponytail, a side barrette, a messy bun. I don't know if it was having a hippie for a mom or my lack of patience or my hair's lackluster qualities, but I never learned much more than the basics.
I had a stacked a-line bob for most of my twenties which suited me then, but otherwise I've had dozens of styles over the years and never really felt I found a haircut that suited my sensibilities. Over the past few years, I felt increasingly that my hair and my clothes were a mismatch - from the neck down, I looked totally pulled together, but from the neck up I was a mess. I even stopped wearing some of my favorite skirts and dresses because they seemed so incongruous with my sad little ponytails and stringy Kurt Cobain locks (which I managed to sport even with squeaky clean tresses).
I first pinned a picture of Ginnifer Godwin's enviable pixie cut over 4 years ago, according to Pinterest's handy-dandy dating system. Over the next three years, I had pinned almost a dozen other pixie styles and then created a secret pixie board to stop overwhelming followers, taken screenshots of dozens of pictures from Instagram, and talked to my hairstylist about the idea of going super short more than a few times.
Contrary to what Alice Gregory stated in her recent NYTimes piece, the reason I wanted to go ultra-short was that I wanted to reclaim feeling "pretty." The style I pictured was "1950s Paris," though I don't know exactly where I came up with that label; Jean Seberg in "Breathless" and Michelle Williams' beautiful short cut were the closest to what I had in mind. I wanted to look classic, sleek, and - yes - feminine. I didn't know what the cut would look like on me, and I was terrified it would backfire, but my motivation for the cut was the opposite of "daring" and "provocative" - it stemmed from a desire to feel like a woman, not a tired, style-less mom.
I'll admit that I had one mental hurdle to overcome before I took the plunge and chopped my hair: I got my ears pierced (well, re-pierced, decades after a terrible Claire's experience). In retrospect, I don't think it was something I needed to do at all - but it felt a bit like a security blanket to soften the blow of such a significant change. Dangly earrings weren't exactly a ponytail replacement, but they felt safer than baring it all.
I've tweaked the cut a bit over the past 9 months - but this is a style that's here to stay for quite a while. I am excited to get dressed in the morning again and I make time for makeup and accessories in a way that I hadn't in a long time. Is it compensation for wanting to balance out the androgyny? Maybe - but I think it's more that I'm honing in on a more specific, complete style now that I am not dragged down by my mediocre hair. And since I've never been catcalled on the street or hit on in a bar in my life no matter what length my hair was, I haven't noticed much of a change post-chop - except that I'm holding my head a lot higher these days.