The Rockwood Files: A woman’s relationship with hair

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

Women are known for our ability to form deep and meaningful relationships. And perhaps no relationship is as complex and multi-layered as the one we have with our hair.

Most men don’t understand it and have been heard saying ridiculous things such as “It’s just hair.” Or the ever popular “It’ll grow back.” But they miss the whole point. Because our feelings about hair are rooted way down deep. No other part of our bodies has this kind of power over us.

Bad hair can set the tone for the day. A woman wailing “I hate my hair!” while standing in front of the bathroom mirror won’t emerge from that bathroom in a great mood. And bad hair makes the difference between a snapshot that gets deleted and one that becomes a Facebook profile picture. It all comes down to hair.

Right now I’m growing out my bangs, which basically means I’m almost crazy. Ask any woman and she’ll agree that the tricky growing-out process has caused many of us to do irrational things. When bangs begin to grow out, they reach a maddening stage where they’re too long to wear as bangs but too short to tuck behind an ear. I’ve battled mine with hair clips, a flat iron and hairspray but they cannot be tamed. They are a thick, angry hedge, begging to be trimmed.

Many women in this position will lose patience and take scissors into their own hands. They think if they do just a few small snips, it’ll make everything better. But it never works. It’s hair suicide, with one snip leading to another and another until pretty soon you’re standing over a sink full of hair, horrified at the reflection staring back at you.

The beauty industry should set up some kind of hair hotline, staffed by professional stylists trained to talk a woman off the ledge. “Put down the scissors, honey. It’ll look better in the morning. You’re going to be okay.”

I’m hanging in there through these bad hair days because I have a hair dream, as almost all women do. When we want a new look, we comb through magazines until we find celebrity hair that we love. Then we cut out that photo and carry it around in our purse so we can show it to our stylist at the next appointment. Right now I’ve got Katie Couric and Jenny McCarthy’s head in my handbag, hoping one day I, too, will have those long side-swept bangs they wear so well. I have a friend who’s carrying around the head of Victoria Beckham.

Hair is so important to women that we can narrate our personal history via hairstyles. In elementary school, I had an unfortunate affection for yarn-like ribbons used as headbands. Then I went through a Farrah Fawcett feathered bangs period, followed by a horrific perm during the 80s. And one time my mother thought I’d look adorable with a Dorothy Hamill wedge haircut, which, as far as I know, has only looked good on exactly one person – who happens to be Dorothy Hamill.

Then I went through a long-hair hot-roller phase, followed by a super short style that seemed like a good idea when I was pregnant with our third baby. (Women cut their hair when they’re pregnant because it’s the only part of their bodies they can control during those nine months. Plus they’re hormonally insane.)

And now I’m back to my good-old layered bob cut, with bangs that will hopefully grow out soon. Because if they don’t, I may find the hedge trimmer and take care of business. Pass the hairspray.

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here.