I seem to be suffering from a sort of hair dysmorphia. Just about reaching midway
down my back, it’s the longest it’s been in years – probably my whole life – but it still
isn’t long enough.
“It’s SO LONG,” friends tell me, with a face you use to tell someone they’ve had
enough and should probably get a taxi now. “No,” I say. “Just a few more inches.
Maybe another foot. I want it LONGER, dammit, and you can’t stop me.”
Why am I so obsessed with having long hair? Why are any of us? Despite all the
liberating pixie cuts and bobs that have been embraced over the last century, there’s still
a very narrow, culturally-biased ‘long hair = good, short hair = crap’ mentality
prevalent to some extent in the West. A hairarchy, if you will.
One school of thought says it’s evolutionary, tied up like so much else in the idea
that men should hunt and women should nest: cropped hair so much more
practical for toiling in the fields, long hair better for using as a scarf when the icy
winds of the patriarchy blow through your ivory tower.
But I know all that is bollocks, and I love short hair on girls – yet, right now, I still
want mine to look like something out of a Pre-Raphaelite painting. Maybe it’s a
comfort blanket, something to hide behind. Maybe because I’m top heavy and have
always felt that without lots of hair around it, my head looks like a pea balanced on a
Maybe it’s because, if I’m going to be honest about it, I can’t shake the idea that past
a certain age having super-long hair will start to look a bit unseemly. A bit Donatella
Versace. A bit ‘mutton’.
This is a terrible, ageist notion, I know – plenty of women (and men for that matter)
look wonderful with acres of hair well into their autumn years, and what does it
matter what anyone else thinks anyway, if I like it? I could be one of those cool ladies
with the grey streaks who makes her own pottery. I could wear it in a big plait woven
with ribbons and dance through fields singing Kate Bush. Or I could do none of those
things and just steadfastly carry on with my curtain of gradually-coarsening locks
until I die, and they could write on my gravestone ‘hair today, gone tomorrow’ and
everybody could laugh and it might be nice.
But despite knowing all of this, I still have the nagging feeling that right now, in my
mid-20s, is my Last Chance for really long hair. I mean, even Susan Kennedy off
Neighbours cut hers short eventually. And everyone knows that if you have kids, you
must immediately get a dowdy mum cut because otherwise they will try to swing
from your hair like it’s play equipment. That’s the law.
So this is my final fling. My personal project, to see how long it will go. And I don’t
just want it long – I want it thick and lush all the way down too, not tapering into
stringy ends like an old mop.
I want it to be the kind of hair that becomes its own accessory, so you can pull on the
plainest of outfits and swish it around and feel like you’re sufficiently dressed for
I’ve never managed to keep a plant alive longer than a week, but I think I’m tending
to my hair pretty well. And maybe that’s the other, simpler reason behind our
obsession with endless locks – perhaps it’s not so much the destination, but the
journey. The nurturing, care and artisanal achievement.
Some people have needlepoint, sourdough starters or furniture upcycling, I have my
craft hobby swinging about my shoulders. I love it. And if you can’t go to great
lengths for love, when can you?