This is a self-analytical post that may not be of interest to anyone but me; it mostly discusses how I feel/have felt about my hair at various lengths and what, appearance-wise, makes me feel more and less comfortable when out in public. The rest of the posts in my appearance series are of more general interest and can be read here.
The other day I was walking down the sidewalk by a fairly busy street, and it occurred to me that I felt more comfortable than I normally would with so many other people around. I usually experience at least some degree of anxiety when in public, and some of this is linked to my appearance—I feel that I don’t look good enough in some way, and that all the better-looking people around me must be looking down on me. So when I’m anywhere where there are a lot of people around, I usually feel very self-conscious.
Thinking about why I wasn’t experiencing these feelings to the extent that I normally do the other day, I realized that it was because I now have next to no hair on my head. Overall I think having a buzz cut makes me look worse than I did with more hair, but the ability to put on a hat and completely cover the little hair I do possess makes me feel much more in control of my appearance. In May I had my previously-long hair cut short (prior to getting the buzz cut about two weeks ago), and only had one trim after that, so by November it was at an awkward growing-out stage that I did not know what to do with. When going out in public with that hair, or even my more-easily styled short haircut, I felt like I wasn’t in control of it because no matter how perfect it looked when I stepped away from my mirror, a gust of wind could destroy all my work in two seconds. If I rode my bike without a helmet, it blew into all sorts of craziness; if I rode with a helmet, it was smooshed down when I took the helmet off. But now, there’s no variability. There’s nothing to control. I put on my hat, and whether it’s windy or rainy, whether I’m biking or walking, my appearance doesn’t change, and that gives me a sense of security.
I got my hair cut short originally because I thought it’d be easier to take care of than long hair (maybe I should’ve just gone right for the buzz cut), but when I had short hair, something I actually missed about the long hair was the ability to tie it back. If I wanted it out of the way, tada, I pulled out a hairband and it was contained. I still felt like it could easily get messed up, but in hindsight I realized that I did have more control when it was long. So if the reason I felt uncomfortable in public with short hair was that I couldn’t maintain control over how it looked, a different reason that I felt uncomfortable with long hair was the feminine look it gave me. Looking feminine in public makes me feel vulnerable (I’ll talk more about the possible reasons why in the next post in the series, which will be on the ways my asexuality influences my feelings on appearance). Around the time I first cut my hair off, I imagined what it would be like to present as male in public (which I could do pretty easily if I wanted to, as I have no curves—I’d probably look like a 14-year-old boy), and I realized that I would probably feel more comfortable that way. It’s not that I identify with the masculine gender, so I wouldn’t feel any need to purposely present as male when alone or with my family; I wouldn’t be doing so to reflect anything innate in myself but rather to protect myself from the vulnerability I felt as a female-bodied person in public.
Since it’s currently winter I can wear my hat and my gender-neutral hoodies, and even though I’m guessing that generally when people see my face they can tell I’m female, I feel fairly androgynous—and that’s how I feel most comfortable in public. It’ll be harder to achieve that state in the summer; I don’t like baggy clothes (the extra fabric gets in the way or just feels awkward), and I’m a small person so a lot of my unisex t-shirts feel too big, but my fitted shirts feel too tight and feminine. I’m happy, though, that for this season at least some of my appearance-related anxiety has finally been alleviated.