Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Hair is a really gendered thing.  For the most part, our culture dictates that long hair is best for girls, and that short hair is best for boys.  If girls are to have short hair, it must be styled a particular way, usually with those really annoying long wisps (sideburns? sidebangs? I have no idea) that go in front of your ears and that I cut off myself in the bathroom mirror for years when I simply could not convince anyone that despite being female-bodied I did in fact want a MEN's haircut.  If boys are to have long hair, god forbid they should wear it in a bun or curl it or have bangs or anything of that sort (though I must say that the hipster movement has made some headway here).

At any rate, yesterday I got my haircut, something I usually look forward to and dread in equal measure.  I look forward to it because getting a [good] new haircut is like getting anything else new - the novelty is really exciting for at least a couple of weeks.  I dread it because I have a tendency to get attached to my hair when it starts to grow out - even when it's becoming dangerously reminiscent of a mullet in the back or getting annoyingly into my eyes in the front.  I remain attached even when having a mop of unruly hair usually leads to my being mistaken for a teenager boy significantly more often.  One summer a couple of years ago, I let my hair grow really long - down to my shoulders - for the first time since my junior year of college.  I loved it, but found that others read my gender - and my queerness - differently when I had my hair long than when I had it short, even though I never did anything "girly" with my hair and even though nothing else about my mannerisms or physical gender presentation had changed.  The difference made me uncomfortable so partway through that summer, my long hair and I parted ways.

There are also other things that frustrate me about getting a haircut.  First is that haircuts in DC generally are expensive (another on the long list of reasons to miss Ohio).  It is very difficult to get a decent haircut here by someone who knows what they're doing for a reasonable price.  Second is that it is actually hard to describe to hairdressers - particularly those who aren't queer or who aren't familiar with my particular brand of queerness - what it is that I want.  I want a short, dudely haircut.  This is remarkably difficult for others to comprehend.  Third, places like to charge different prices for men's and women's haircuts.  I understand why this might be, but it sucks for those of us who don't fit squarely into one category, or whose hairstyles don't follow convention.  Why should I pay $5 or more extra for the exact same haircut as the dude in the chair next to me just because I don't share his presumed biology?  It's hard to avoid this predicament when I make appointments over the phone since people hear my voice and put me down for a women's haircut without thinking.

I've had a number of DC haircut mishaps relating to the above-mentioned three frustrations, including the time Olga at the Dupont Circle Hair Cuttery gave me a crooked $18 haircut which consisted mostly of her grabbing chunks of my hair and snipping it off while proclaiming, "See?  More better!" and then trying to blow-dry my sweater and fashion me a head covering out of a plastic bag because it was raining out and she thought I was going to make myself sick in the cold.  Or the time the "junior stylist" at Bang Salon cut himself no less than a dozen times during my haircut, making for a very nerve-wracking experience on my part.  Or the time the other "junior stylist" at Bang Salon, who could not stop her hands from shaking, informed me partway through my so-so marathon haircut that I was her first short cut...      

So yesterday I made a hair appointment online.  I bit the bullet and decided to go with a full-fledged hair-doer (my "junior stylist" days may be over...).  I also booked a men's haircut slot for the first time instead of a women's.  Which, like always, is what I got, but for the men's price.  I am happy to report that this time around, my hair is not crooked, my appointment was done in 30 minutes flat, nobody lost a finger (or an ear!), and I did not catch pneumonia or require any kind of hair poncho or blow-dry services for my clothing.

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