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Rapunzel becomes Samson

Yesterday I cut off my hair. I went from long flowing Rapunzel locks to a pixie cut. It's 60% liberation, 40% "oh shit I've lost myself".

Random additional information follows:

Yes, it's a big deal. Any woman who's gone from long to short will confirm that.

I've always had more brains than beauty, but my hair is an exception: fine, soft, wavy, gold-brown with natural sun-bleached stripes. I have a lot of hair. A lot. It was my signature, especially here in Tokyo. It was exceptionally easy to meet anybody in a busy public space, even somebody who'd never seen me before. "I'm the one with the hair." "Heh?" "Don't worry. You'll see me."


So why did I cut it?

1) Comfort zone. Always, always, break out.

2) Bored.

3) It's a glorious, defiant, "up yours!" celebration of middle age. Long hair is a sign of youth, fertility, desirability, blablabla. Older women are expected to cut their hair and take care of their grandchildren. So I've done what society expects me to do, but I did it my way: I went punk. If you want to cut your hair, you might as well make a statement. Oh, and sorry about the grandchildren, but I don't like babies.

4) It will make my September traipse through England a heck of a lot easier.

5) I've done this several times in my life: gone from very long to very short. Yesterday's ponytail got added to two others I've kept. It's mind-boggling how my hair has changed throughout my life, entirely by itself, from wheat-coloured & very straight to light brown & wavy.

6) I initially wanted to do an Imperator Furiosa cut (hey, Charlize Theron is South African, too!), but thought that UK Immigration might skrik a bit if there was such a difference between visa photo and real life. I ended up showing my hairdresser a photo of Jamie Lee Curtis. "This," I said. "Cut it off and let it go grey eventually."


7) I've been toying with this idea for a long time, but you know what tipped me over? A recent conversation with a female student. She's a member of a group, low level, all from the same company, who comes to my eikaiwa. We were practicing "can/cannot" with the meaning of "may/may not".

Now where I hail from – the land of pernickety sub-editors – can equals ability and may equals permission, but in my eikaiwa's textbooks and in the lingua franca of 99,9% of English-speaking humanity, it's not so cut and dried. So. You can drink water in class but you cannot, regrettably, especially for the teacher, drink whisky. That kind of thing.

The woman struggled, partly due to linguistic limitations, partly due to other reasons. Finally she said, "I can cosmetics office. I cannot no cosmetics." Translation: "Female employees are required to wear make-up at the office. A bare face is not allowed."

"So," I said, and I knew I shouldn't, but sod it all, Japan! "So," I said, and pushed my fringe off my face, "I cannot work for your company?"

"Heh?"

"Look. No make-up. I never wear make-up."

"Yes. You cannot work." Said as gravely as if at a state funeral.

"What about him?" I asked and pointed at a male student. "He's not wearing make-up."

Baffled silence.

I looked at the 40-something woman, impeccably groomed, coiffed, manicured, pedicured. A woman who's perfectly sweet, has never travelled, has no opinion that she's willing to express in class, whose response to every question is muzukashii (difficult).

I let it go.

Then I cut off my hair. Ganbatte, Japan. You'll now have to cope with a bare-faced, short-haired, shorter-tempered, sharp-elbowed, sharper-tongued African barbarian auntie. You have been warned.


PS: Women are still expected to look pretty and keep quiet in Japan, which remains stuck in the 1950s when it comes to gender equality. Interesting articles here and here.

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