I hate getting my hair cut. I avoid the experience as much as possible, and hence my long non-professorial hair. It always amazes me how quickly the ritual conversation with the hair cutter reveals that I am from Planet Academia and not from the real world. Example:
Hair cutter: You know, when you turn 40, you're going to have to cut your hair short.
Me: I turned 40 a long time ago.
Hair cutter (after a little scream of shock): But you CAN'T have hair this long if you're that old.
Me: But I do.
Hair cutter: Of course you want to look young, but we SHOULD cut it to shoulder length. In fact.. (pointing to my chest).. hair that goes down to there is.. STRIPPER HAIR.
Me (wondering whether I can convince my husband to cut my hair next time): I have never heard of that.
Hair cutter: EVERYONE knows that.
Me: Even so, can I just get a trim?
I am doing everything backwards. In my youth, I had cm-long hair for a time (80's, London) when I should have had long hair, and now that I am 'old', I should have short hair.
My loathing of hair cuts is real, but I think part of my motivation for having long hair relates to my wish to change how people perceive scientists and science professors. Life certainly would be easier if I fit the science stereotype more -- or at least as much as a female-type person can -- but I also feel a stubborn wish/need to NOT look like I am supposed to and therefore to surprise people.
Obviously I am not being too extreme about this -- I am not that interested in piercing my eyebrows or getting a large visible tattoo, just as examples. I also don't walk around campus in my lab coat (unlike med school students, even though wearing such attire outside makes me wonder what they are learning about hygiene).
My somewhat delusional hope is that maybe in some small way the daily/weekly experiences that other women scientists and I have of changing people's minds about what a scientist 'looks like' will have a positive effect. Some women I know do this stereotype-busting even more effectively than I do, as I am by no means stylish or particularly socially skilled. Clearly the best way to accomplish the goal of having it be natural for women to be scientists and engineers and mathematicians and presidents is for there to be more of us in these professions, but a little stereotype twisting might help in the meantime.
6 months ago