In middle school, my friend told me I should cut my hair short. “Short hair is nice,” he said. “You won’t have to, y’know. Deal with it all the time.”
He had a point. My hair is a beast all its own, with curls and bulk and a general Joey-Ramone-ish thing going on, and I did spend a lot of time dealing with it. And yet, I hesitated for years, because I already felt insufficiently cute and to cut my hair was to risk *gasp* looking like a boy. I couldn’t put my finger on why that was a bad thing. It was just a law of the universe in which I lived.
I did eventually cut my hair. To the shoulders, to a bob, and finally to a severe A-line where the back of my head is buzzed. And each time I cut it, I felt incrementally better about living in my body.
Making decisions that counter generations of gender expectations can be hard. So just in case you need a little help, you have my permission to do any of the things listed below and enjoy the results. If anyone tells you that you can’t, throw them in a dumpster.
- CUT YOUR HAIR. Short hair is freedom. Shorter showers, faster drying time, less assorted goop required to keep it in check, more freedom to experiment with color knowing it can be grown back out in less than five years. A strong wind will hold no terrors for you. It will never get tangled in your jewelry or clog your shower drain. It’s difficult to emphasis how many little differences it will make, but they all add up to freeing up time and effort. Plus, short hair is cute as hell.
- BUY THINGS “FOR MEN.” Have cargo pants with real pockets. Buy a shirt for under $20 that doesn’t require three additional layers to go out in public. Get the razors that are cheaper and ignore gendered color-coding. Own a real tool kit that doesn’t have flowers on it. Most of the stuff marketed to women is poor quality because convincing you that you can buy gender conformity is good for business. Don’t let them get away with that foolishness.
- EXPLORE YOUR REPRO HEALTH OPTIONS. Have you tried an IUD or an implant? How about a menstrual cup? Lots of people never try these things because it’s “rude” to talk about them and word doesn’t get around. This is getting better. After getting my IUD placed, I had a very loud (RUDE!) conversation about it on a train with a friend who had had hers for a few years. Still, look up the options. We need to spread information about these things that affect our lives every damn day. (P.S. If you bleed through, hydrogen peroxide can help remove blood from clothes, sheets, etc.. The more you know.🌈)
- STOP HURTING YOURSELF. The idea that “pain is beauty” might apply to tattoos, but otherwise, it’s just a really silly saying used to make you feel tough when you suffer in the name of gender conformity. You don’t have to do that. No, seriously. Shoes shouldn’t hurt. Breathing shouldn’t be difficult. If you put a dude through these pains, he’d go to the ER. You don’t have to do this to yourself.
- LIKE WHAT YOU LIKE. Trying to match up your preferences to match or avoid gendered expectations is a cause of psychic pain all its own. Don’t bother. It won’t make you happy. What will make you happy is listening to the music, watching the movies, and participating in the activities that you actually enjoy. If some clown wants to belittle you for loving musicals or grill you on your love of comics, once again I say to hell with him. Your time on earth is limited and its purpose is not to please every small-minded misogynist. Go. Be free. Find your thing and do it.