On Femininity and Long Hair

I have never been a girlie girl. As a young child, I was much more content to play soccer or read books than to ever play dolls or jump rope. I played Star Wars on the playground and lobbied to be Han Solo rather than Leia whenever the boys tried to typecast me. My best friend in elementary school was a little boy and I’ve always gravitated more to “boyish” pursuits with one exception. I danced ballet for 15 years beginning when I was three years old.

My hair though, has always been short. When I was young I had several embarrassing incidents wherein I was mistaken for a little boy. These were very humiliating for me, but at the time, I didn’t really stop and consider why that was. I was only eight; I had comics to read and Star Trek to watch. Introspection wasn’t on my “To Do” list.

winonaryderAll of my life, I avoided pink, anything glittery anything that lumped me in with the girls. It wouldn’t be until I was 38 years old that I would realize, I actually had deep seated issues with being a woman. The revelation came when it was time for me to get my hair cut. At this particular time, I had been rocking a pixie cut much like Winona’s here and my daughter asked me why I kept my hair so short. Her own was past her shoulders and she wanted it down to her butt.

I couldn’t answer her. My ready excuse of “it’s just easier to take care of” sounded wrong. In my heart, it wasn’t the real truth. The real truth was that I associated long hair to being feminine and I didn’t see myself as feminine. I tended to see women as weak.

Growing up, my mother ran our household, but she did this by lying and manipulating my father. When I was sixteen I would finally tell her I wouldn’t hide things from my father and I wouldn’t cover for her anymore. My mother was a distant woman who neglected me and my father was virtually absent from my life despite living with me every day. I spent a large part of my most formative years with my oldest sister who was married and living on her own. As a result, I had neither a strong father figure nor a strong maternal figure.

I also was regaled time and again with stories of how my mother wanted a son and how they were so convinced I was a boy they didn’t even pick out a girl’s name. I was supposed to be named Steven Ray. But, out I came missing the requisite penis. I would go unnamed for ten days until my mother’s doctor finally suggested the name my parents ultimately chose for me.

It would be a life time later before I understood the effect that knowledge had on me. All I saw growing up was that boys had more freedom. I wanted that freedom, so I rejected anything that lumped me in with the girls.

As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve noticed that I have been drawn more and more to feminine things. I used to hate sparkly things, now I love them. I used to be the same way with flowery things, now I love those as well. I think it’s been watching my daughter grow. We went out of our way to not force her into any specific gender role and she is a unique blend of traditionally “girlie” and traditionally “boyish”, but the one thing you never doubt is that she’s very feminine.

I saw that missing inside myself. In the split-second after she asked me that question, I realized the truth. I didn’t wear my hair long, because I didn’t see myself as feminine. It had nothing to do with anything else. What I also saw, was that I spent my childhood unsuccessfully trying to be the little boy my parents had wanted.

In that moment, I decided to grow my hair out. I spent the next two years growing it until it was past my shoulder blades. It was interesting to see the difference in my appearance and the compliments I received on it. I can honestly say it felt very different to see myself that way. I felt like a woman and I had to get used to that feeling. And, I did. I’ve grown comfortable with myself as a woman and with the feminine aspects of my personality that I used to reject. I no longer feel conflicted over embracing “traditionally” girlie things and, more importantly, because I’ve gotten to know so many lovely and strong women over the last several years, I no longer see women as weak.

Two weeks ago, both my daughter and I got our hair cut off. She got a Mohawk and looks so aggressively feminine it’s unbelievable. I admire her in so many ways.

Me, I’m back to my Winona Ryder pixie, but this time it’s just because I like my hair that way. I spent two years with long hair and enjoyed my time that way. But, the me I like best has short hair and lots of sparkles all over.

9 thoughts on “On Femininity and Long Hair

  1. I had my long hair cut into a pixie in the first grade ( I don’t think I was easily convinced to keep it looking nice) I believe my Mom had enough caring for it. I was devastated because I didn’t realize I had a pixie until I looked into the mirror! My issue now is – when is long hair too long or when will I be too old for long hair? I still don’t have that answer. Does everything have to be a lesson Elene !!!?!I ask that because if I look deep enough, it always is. xo, Jayne I do love your daughter’s mohawk choice!

  2. The pixie is very feminine. It shows off the face so much more than long hair, which I use to hide behind.
    Hair is such a girl thing isn’t it. Do men worry about this ( other than losing it?) It’s an expression like your daughter’s mohawk – totally cool btw – and it’s a statement. Hair is the female domain regardless of it’s length. For me, I have always admired women with short hair. They seem to me, to be far more assured of themselves than I am.

  3. Dearest Elene,
    I know this comes belated. I’m trying to catch up on my emails.. I had to share with you how much this post resonated within me. We had shared a lot of mutual occurances in our childhoods. I felt as if I were reading some passages about myself. I do want to share that I have long hair and have for many years to compansate for the “Pixi” cut I never wanted in the first place.
    Your Friend,

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