What Not To Say

This past week I read an article on what never to say to someone who has cut their hair short. (Read it here if you're interested.) The surprising thing to me, as a long-hair, is that those who go short are often subjected to the same brand of comments as those of us with long hair.

I thought I'd come up with my own list of things that should never be said to someone with long hair. This is meant to be fun and not intended to cause offense. I just think sometimes it can be helpful to realise that we can all be on the receiving end of thoughtless or insensitive comments regardless of what others perceive as our personal 'flaw' and that by seeing the other side of things we might just learn what not to say in conversation (the article was an eye-opener for me).

My List of Twelve Things Never to Say to Someone with Long Hair

1. You'd look really good with short hair.
Of course, this implies that I don't look good now. It could be the honest truth, but it's hurtful all the same.

2. Short hair would make you look younger.
This might in all likelihood be true. Then again, it might not. I'm not about to cut all my hair off to find out that it's not true for me. Besides, do I really look that much older than my true age? (Not the age that I'd like to pretend I am, but the age according to my birth certificate.)

3. Have you always had long hair?
This implies that I'm afraid of change (sometimes) or that I have long hair by default. Always had it, never gonna change it - that type of thing. This seems like an insult to my intelligence although I do realise at times it is a genuine question. The trouble is being able to determine the intent behind the question. (If unsure, give them the benefit of the doubt.)

4. Did you miss a salon appointment?
This fails to acknowledge that for many of us with long hair we have made a conscious decision to grow our hair long and keep it that way. Yes, we may have missed a salon appointment, but it was by choice and with a clear understanding of the consequences of taking such a step.

5. Wow, you have really long hair. This is okay if said in what is obviously a tone of awe, but when it's said as a statement or a criticism, it's not so okay. Even when said in awe, it hardly ranks as #1 on my compliments-I'd-really-like-to-receive list. I'd rather hear, "Wow your hair is so long AND beautiful." lol

6. You must go through a lot of shampoo.
Why? Is my head bigger than most? The truth is, I probably use less shampoo than many with short hair. Many people with long hair wash their hair less frequently and only wash the scalp - never the length. Besides, I don't use shampoo (not the liquid stuff) and can't remember the last time I used conditioner (but unless I want to answer a lot of other questions or be considered unhygienic I tend to keep this information to myself.)

7. You must spend a lot of time on your hair.
This makes me feel that I'm being accused of vanity or wilfully wasting time and resources. In reality, I probably spend less time on my hair than those with short hair, at least during the week. I scalp wash, detangle, and put it in a bun. If I have time, I might blow dry the fringe. On the weekend I'll do a deep conditioning treatment but even though I usually let it sit on my hair for an hour, I'm doing other things during that hour.

8. Long hair drags you down.
This is similar to #2 except that it implies I've really turned into an old hag. It might be true but the beauty with long hair is that you can put it up and have an instant face lift.

9. Why have long hair when you always wear it up?
Why indeed? Apart from the obvious of protecting the fragile ends when hair is worn up, it can also add a sense of mystery. Just how long is her hair really? It can also become a secret that I share only with a select few when I wear it down. Besides that, long hair is versatile - even when worn up. How many different styles of updos are there and how many different hair accessories? I imagine that given enough creativity and time that one could wear long hair a different way for every day of the year. Even when down, hair can be styled and dressed in a variety of ways. And anyway, I wear my hair long for my own pleasure.

10. It's only hair.
Yes it's only hair, and it will grow back if we cut it, and it grows out of everyone's head at some time in their lives and yes, it's dead, but this comment disregards the time and care that has gone into growing long hair and that for some, it is a thing of beauty.

11. Is it for religious reasons?
Well yes, but not really. Part of my reason for having long hair is that it makes me feel feminine and God has created me to be feminine. I also believe that long hair is a God-given privilege - my "crowning glory" after all - but I don't believe that I must wear my hair long or never cut it. This question implies that I have been forced to have long hair and that it's not by choice.

12. You should donate your hair.
Thankfully, this is not a comment often heard in my part of the world perhaps because we don't have the same high-profile organisations in NZ that collect human hair. If there is a comment set to arouse heated feelings amongst those with long hair and stir up discussion on long hair boards, this is it. It's also one that's a little hard to address here without going into long and detailed explanations. Suffice to say, those with long hair are not against human hair being used for wigs. Nor are they selfish because they grow their hair for their own pleasure and choose not to donate it. Nor would they stop someone who desires to grow and donate. The problem occurs when someone with short hair assumes that those with long hair should cut off their hair and donate and then suggests that they are selfish for not doing so. There are at least two responses to this. One, there are other ways to support these charities than donating hair (and some of these ways might prove of more lasting value than donating hair); and two, if those with short hair feel that this is a valid project, then they are welcome to grow their own hair and donate it.

So what should you say?

Well anything that doesn't imply that I've let myself go, that suggests I'm still young and beautiful looking (lol), and that doesn't imply judgement or criticism on my choice as to how to wear my hair. And regardless of what length your hair is, I'll afford you the same courtesy.


SchnauzerMom said…
Great post, I agree with you. I was taught that if you can't say something nice don't say anything at all. I don't feel like I have the right to go up to someone and criticize their hair. Other people don't have to wear their hair the way that I want them too. I think we put too much emphasis on looking young. I think there's absolutely nothing wrong with looking my age.
Ohtawen said…
I like your post, Jules. I have to admit, I have never had to face criticism or mean comments when it comes to my hair. But I do know that, if someone wants to criticize somebody else's physical appearance, he/she will always find something to comment. They never fail.
Hair is a regular target for people who love to comment. Be it long or short, some people will always find fault. But as I've said earlier, I haven't experienced such criticism firsthand, so I wouldn't know how to react. I suppose I would shrug it off, as I do with other types of unsolicited advice...

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