I’ve been thinking about cutting off my hair. All of it. To be honest, I think about it whenever I get drunk, but lately I’ve been toying with the idea even sober. It might be because I’m here in Cambodia, letting everything go – I wear sweaty clothes and wrinkled skirts and pull my hair back in the same headband I took to the gym. My shoes have begun rotting off my feet after a few trips through the rotten mud in Stung Mean Chey. My hair is snarled and frazzled, dry in the heat and greasy from the weak water pressure of my guesthouse shower. It’s easier to think about chopping off a tangled mess.
But it’s still not easy.
I go back and forth a lot in this dance of…call it employability, the dance of employability. I have my hair because I want a job, I have my hair because my hair is acceptable, I have my hair because a woman with a shaved head might have a harder time finding a job. There are the straight exclusion zones – the Emirates, say, where you can earn fifty thousand tax-free dollars a year if you have long hair – or Korea, say, where you can earn thirty thousand tax free dollars a year (plus a shoebox apartment) if you have long hair – or the United States, where having long hair won’t decide whether you get a job, but it may help you seem professional.
Being attractive is professional. Being normal is professional.
These are the acceptable thoughts. But under that thought is this one: If I cut off my hair, I will look like a fat ugly dyke.
And there are other, concurrent bargains: you can cut off your hair if you are very careful with everything else. You can cut off your hair if you lose weight. You can carry off short hair if you are perfectly stylish otherwise – perfectly professional. If you pay especial attention to your image, you can ward off fat ugly dyke.
But otherwise, you have to keep your hair.
I have had a passive-aggressive relationship with my hair for quite a long time. I hate caring for it and styling it – I tend to wear it simply if not sloppily, I don’t like dealing with it, I have no skill at styling or controlling it. And I don’t seem to want to develop that skill.
But if I cut if off, I’ll be unprofessional. Women with short hair are unprofessional. Women who look like lesbians are unprofessional. Women who look like lesbians have to work very hard to merit professional acceptance. Women who look like lesbians have a harder time.
If I cut off my hair, I will face consequences.
And at the end of the day, these are my thoughts. Not that I want to have long hair, or that I enjoy having long hair, or that I myself think my hair is lovely, but that I think that I will suffer if I cut off my hair, that I will be less worthwhile.
I suppose it’s a pretty shocking level of fear and self-loathing around something as supposedly bland (these days) as a short haircut, but there it is. I keep and cultivate my hair out of a sense of obligation.