I met Jay (pictured to the left) last year while I was participating in a project for Cybergrrl Aliza Sherman. I felt a very special connection with Jay from the very first email that we exchanged. Jay and I found that we had lots of things in common and bonded during work on Aliza's project.
Once Aliza's project was finished Jay and I still corresponded on a regular basis. We emailed about a variety of topics and at one point I asked Jay her thoughts and feelings about her hair.
Although Jay has been growing her beautiful hair longer these days, she did go through a period where she had almost no hair. Jay noticed a major difference in how she was treated.
I asked Jay to share her experiences, insights and thoughts about how her hair or the lack of it played such a powerful part in how people reacted to her as a person.
HairBoutique.com is very honored to have Jay's first article about her experiences with her hair.
During The Late 80s............
When I was 17 years old I shaved off half of my hair. I was in the midst of a punk phase and wanted a complementary haircut. It was the late 80s, so this sort of thing was still in the air. About a year later, shortly after arriving at college, I shaved off the other half, leaving but a fringe of bangs in front. I discovered a lot of things when I did this. I found the removal of my hair to be an extraordinarily liberating experience, and I also saw first hand how we humans, every day "judge the book by its cover."
Soon after my date with the clippers, I went to the one and only frat party I would ever attend in my college years. I should also tell you that I was in an extremely vulnerable place in my life, having gone through a really rotten summer prior to starting school. I was not looking to make myself more attractive in the typical sense of the word. I was rather, looking to amplify the chip on my shoulder, and avoid dealing with guys as potential boyfriends. The haircut worked. The guys at this party hardly noticed me, at least not in the way that guys usually notice me. This was okay since I don't go for frat boys, especially at frat parties.
In some ways, this was really refreshing - it meant I was being regarded, not as a potential conquest, but instead as just another person. I especially liked that it weeded out the guys who would not be able to take a righteous, proud feminist like myself. This was really cool at first, because it was pretty different from what I was used to, and made life easier in some ways. Now people wanted to pat my head to feel the fuzzy sensation. They thought I was cute, almost like a little pet.
Eventually though, this started to annoy me. It really seemed ridiculous that I would be treated so differently just because of a few passes of the clippers. Men who didn't know better were often a bit nervous around me, almost as if they felt threatened by my masculine hairstyle. Women (not my friends) didn't know what to make of me either. It was as if I suddenly started speaking another language. Why would I want to make myself (in their opinions) LESS attractive? And even though I reveled in the freedom of it, I also started to miss the attention I was used to getting. Then I started to get mad. It seemed so unfair that I would be judged on such a mutable and surface-based factor. Of course I know that when we chose our mates, sexual attraction is a primary concern, but did they not see that I was just as sexy with my fuzzy, chia-pet head?
Even now, when I tell my head shaving story, there's always someone why can't believe I would have done such a strange thing. But I would not do it differently. It showed me the power of physical appearance in every aspect of our lives. Every day we make judgments, whether we intend to or not. Now, my hair is at its longest, and I find the opinions generated by this development to be just as fascinating.
About Jay House
Jay Lamar House is a freelance writer based in New York City. She also does community development and marketing for Cybergrrl, Inc. If you would like to share your feelings about this article you can email Jay.
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Original Publication Date: Date: 03/13/2000 - Revised Date: 01/26/11