*This is going to be one of those superficial, navel-gazing-adjacent blog posts...trigger warning (and, yes, I acknowledge that hair journeys are often synonymous with embracing natural hair textures, and I am not being tone-deaf or trying to appropriate).
Yesterday, I got my hair cut. It's a drastic change, as I have never really ventured above the chin-length since childhood. In third grade, I remember chasing one of my friends on the playground, envious of her Pippy Longstocking style braids. My hair was never long enough to braid. My parents were pragmatic, and I was a wild child, I would never sit still long enough to have my hair "done," so they would keep it short (as my dad was an artist, he could see a straight line, and would cut it himself).
All throughout high school and college, I competed in sports, so I needed to be able to put my hair in a ponytail. I grew my hair long enough so that I could easily pull it back. I never thought to try a short style, it would be impractical for my day-to-day. Sure, I got many ill-advised layers, but altogether, my hair was always collarbone-to-just-below-the-boob length.
Post-college, I wanted to grow it out, see how long it could go before I was tempted to have it cut yet again. I grew it about halfway down my back before realizing that getting hair in my food was a nuisance, and it was too long to wear down (especially in the summer).
This past weekend, I attended a friend's wedding and in the pictures I felt like my hair just wasn't doing anything for me. I wanted a change (I know many other women that get this same urge to chop post-breakup). However, when discussing this with another friend (who was completely encouraging about taking the leap to lob/bob) I realized that part of the reason I wanted to keep my hair long(ish) was to rebel against the notion that "professional" women can't have long hair (though I would call myself professional-adjacent). Growing up, though I had super short hair, the doctor at my mom's workplace had hair down to her butt. She would wear it pinned into a bun, but occasionally, she would adjust the bun and give us all a glimpse of her undone hair. It was a sight to be seen, silver and gray cascading down, only to be meticulously twisted back into a bun. Even she knew that long hair couldn't be worn down in the workplace, that she had to keep a "professional" appearance (see Professor McGonagall in the Harry Potter books; coincidence she only "lets her hair down" for the Yule Ball?)
To me, long hair has always been a sign of femininity. I was a tomboy and self-proclaimed ragamuffin in my youth, wearing my brother's hand-me-downs, and ignorant to the ways of womanhood (and as a bra-burning hippy, my mother encouraged this lack of gender stereotyping). When I became attuned to the beguiling power of long hair, I set out to grow mine. But now, I know that defining one's sexual prowess or currency via something as superficial as hair, while it may be tempting, is a follicle fallacy. It is absurd that our society even cares about hairstyle, let alone has conditioned hoards of women (and men) to believe a certain style is professional. If long hair is feminine and short hair is professional, are femininity and professionalism mutually exclusive? Does a modern woman have to forfeit her status as a sexual being to go into the workforce? Is this why people are so keen to call short hair a "mom" look? These dated notions adhere to a standard that has been imposed equating long hair with temptress (sexual being) and short hair with non-sexual professional woman/mom (this is not even touching on the comments about "butch" haircuts).
I say, wear your hair however you see fit, and don't let it dictate your status (as anything). Be a professional with long hair (bonus points if you wear it unkempt), be a temptress with short hair, beguile with your bob (or lob, or whatever style you want). And always remember, hair is nothing more than dead cells.