Last week, I tackled something pretty serious and slightly profound, so this week I thought I’d take it down a notch. You may be asking what the holy hell I’m talking about hair for? In a world gone Big-Brother mad right now, I stopped and did something completely mindless and without deep thought. I watched "The Bachelor." Yes. That cheesy, contrived TV-show that pits women against each other in a game of wooing and competition to see who can win the man. What ensues is a journey to find “love” but of course we all know, it’s a journey to win, to connive, to become what it takes to succeed, the weaker players easily weeded out early on. It’s all rather foolish and sick and shallow and yet, is it?
How is it really any different than any other game or contest? Are we against all contests? Why is this one deemed so ‘wrong’? Does it require stamina? Yup. Skill? You bet it does. Taking risks and overcoming fears and phobias? Hell, yes. I wouldn’t do half those things they are required to do! Intelligence? Yes. On many levels it absolutely DOES require a deep amount of emotional and social intelligence, and even intellect. The smart ones do rise to the top. People look at it and think it’s about looks only. But don’t looks just come down to personal preference? Attraction is so much more than that, and we all know it and often can’t even explain why we’re so attracted to someone (See: the-pheromone-myth-and-online-relationships.html).
But I’m not here to defend "The Bachelor." It’s a twisted peek into the human psyche on both sides of this equation, participant and spectator, and some nights I felt a thin sheen of slime on my skin that no shower could remove. But even as I scoffed at its superficiality and complete manipulation by the producers, donning the most butter atop popcorn known to mankind, slapping on a pair of comfortable yoga pants, and inviting my girlfriends under my favorite throw, squished on the couch together, our ridiculous buns bobbing in laughter to the moments of sheer lunacy on the screen, I began to realize the show succeeds not because it may cater to the lowest common denominator in our society, but because it is a contest, a competition, like any other competition out there that people flock to see its champions and losers. Is it really so different than the Olympics? Football? The Greatest Chef? And the like? Make no mistake, it isn’t about love. Not one bit. Not usually. And anyone who wins “the prize” who watches back the utter gluttony and lies told by “the catch” (yes. I suppose a fishing competition is more akin to this than the basest of sports), is inevitably bound to taste the flavor of their own vomit.
But what I’m really here to talk about is Bekah M, the Bekah who didn’t win, the Bekah…wait for it…who had short hair. GASP! Funnily enough, some of the major news outlets were “reporting” on this. And some proclaimed: “Are you serious? This is news? Short hair is news? In a time where there is gun violence and immigration debate and the most polarizing president in history at our helm, we’re talking about hair for god’s sake?” Everywhere on social media people were yammering: This is the first time in “Bachelor history” (for those of you who have ever watched the show, you’ll get the joke) that a woman with short hair has made it this far! It is a bit ludicrous, and I chuckle even as I write this, but it really DOES say something, doesn’t it? Hair seems to say something and always has.
According to archaelogist, Elizabeth Bartman in Time magazine online: “Even despite the Ancient Greek ideal of a 'bearded, long-haired philosopher,' women in that society still had longer hair than men regularly did. Roman women kept their hair long and tended to part it down the center, and a man devoting too much attention to his hair 'risked scorn for appearing effeminate.' Further, the bible may have started its popularity in our western, Christian culture that quotes St. Paul: “Doth not nature itself teach you that if a man have long hair it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her.” And more, many scholars believe it stemmed from the belief that hair and length was a direct correlation to someone’s health. “In order to have long hair you have to be healthy...You have to eat well, have no diseases, no infectious organisms, you have to have good rest and exercise.” Who doesn't want a woman like that?
In an article from the University of Brighton, UK, on women of Victorian times, and we see it the literature I seem to love, “A woman’s long hair, after all, is the emblem of her femininity. More than that, it is a symbol of her sexuality, and the longer, thicker and more wanton the tresses, the more passionate the heart beneath them is assumed to be.” We are reminded of Lilith and Ruth, Ruth even transforming herself by having to have her luscious locks “castrated,” hair being such a powerful symbol of sexuality and wanton sexuality.
Even today, as noted in an article in Psychology Today: “There’s an idea floating around that long hair on women is appealing to men—that mass of flowiness and texture supposedly trumpets femininity, adding to women’s appeal as the gentler sex.” But the article goes on to say that many men today are actually drawn to women with shorter hair, saying, “It seems more like a choice, like the woman is more self-determined.” And that this is appealing to the modern-day man. Is that true?
I’ve never worn my hair short. As a lover of dance, I wasn’t really allowed that option, my early years in a very strict studio. I also don’t have Becah K’s face to don such an adorable look. It may be because my brother liked to tease me upon first exiting the shower, towel wrapped around my head. “What’s up Moon Face?”
Regardless, it seems all this talk about “hair” and “that” Bachelor contestant is much deeper than it appeared. It’s really a study in all three of the great “ologies”—anthropology, sociology, and psychology, if one really begins to think on it, delve, question it. Just why short hair seemed to make ‘news’ makes a bit more sense now under this lens. And revisiting some of the Victorian literature while researching this topic a little bit, I realized that hair is always mentioned somehow. I used to think it imagery for writing sake, which it is of course, but really, it’s much more than that; it's a reflection of culture and even history of the female entity.
So to Bekah M. Thank you. My next heroine just may have short hair! There is no question my next heroine will twirl off the pages with grace and sass, very much the way Bekah M did. I’m not sure what my hero (or usually anti-hero) will pull in the bedroom, but damn it, I just may dedicate my next novel to our short-haired vixen. And isn’t it funny? Even as I write this, it still feels slightly uncomfortable in my mind’s eye. We still have a long way to go, like almost everything else still fighting its way out of stereotypes, discrimination, and tradition. And so perhaps that is why a silly, mindless, let-me-shut-off-for-a-few-hours-and-not-think TV show made news about the girl with short hair…There’s much more there than what does, or doesn’t, reach the below the surface of a woman's neck. :)