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Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

October 10, 2009

Going from long to short and back to long, me and my hair have had the ultimate love-hate affair.

I’ve always had a love-hate affair with my hair.When I was little, I’d beg my mother to braid my hair, and I’d pretend I was Rapunzel locked in the tower with only my hair to connect me to the outside world.

As I grew older, I grew less enamored of my hair. Caring for it was time consuming; drying it took a full day unless I could talk someone into helping me with the hairdryer. In the summer, it was heavy against my neck; in the winter, it was full of static, crackling and causing me to spark against every piece of metal I touched. Come the year I turned 15, I’d had enough: it was time for me and my braid to part ways.

Although a haircut may not seem like a big deal, there’s a reason so many films and novels show heroines heading to the salon for a cut and color - a significant change in a woman’s hair can result in a significant change in not just how the world views her (blonde v. brunette) but in the way she views the world. A cute, bouncy bob could indicate a casual, carefree personality, while a cropped style might indicate a business woman. Which style did I want? I didn’t really know. I simply walked in the salon door and asked the hairdresser - a man with a long, bottle-blonde spiral perm - to take it all away.

About halfway through, I started crying - small, allergy-like tears that soon grew into sobs so great the hairdresser had to wait for me to calm down enough to finish the job. I wanted to ask him to put it all back, to sweep up all the clippings and make me hair extensions. That night, I cried myself to sleep.

And then came The Call - the invitation to my Adila Fuha’s Indian fusion wedding, the request that I be a bridesmaid. “Please," my Fuha begged my parents, “I’d love her to be a bridesmaid. I’ve got the dresses and the shoes all picked out, and you’re coming down for the wedding anyway, so it’s not really any more of a hassle. Just send me some measurements and really, it’ll be no hassle at all.” Within seconds, my father’s father’s words were ringing in my ears: all Indian girls have long hair. All except me.

Despite my fears - my very nauseating fears - the whole process was exciting. The three day lead up, the henna the night before (I had orange hands for three months, and orange nails for six), the shimmering, jingly (itchy) dress. And the morning of the wedding, Adila had arranged a styling session in her parents’ living room. We all trooped in, ready to be transformed into attendant princesses for the day. It was brilliant: until the hairdresser arrived.

I tugged on my bangs self-consciously, trying not to worry. After all, a hairdresser would know how to deal with short hair, right? Right?

Tut-tutting, the hairdresser—a round, bald man dressed in lame—assessed us. The other girls had long hair. “Up-dos all around,” he said, pulling out his straightening iron and bobby pins. Then he crooked a finger at me. “You. Here.” My hair sat just above my shoulders. The hairdresser lifted it, twirled it about a plump finger, then dropped it just hastily enough to make me feel like I was wearing sewer-rodent fur.

We started with an asymmetrical part with curls on the bigger side. Now, I’m not a hairdresser, and I’ve never been very good with fashion, but I knew there was something wrong when the scent of burning hair wafted through the room. My cheeks flamed.

Style two was only marginally better - he coated me in enough hairspray to kill the better part of the Amazon Rainforest, then jabbed pins into my head, trying for a messy bun. This resulted in enough damage that the hairbrush actually got stuck in my hair a la The Princess Diaries (we almost had to cut it out).

Style three was the winner - mostly because, after an hour and an half, the man gave up. “You’ll just have to settle for ‘okay’,” he told me as he ran my hair through the straightening iron. “I’ll put a kink in the bottom and you’ll do.”

I slumped in my chair, expecting the worst. But when I went to get dressed, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror—and I looked good. Very forties chic, my mother called it. Sophisticated, said my cousins. Different, I thought happily. Different. Just like me.

Since then, I’ve grown my hair long and cut it off half a dozen times. It is definitely still a love-hate relationship. Now, at twenty-eight, I wear it just past my chin. It has a slight wave to it, and is my natural dark brown. And it’s completely me.


  • janika R
    janika R
    26.02.13 11:14 PM
    Lovely Post....I can relate to it being of the same age and going through similar phases... Enjoyed reading your post..
  • deviousDiv
    11.06.12 05:50 AM

    I totally relate to your hair stories! I have tried everything from bizzare layers, to highlights. In 2010 my hair dresser hacked my long hair off into an assymetrical bob that left my neck free and ended above my ears.

