What is it about our hair that can define so much of our identity, mood and self- esteem? A bad hair day really is a bad day, just because of your hair. It's amazing but so shockingly true. And so often, for me anyway, it's the bangs that are the focus of what's bad about my hair. Humidity, right? Where the bangs twist and curl up all zig-zaggy?
So the huge reaction to the "FLOTUS GETS BANGS" stories did not surprise me. People, especially women, have a lot of feelings related to hair, haircuts in general and bangs specifically. People, women especially, have a lot of feelings about First Lady Michelle Obama's spectacular fashion (and those impossibly toned arms). So when the First Lady introduced her new haircut – featuring perfectly coiffed bangs – at the inaugural festivities, well, we all just about lost our minds.
I wrote about our collective reaction here: Michelle Obama's Hair: The Real Story of the Obama Inaugural Week
Women with bangs
What is it about bangs that make us so crazy? Why do they command so much attention and cause so much distress? I believe it's because we all have experienced some kind of hair trauma and more often than not, it had to do with somebody cuttin' your bangs too short and along with that clump of hair that fell to the salon floor, so went your self-esteem.
Bad hair days
Bad bangs are one of the most horrifying hair traumas because they are literally in your face all the time. You cannot escape the maddening truth of them, right there, staring back at you from their mocking perch mid-way down your forehead. I take out all my frustrations and anxiety on my bangs. I cut them regularly, often too short, unevenly and at odd angles. I don't know why. I don't self-cut the rest of my hair. Just my bangs.
After all this thinking about Michelle Obama's hair, I realized that my personal relationship with bangs began with a great childhood trauma. I'd forgotten all about it until all this talk of the FLOTUS haircut reminded me. When I was 6 years old we lived across the street from a big Italian family with whom we were very close. Their son, Victor, was my best friend. His mom, Delores, was a good friend to my mom. Another son, Tony, hung out with my dad and my brother and their daughter, Maria, ran a hair salon in the basement of the house and cut all of our hair.
Bad haircut stories
One day before the start of first grade, my mother thought it would be a great idea to take me over to their house and have Maria cut my hair. She wanted Maria to give me bangs. I didn't know what they were and thus, went to the hair executioner willingly.
The minute she started chopping away at the front of my hair I started to sob. I didn't want hair over my eyes. I liked it all one length, pinned back tightly to my scalp by two bobby pins, one on each side of my face. You can't pin bangs back with bobby pins!
When it was done, everyone, Maria, my mom, Delores, even Tony and their older brother, Joe, made a big deal about how great my hair looked. I just cried and cried and ran across the street back to our house.
I remember feeling so mad and helpless and furious at my mother for not even asking me if I wanted this haircut.
A few minutes ago I asked my mom if she remembered when I got my first bangs. "Oh yes," she said. "You hated them."
Yes, I did, I said. Why did you ask Maria to do that?
"I thought they'd look nice," my mom said.
But I didn't want them.
"Well, that became clear."
Why didn't you ask me what I wanted?
"Because you were 6 years old and it didn't occur to me to ask you."
Well, it took a long time to get over it, Mom.
"I see. I'm sorry I made you get bangs. But they did look adorable."
I went into her basement and found my school picture taken just days after the haircut. I brought it upstairs and my mom and I looked at it.
"Oh that's right," my Mom said. "It was for picture day at school. That's why I asked Maria to cut your hair. Now look at that picture. You were absolutely adorable!"
It turns out, apparently, sometimes, it's not about the hair.