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Wednesday, June 7, 2023


Bald and broken: Students cope through hair cutting, coloring

Look familiar? Have you gone through a traumatic breakup or stressful situation lately? Cutting your hair is just one of the many outlets for built up emotions. I Laura Contasti/ The Cougar

Do you really want bangs, or do you just want to feel in control?

The answer, I have found, is both. Or rather, I want the bangs because they make me feel in control. Cutting my own hair to the sound of One Direction’s saddest songs is an experience I never knew I needed.

The first time I dyed my hair was when I graduated high school. I scheduled the appointment before I graduated, and when I walked in two weeks after crossing the stage, I dyed my hair a seafoam green.

My friend group had disintegrated, and I felt lost. I was out on my own for the first time and college was a decision I hadn’t made yet. But altering my hair was something that made me feel safe — it helped me embrace the change with something tangible: my appearance.

Coloring my hair didn’t solve my problems, but the simple act of doing something that let me be in control of my appearance was comfort enough. It made the rest of the choices I had to make seem attainable.

So, what is it about body modifications that make us feel in control?

From body piercings and tattoos to hair cutting and coloring, body modifications are there for us when our lives feel like they’re spiraling out of control. A traumatic breakup or a life changing interview gone bad are powerful enough to send us in a downward spiral, which is how you end up searching for do-it-yourself hair cut tutorials on YouTube at 2 a.m.

In a Google survey of 32 students, 96.9 percent said they had modified their body as a coping mechanism. From those, 13 had dyed their hair — some even had a combination. Hair coloring and hair cutting seem to be the most popular among students.

Hair has been linked to our concept of self-image, and changing hair can be seen as a way to “exert a sense of authority following a relationship breakdown.” Hair cutting and coloring have seem to become the norm after breakups, especially for women. While some male celebrities have made drastic changes to their hair styles, it remains that femininity and hair are intimately tied.

Hair is one of the many ways with which we present ourselves, it’s how people perceive us and it can impact how we feel about ourselves immensely. Long hair in particular is seen as a sign of femininity, causing them to be linked. This can explain why some women have taken to chopping their locks after a difficult or upsetting breakup.

It’s even become an Instagram trend. Hundreds of women post before and after pictures of their hair transformations under the #breakuphair hashtag, though variations of the hashtag do exist.

Not all hair transformations are due to breakups, however. Twelve years ago, the iconic Britney Spears shaved her head in the final leg of her downward spiral. Spears, who was “rebelling against…the people who handled and molded her,” used her hair as a form of expression. By shaving her head, she rejected society’s views of her and liberated herself from the suffocation she felt.

Body modifications, however, can sometimes provide a temporary solution to a deeper rooted problem. Coloring or cutting your hair can help you feel immediate relief, but unfortunately, it isn’t going to solve all of your problems.

But if Britney can get through it, so can you.

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