    Every family member from my mum to my grand mother's seven sisters gave me a piece of their minds about it.

    But I confess it grew out beautifully, and when I used to blow dry it, it looked so fabulous and chic. I miss that hair- but I like my no fuss shoulder length hair better. ;)

    And it also made me "indian" again. Amazing how so many Indian women associate their long hair with their cultural identity.

  • Alfie
    08.04.12 11:49 PM
    Hello Peta -

    totally a fan - and I beg to differ with you statement all indian girls have long hair.

    Trend in the metros is to revert to the smaller western styles. But outside of hte realm - long coconut hair prevail =)
  • Aruna
    07.03.12 03:36 AM
    This really hit home with me, but it was my mother who would be pained to see my hair go. I was 21 the first time I got a really big chop. After that, I began to tell her, and myself, it's my hair, and all those aunties who keep on about all that lovely hair being cut and what a shame it was, ought to go look in the mirror - they all have SHORT hair!
  • Sampath
    21.11.11 07:23 PM
    nice and neat article..Keep blogging :)
  • joey
    31.05.11 10:47 AM
    ok now from a guys point of view:P...guys LOVE long str8 hair,,its not an "indian" thing,but somehow its more feminine..more girly,,and its something we cant get enough of,,,but on the other hand,,for me,,i think its so old skool..i think its messy,,i like hair till the shoulders,,it looks really cute and gives a feeling of well kept and well groomed :)
  • rads
    20.02.11 07:49 AM
    WOW is this a coincidence or what...i was thinking of getting a haircut too coz i couldn't face anymore of the crackling static electricity everywhere around hair's long too actually was longer when i ws younger n then i cut it several times n nw its long again n i'm planning to get it cut shoulder-length, n i'm a brunette too...also i'm 28 n my hair has a wave at the tips too...reading the post ws jus like reading bout myself...nice blog u hv here...cheers!
  • keerthana
    28.01.11 09:55 PM
    Even I share the same relationship with my hair..There is one simple solution- Hair Extensions!
  • samina tauhid
    samina tauhid
    27.11.10 06:17 PM
    It's a cute story, I can link my self to the same in many ways.I've gone through the same situation many times in my life , from short to long and back to long,I've never had a hair dresser who would not run his or her hand for the first 5 minutes through my hair praising me for having such beautiful hair and would always talk me out of cutting them short.I'm passing this phase again these days, want shorter hair,convincing my husband and my hair dresser is real deal!!!
  • preety
    30.07.10 03:43 PM
    true i do that when i need a change the first thing i do is get a hair cut .
  • A restless mind with a sensitive heart
    A restless mind with a sensitive heart
    09.07.10 10:40 AM
    Hi! u have a lovely blog very well presented. About hairstyles, it is said that women are depressed then they are very prone to change their hairstyles ! I have myself experienced it. Its like when there is nothing else to change, lets change our hair do! but nice thought about a girl and her manes!!
  • Peta Jinnath Andersen
    Peta Jinnath Andersen
    31.03.10 07:44 AM
    Oh wow! My parents were on board with getting my hair cut, though I think they were concerned with me fitting in more than anything else (I was always the odd one out growing up) and thought it might help.

    Your curly hair sounds wonderful, though I can imagine it would be hard to take care of!

    I miss having long hair sometimes--it's so easy to just pull it back, and I'll probably let it grow out again. I have a few times, but I get it all cut off to donate to" rel="nofollow">Locks of Love, and feel kind of selfish for thinking about keeping it this time.
  • Nalini Hebbar
    Nalini Hebbar
    05.03.10 08:15 AM
    loved this's a sort of 'my' post...all those feelings were mine too...I first cut off my hair in 1977 when it was a crime for Malayali girls to do uncle flew down from Trichur to give me a piece of his mind
    I loved to see my hair go coz it was so fuzzy that no comb on earth could go thru it...saibaba style...but now staring at 50 I have hardly any on my head to write home about!

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