Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pressure of Conformity

The last time I was in China back in 1989, I just let my hair grow out. I don't even remember getting a haircut during the two years of living in China. I don't remember my parents taking me to get my hair cut nor do I remember asking to get my hair cut. When I returned to the USA entering my first year in high school, I had waist long hair. I remember standing in the lunch line and having students comment that my hair was like the tail of a horse, so black, so thick, so long.

I cut it all off my senior year in college, my hair getting shorter and shorter with each medical school rejection letter until it was a chin length slanted bob. In graduate school, I shaved it all off after a breakup.
Today I like having a short boy haircut. I do not like having long hair. I do not like having a feminine haircut.

Yet why do I today let my hair grow out?


People in Africa and in China like my hairstyle when it is longer, when it is more feminine.

The thing is I know that I get stared at as people try to guess my sex and often mistakenly label me as male when I have short hair wearing winter clothes covering up my curves. My winter jacket is black and is a jacket that Chinese men would wear in China. I don't wear high heels and wear collared shirts which would look amazing with a tie.

Students give me compliments when my hair is longer and I am sure there are comments made behind my back when I have short boy hair. I am sure men who like having long hair face this issue in China too. They receive compliments when they cut off their locks and are secretly commented about when their hair is long.

Peace Corps asked men to cut their locks in D.C. before taking the flight to China.

We conform to be accepted, to be respected, to make our jobs easier as we integrate into the new community.

As my hair grows longer and longer, I feel this strong urge to say NO to conformity and chop it off. But what will the consequences be?

Next weekend I think I will cut my hair.

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