Short Like a Man’s

I am a woman with a man’s haircut. This is not self-deprecation. Every six-to-eight weeks when I call my favorite Brooklyn barber shop to make an appointment, they ask how long my hair is. I tell them it’s short, short like a man’s.

They understand, as do I, that this is an important distinction to make. Sometimes women say they have short hair, but it’s really chin length, or maybe it grazes their shoulders, or maybe it’s kind of short in the back but long in the front, or shorter on the left side than on the right.

I’m not pointing this out in judgement of other women. A quick Pinterest search of “short haircut ideas” shows what I’m talking about. And if Pinterest, which is, along with Cosmo and 30 or 40 Instagram celebrities, one of the essential guides to successful womanhood, if Pinterest steers us astray, how are we supposed to know what is true?

On a man, my particular haircut is called, well, a haircut. On me it is called a pixie cut, which, along with my general petite-ness, often inspires people to call me as a manic pixie dream girl. Though I recognize that most of us are not the best judges of our own personalities, I do not see myself as manic or a pixie. I’ve never once played a ukulele, dozed on a waterlily or gone without health insurance. There is less glitter in my life than you’d imagine. And if I’m a dream girl, frankly, I’d expect to have a more impressive dating history.

Though short hair does play a role in my dating life. When I was younger, I felt compelled to let a guy know early in the relationship that I would never grow my hair out. This is not a phase I’m going through, this is a life choice. The implication being that if he, deep in his heart, felt the previously unarticulated desire to be with a girl with long hair, now was the moment recognize this and hatch a plan to ghost on me. My method was depressingly effective.

Which is not to say all men dislike my hair. I get a lot of compliments, mostly from African American men in their mid to late 40s who I don’t know. For instance, one day I was loading groceries into the hatchback of my Honda Fit and a man driving by stopped his car and rolled down his window just to tell me he liked my haircut. It’s nice having this small but special connection to a community that clearly appreciates a sharp ‘do.

Furthermore, I find their appreciation for short hair on women much more appropriate than that of the culture at large. My point is illustrated when, every year or so, a female celebrity gets a haircut like mine.

This in itself isn’t the problem; who am I to deny another woman the feeling of liberation that comes with leaving the house without a hair tie hung around your wrist? The problem is the pervasive press coverage of the event. Suddenly, I no longer have my own personal style, I have “Ann Hathaway’s hair” or “Emma Watson’s hair.” Currently it’s “the 12-year-old actress from Stranger Things’ hair.”

And, according to the likes of Refinery 29 and People magazine, this choice makes these women very brave. They are eschewing the beauty standards of a culture that measures a woman by her looks rather than the content of her mind and heart, so let’s all read a 700-word interview about her hair!

But please, don’t take this to mean I want fewer women to have short hair. There are times when I even wonder if they world would be a better place if there were more of us.

Here’s why. One of the unique experiences of being a woman with a man’s haircut is that other women, strangers and friends alike, often tell me, “I wish I could pull off short hair like yours.” Over the past 14 years, I’ve responded to this comment in different ways, but these days I just say, “You can.” Because it’s true, they can totally pull it off, every last one of them. And I say any opportunity to tell a woman she can have what she wants is a good thing.