Hair, Let Me Jump to Conclusions

Schonbrunn Palace Vienna

Sometime last year, I decided to chop off my hair. Not completely, but I started wearing it much shorter. It was summer in Pune, and this once mild Maharashtrian city now experiences crazy heat (it is already upwards of 41 degrees even though it is only the first week of April). I figured a shorter hairstyle would be easier to manage in the heat, quicker to style, and would also give me a new look. Nothing like a change in hairstyle to get an instant makeover, you know? Plus, if I wanted to sport shorter hair, surely I could, considering it was MY hair. I wasn’t hurting anyone, not even my hair follicles.

Turns out, a LOT of people are very interested in the length of hair a woman decides to keep.

A cousin from Kolkata with lustrous black hair that never seems to be out of place enquired:

“You were experiencing major hair loss, no? I always knew the kind of stress you live in was bad for your hair.”

She emptied a bottle of hair oil as she reprimanded me and proceeded to massage her roots.

A neighbour who lives a few blocks away asked me with considerable concern:

“But how will you wear a sari at the wedding in your family next week? Or are you planning to wear jeans and a top?”

My granny told me later: the neighbour hadn’t been invited to the wedding. What a smart manoeuvre! Also, what amazing foresight: I never knew you needed long hair to wear a saree; does the pallu go around your thick strands of hair or what?

A colleague at work smirked:

“So, is this your new powerful-woman-at-work look? Are you planning to crow over all of us now? Have you also renovated your wardrobe and thrown away all your Indian clothes?”

I threw a cushion at him as a demonstration of my newfound power; for a week at a stretch, I wore only western formals.

Long hair, I am told, goes hand in hand with all the “desirable” qualities in a woman: beauty, tradition, fertility. It tells a potential mate that here is a woman who understands how to maintain herself and hence can nourish a baby and an entire household. It is also much more becoming, what with long hair being your crowning glory and all that. Women with short hair either struggle with hair disorders, dandruff, lice (!), or are simply too self-obsessed and “Western”.

All through school and college, I had long hair that reached up to my waist. There would be generous oiling rituals and photo sessions. My Mom had long hair too; after her chemotherapy, when her hair eventually returned, she sported a boy-cut that went fabulously with her youthful face. People on the street thought she was a reporter; she was given special attention at restaurants where the servers thought she was a food-review person (no kidding!). I loved her when she had super-long hair that she wore in braids; I loved her when she had short hair that she kept neat with slides. Never did the length of hair change any of my perceptions about who she was as a person.

So, today, when I meet people who exclaim about “what happened to your long hair” or “why did you chop off your beautiful hair”, I make snide comments about how the backs of their necks are all sweaty and how my new style radiates the new person that I am. If you want to jump to conclusions, then, hair, let me make it easier for you.

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I am taking up the April #AtoZChallenge 2019 and will post every day of the month, except Sundays. I look forward to your company!

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34 thoughts on “Hair, Let Me Jump to Conclusions

  1. Ever since I cut my hair real short, I have had experiences similar to your mother. People are more deferential wherever I go. My children too started noticing and remarking on it 😉 What is it with short hair, I wonder! 😀

  2. I so love this post! Well said!👏👏

    “Your character belongs to you; your reputation belongs to other people, who have their own interests at heart, and they use it to control you, not to depict you.”
    ― John Whitfield, People Will Talk: The Surprising Science of Reputation

  3. Haha, I have had short hair for the past 3 years or so. Not sure when or why I decided to go short, but I love it. So much easier to maintain. I like long hair on people who have good quality hair. I don’t. So short works well. And surprisingly, nobody has ever asked me a thing about it. If at all, people (includng old uncles and aunties) tell me it keep it that way cos it suits me..

  4. hahahaa…nice post. Whether long or short hair…if you are comfortable with it and if it looks good…then others’ opinion doesnt matter.
    #ContemplationOfaJoker #Jokerophilia

  5. So true! In India hair is a topic in itself… and a central theme for so many varied discussions. But long well maintained hair is definitely a thing of beauty to be admired. I so wish I had long thick glossy. I have to make do with not-so-voluminous wavy shoulder-length hair. Sigh.

    • Your hair is lovely, duh. 😀 But I agree with you – well-maintained hair is to be admired, for so many reasons. The genes, the effort, the time management. 🙂 Although I like my short hair, I sometimes miss the days when I had long, flowing hair. I guess we can never be quite content.

  6. So well written about a very simple issue. I got same reactions when I chopped my long hair till shoulder after 15 years of marriage. Lots of reactions were obvious.. but somehow I feel this little gossiping create some spice in life and life goes on….

      • So true ..we just can’t digest certain things.. but we still live and keep moving on…
        Initially my blood used to boil for unnecessary interference …. Probably now I am going to be 50, so I have learnt to ignore… either I join the crowd to have some fun or I completely ignore it… Otherwise these unnecessary issues used to take away my energy, time and peace of mind.

  7. I would go short on my hair only to irritate these people much more, but I love my hair too much, and it is more than the anger that oozes out of me on these snide comments. So hair remains same, only hatred towards these people increase with their true colours being on show.

  8. Nice post. Though I am a lover of long hair, short hair has its own charm. Sometimes I too feel like going short. The Mumbai heat is crazy. Loved how you connected your Mum to the post. Very touching. Loved the post u had written for her before.. 🙂

    • Yeah, I liked having long hair and enjoy having short hair too. Agree with you – the summer heat makes a strong case for the latter.
      So happy you enjoyed the post, Tanvi. Means a lot to me. I love writing about my mom. It helps me relive good times 🙂

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