Cuts deep

Detail_of_Mulher_do_chale_verde_by_Cyprien_Eugene_BouletYesterday I, for better or for worse, went to the hairdresser wanting a change. I said I was sick of my long hair, that I wanted to go shorter, and her whole fabulous face — framed by a crazy super-short fringe and a streak of burgundy — lit up. So, I would have to say I sort of knew this wasn’t going to be a bit of a trim. I went from a long mass of unruly curls, cascading down my back, to a chin-length curly bob with an undercut at the back. And I love it. I have to stop myself from running my fingers through it. It feels light, silky and amazing.

It wasn’t a cry for help, or a sign of emotional fragility. It wasn’t because I suddenly thought I was too old to wear my hair long — I don’t buy that idea, to be honest. It was just a haircut, and hair grows back. The thing that has surprised me was the reaction of others to my choice to chop off a bit of length.

That same afternoon I picked up my youngest child from camp. Obviously a tired, feral, post-camp twelve-year-old was always going to be a tough critic. He didn’t even say hello. His first words to me were, ‘What did you do to your hair? It’s stupid!

Nice. Meanwhile, one of the other mums — much younger and at times lacking a social filter — said, ‘That’s why I don’t cut my hair short, because it’s curly and would look like that.’

My oldest son was equally encouraging. He said that I looked weird, but his gripe was that I, ‘looked like a girl in his year, with an old lady face.’ He said this with a wry smile, the little rat.

Hey, I’m a big girl, and I know that I’m happy with my new do, and that not everyone will like it, but why is it such a big deal when women cut off their hair? A quick google search will find blog entries and articles aplenty about men who think that women shouldn’t cut their hair if they want to attract men, and countless comments agreeing with them. Men, and boys, it seems, like women to have long hair.

If you think about the act of women cutting their hair, time and time again in movies and television shows it is associated with a period of extreme emotional upheaval – a sign of emotional instability, for example in the aftermath of a break-up, or during a break-down. Or else, it’s an admission that to fit into a male-dominant society or group, a woman cutting her hair will make her seem more committed, someone to be taken seriously.

Anyway, I’m happy with it, which is really all that matters. I accept myself, am happy with how I look, and am not interested in changing my appearance to please anyone else. Now to do something about that old lady face…

By Lisa Kenway

Lisa Kenway is an Australian writer and doctor. Her debut psychological thriller, ALL YOU TOOK FROM ME, is coming in August 2024 from Transit Lounge Publishing. An early version was long-listed for the 2020 Richell Prize. A 2023 Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre fellow, her work has appeared in Island Online, the Meanjin blog, Meniscus Literary Journal and elsewhere. Find her at or on Twitter @LisaKenway.

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