Stop Asking Me When I’m Going to Grow Out My Short Hair

Erin Reimel
Glamour
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Stop Asking Me When I’m Going to Grow Out My Short Hair

I've been keeping it short in spite of you.

By Erin Reimel. Photos: Katie Friedman, Courtesy of Erin Reimel, Courtesy of Gabrielle Hughes.

If the rise of lipstick sales is linked to economic crisis, I think it's safe to say the decline of your hair length can be connected to personal ones. Two and a half years ago I was going through a really weird time that I'm sure plenty of people can relate to. I’d just finished the first half of my college career, I’d gone through a breakup, I'd stopped talking to one of my best friends, and I moved to London for a four-month study abroad program. Needless to say, I was going through some changes and like many women before me, I decided to take control of one of the few things I felt I could in my life—my hair.

It might sound cliché. Actually, it is cliché. But that doesn't make the effects of it any less meaningful. There's a real power to being able to sit in a chair and say, Let's try something new.

At that point, I’d been contemplating getting a pixie cut for a while but I kept letting other people hold me back. Old boyfriends told me they liked my hair long, and while my family wasn't worried that it wouldn't look good, they were convinced I'd regret making such a huge change. But right then, I knew long hair wasn't me anymore. I never felt like the girl with the perfect curls who wore updos to special events. And I also couldn't stand getting hair stuck in my lipstick. It was time to cut it off.

Moving to London is what really solidified it for me. I saw so many girls with features and tastes that were similar to mine, who pulled short hair off so effortlessly, I knew I had to do it. Hair has always been a means of self-expression to me. My hair lets me dip my toes in different looks, test drive trends, and show the different parts of my personality—just like an outfit or a new accessory. I booked an appointment and took the leap.

My look was suddenly more modern and carefree after months of curling my hair into perfect, uniform waves (while simultaneously frying it). You could see my face. My cut made more sense paired with my slightly edgy style. I’d never felt more myself.

The next day I went to my classes, feeling like the hottest girl in school (or at least the bravest). I was excited to show off my new hairstyle, and I was met with numerous compliments (because, let’s be real, it's awkward if you don’t compliment someone’s dramatic new cut). Then, as if on cue, almost every single one of those words of admiration was followed by the kiss of death: “So, when do you think you’ll grow it out again?”

Yeah, not exactly the question you want to be asked after you’ve cut nearly all of your hair off.

Honestly, I can't tell you how many times I've gotten it since that day in London. And it's not only from people who know me. Complete strangers upon first meeting even do it. Eventually, I started prodding these people, mostly friends and family, about why they kept asking me this. Most of them told me they figured I'd eventually want my long hair back. They thought it was a phase, that I was just a college student experimenting with my hair, that it wouldn't really stick.

It's the gateway question to other questions, which then lead to judgments.

One friend—someone I'd known for three years—asked me if this was my way of coming out. She'd seen me with multiple boyfriends. We'd had conversations about guys and relationships and sex. Hell, she was friends with my current boyfriend! But the fact that I had short hair suddenly had her questioning my sexuality. As if losing your hair suddenly makes you so much less feminine you couldn't possibly still be interested in men. I reminded her: There are women with short hair who happen to like women. There also women with short hair who happen to like men. Short hair is not an advertisement of who you're attracted to—period. It simply is what it is...a hairstyle.

I've also had a few people tell me that my haircut makes me seem unapproachable and that's why I should grow it back. Me? The least intimidating person in the world? Yep. I like to think that people (especially guys) who find short hair intimidating need to work on their own self esteem and stop projecting their insecurities regarding confident women on me.

So it turns out, the reason these people were asking me when I'd grow out my hair wasn't because my haircut was bad. I honestly believe (or hope at least) they thought it was a good look for me. But for some reason, this change was making them question my identity. They put so much importance in my connection to my hair that the fact that I cut it off confused them. They didn't understand why I'd ever want short hair unless I was making some kind of statement.

But it literally just looks good on me. It makes me feel good. So why wouldn't I want short hair?

Now when I get that question—"Your hair is so cute! When do you think you'll grow it out?"—I promptly reply with my own: “You are so rude! When do you think you’ll grow out of that?” OK, I’ve never actually said that, but I’ve thought it plenty of times. Instead, I shrug politely...and I guess come to the Internet to discuss it. (Because, hi, here I am.)

The question is inhibiting really. I like to change my hair often. So lately, I've felt stuck. If I grow it out, I’d be proving all of those people right. I’d be giving in to their idea that I shouldn’t want short hair forever. That it's "just a phase." I recently mentioned this feeling to my coworkers, and they laughed. I'm a beauty risk-taker, but growing out my hair out is what makes me the most nervous. "That’s the opposite of how most women feel," they pointed out. That snapped me out of my stubbornness, and I made the decision to stop letting other people's expectations keep me from doing whatever the hell I want with my hair—whether that's buzzing it all off or growing it out into a cool-girl lob.

So now I’m working with a hairstylist to grow my hair, because yes, you have to keep getting a grown-out pixie cut unless you want to look like Billy Ray Cyrus in the '90s. (I'll have a story of how I've been growing it out in stages coming soon!) It’s a long process, and what’s cool about it is that every step of the way I get to try a new style. It's perfect for someone who doesn't like to stick with one thing for too long.

And finally, I have an answer for all of the people who ask me when I’ll be growing it out. The answer is now, but I usually follow that up with, “I’ll probably cut it off again soon,” just to see if I can make them believe that long hair can be "just a phase" too.

This story originally appeared on Glamour.

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