Feature: "It's Only Hair," Part Two

Part One

Story Time -

When I was growing up I was quite the Tom-Boy. I played hard on the playground with the boys, dressed in jeans and t-shirts... I hated dresses! My mother even had to bribe me with jewelry to get me into a dress for photos... but that's another story. However, I wasn't so Tom-Boy that I refused to get my ears pierced, which they were.

Anyway, I was in first grade and I decided to cut my hair into that classic 90's bowl cut. It just seemed like a completely normal thing to do and I was fortunate enough to have a mother who gave me my freedom to do so. One afternoon my mom and I went to an arcade (remember, this is the 90's) to pick up my older brother who was there with his friend. While I stood in the lobby holding the friend's coat a young boy came up to me and exclaimed incredulously:
Your dad let you get both your ears pierced?!
Before running off. I was shocked because, um, obviously he would let me get both my ears pierced because I would look silly otherwise.

It wasn't until I became an adult and this memory hit me that I realized the boy had thought I was just another boy. He was blown away because my father let his "son" get both his ears pierced, which was not a popular thing back then. To me I was just a girl comfortable in her skin. To him I was a boy with both ears pierced. Kids are funny.

Growing up I remember my parents always encouraging me to put my long hair in a pony tail "to show off my face," but when I got older I heard "why do you always wear your hair up?" I'm not quite sure when the transition happened, but I remember the battle for my hair quite plainly.

Beginning in the second half of high school I became quite the adventurer with my hair, much to my mother's dismay. I've had brown, red, and blond hair. I've had dreadlocks and a perm. This is my second pixie.



My mantra (and defense to my mom) was simply, "It's only hair." How greatly that truth has changed this last year. There are quite a few women in my life who have gone the way of "the big cut" - here is a continuation of their story:

Shawn

Shawn

Occupation:
Membership Marketing Coordinator
Why did you cut your hair?
 I came out of a marriage where my husband would not allow me to cut my hair short nor did he ever compliment me. I went through a complete life change and needed to feel empowered again.
How long was it before?
Shoulder length
How does your short hair make you feel?
It makes me feel bold, empowered, energized. Short hair represents my rebellion against society's norm. As women we are expected to have long hair.
Are you treated differently by the public? How?
I get tons of compliments all the time from men and women both. Men find it sexy on me and women tell me how they wish they could be brave and cut their hair off. Young children have commented I have a "boy's hair."
How do you view yourself with short hair?
A trend setter. My self-confidence has come back and I feel sexy. I can wear my hair wild or tame depending on my mood. 

In Shawn's own words:
Live outside the box. Who has the right to tell us how to wear our hair? It's hair. Live a little on the wild side and shine!
Shawn and I met while I was training prospective foster parents in Arizona. She was a "student" earning her license in hopes of one day adopting a child - it was such an honor to work with Shawn and all the experience, wisdom, and love she has to offer this world. I'm happy to say she successfully adopted a little girl a few years ago making her family complete.

Jessica
Jessica
Occupation:
Outside Sales Engineer for a Mechanical Representative - I graduated with a Bachelor degree in Construction Management with an emphasis in Mechanical Engineering. I work with local Engineers designing HVAC equipment systems for commercial building (i.e. Jails, Government Buildings, Apartments, High Rises, Schools, Warehouses, etc.) The sales aspect is selling to my customers who are generally local mechanical contractors.
Why did you cut your hair?
I cut my hair in 2009 after having long hair my entire life. I was an athlete most of my life and because of this I would tie my hair up on a regular basis. Besides having straight and, what I considered, "boring hair" I had recently moved out of my home state of Oregon down to California. Looking back now I think a large part of cutting my hair was a statement about me finally being who I am and not pretending to be someone I wasn't. 
Growing up where I was surrounded by "girly girls" with long and beautiful hair was always a bit intimidating and it almost felt like I had to keep my hair long to keep up with the "normal" look. I had never been in my own skin and was ready for a change. I felt like I was in a place where I wouldn't be judged because my look wasn't normal. So I did it, and let me tell you what, I cried for hours after cutting it; wishing I had never done it. I love me short hair now.
How long was it before?
My hair was midway down my back prior to cutting it.
How does your short hair make you feel?
I love my short hair. It makes me happy. I have finally grown into the person I always was and I don't have to hide behind something I'm not. I like that I can have five hair styles in one cut - I have to give my wife, who is a wonderful hair stylist, props for that. 
Are you treated differently by the public? How?
When I first cut my hair there were many situations where I was called "Sir," which still happens to this day, but not as often. I honestly think that the world has become more open to the fact that it's okay for a woman to have short hair, and it doesn't mean they are some sort of "bull dyke." However, I am also a bit naive because I live on the west coast, whereas when I've been to the middle parts of the United States I have encountered much worse situations. 
One example: I was on a work trip in Missouri and I hadn't eaten so I went down the street from my hotel to a local restaurant. I was sitting by myself finishing up my meal when a couple of men came walking into the restaurant and sat down in the bar area. I could see them out of the corner of my eye staring at me and the entire situation didn't feel right. So I asked for my check and as I was signing the bill I heard a loud "DYKE!" shouted from the guys sitting at the bar. At this point I got up and started walking to the front entrance. I decided to call my friend who was waiting at the airport to pick up my wife who was flying back from her work trip. I instantly felt I needed to have someone on the phone with me just in case a situation arose. Next thing you know, I turned around the same two men were chasing after me and yelling offensive gay slurs at me. I started running and thankfully made it all the way back to my hotel. This was a huge reality check for me that not all the places in the world are as open to short hair.
On average, I feel like I am treated mostly normal by women when they see my short hair. It doesn't generally seem to be an issue, at least that I recognize. More often than not, women do not react to the length of my hair in the same way that men do. I'm not sure if it's because men are intimidated by a woman with short hair or if there are higher social expectations by men for women to wear their hair long, but the reaction inference between the sexes is noticeable. 
How do you view yourself with short hair?
I view myself as confident, edgy, and fun with short hair. I also can be self-conscious at times and very nervous about having a certain look with my hair being worn short, especially in conservative environments. People seem very comfortable assuming who I am in my sexuality based on the style that I wear my hair, making me feel exposed.

In Jessica's own words:
For the most part, having short hair is wonderful; it's freeing and brave. I recommend to all ladies taking the plunge and shearing the length at some point in their lives!

I have known Jessica since I was in elementary school. We were friends, but also competitors. Mostly in basketball. I'm thankful for Facebook's way of connecting people - it's allowed me the great honor in watching Jessica and her family grow!