Pretty much every day, I wear my hair up in a bun.
It’s comfortable, functional, and allows me to move in my world with ease and in comfort. Given that I live in Brisbane, which is basically the surface of the sun, and have a small child who has no regard for the time I might want to spend grooming, it makes sense for me to not have high-maintenance hair situation. Also, I don’t want to. I care about how I look, but I refuse to get caught up in a ‘maintenance’ routine that is unreasonable and unsustainable, and I find it a bit frustrating how much maintenance and effort is generally expected of women when it comes to our appearances.
I don’t want to have a go at people who do have high-maintenance hair, if that comes from choice rather than a sense of obligation. I have a high-maintenance clothes shopping habit that is not unrelated – we should all be free to direct our energy where we choose. It’s when things are expectations rather than choices that it becomes a bit messy, for me.
The particular expectation I’m talking about is that, as women, we should want to look as appealing as we can, at all times.
The other day at work, I took my hair out of its bun for a bit. There’s a particular pain that comes from putting your hair up in a way that pinches just one or two little strands a bit too tight, and after a while, it is maddening.
When my hair was out, a colleague came over and pointed it out to me.
‘I’ve never seen you with your hair out before,’ she said.
‘Well, I don’t really like having it out. It’s too hot, and you know, it just gets in the way,’ I said.
‘But it looks so pretty. You should wear it out more often!’
And therein lies the sneaky, pervasive insistence of that expectation.
I like this particular colleague, and her intentions were good. She believed she was paying me a compliment. But, for me, comments like that implicitly reinforce that same assumption – that it’s important for me to look as good as I can, and, furthermore, it’s more important for me to be ornamental than comfortable.
This also comes into play when people tell me that certain items of clothing are slimming, or that a particular colour or style is ‘flattering’. I don’t need to flatter my body for other people’s viewing, I need to dress it in a way that suits my purposes, be they aesthetic or practical. Or impractical – maybe I really want to wear a giant lobster suit, because it’s Thursday. To each their own.
I’m not suggesting we stop complimenting each other. Genuine compliments are great, those that come without a value judgement attached. What I am saying is that there should be no ‘should’ when we comment on someone else’s appearance. How someone ‘should’ present themselves is up to that person, and nobody else. If we do choose to compliment someone on their appearance, wouldn’t it be a more genuine compliment if it allowed the recipient to feel good, rather than assessed?
In the meantime, I’m going to keep putting my hair in a bun, and keep defending my right to look however I look when I wear my hair in a bun. Bunnish.