Opinion | It’s more than just short hair

Louisa Marshall

The question I get asked the most is not about my job, not about my work at Los Angeles Magazine, not about my senior thesis or graduate school, but about something far more trivial: my hair. People ask me almost daily if they can touch it, how long I have had it short and if I’m ever going to grow it out. Honestly, it’s a little weird.

I’ve had short hair since I was 14. Yes, shockingly it does feel the same as your head of hair. No, I’d rather you not touch it. No, I’m not going to grow it. And although these short snippets answer the majority of questions I face about this aspect of my life, I often times find myself a little shocked that I am asked about it in the first place. So to hopefully appease the amount of questions I get, here is the backstory of my short hair.

When I first cut my hair, not only did I chop about 12 inches off its length, but I pretty much shaved it all off. I faced quite the identity crisis and it took a minute to get used to it. But once I had, I fell in love with the freedom my short hair gave me. No longer was I a slave to hairbrushes or hot tools. I didn’t have to dedicate an hour of my life to the painstaking task of washing it. I could get up in the morning, run some product through my short locks and I’d be out the door.

At the time I first cut my hair, I was really going through it. My parents were deep in a messy divorce, my older brother was about to leave for college and I was trying to navigate high school. It never really occurred to me at the time that changing my hair so drastically was an outlet for the emotional trials that I was facing. And after I did the deed, I didn’t recognize myself; at the time, there was something appealing about that to me. It was like a clean slate, an opportunity to start over. I thought, if I didn’t recognize myself, maybe other people wouldn’t as well.

I manifested my emotions through a variety of outlets as a teenager. I kept my hair short and I dyed it just about every color: red, silver, platinum blonde, I’ve done them all. I got a few piercings, some of which I’ve taken out (age really does broaden perspective). I drove all the way to Reno, Nevada, to get my first tattoo at 16-years-old and kept the practice up, which has resulted in an ink-covered back, a half-sleeve and a few squiggly pieces on my arms and wrists. I went from a high school freshman that carried a pink backpack to an edgy teen with black Converse and an attitude. My tattoos, my piercings and my hair sealed the deal of a cold teenaged outer persona that, oddly enough, I was very happy with.

I would definitely say that I have mellowed with age. I’m in my last year of undergrad; my college time has brought trials and challenges no question, but it’s also brought the opportunity to deal with hardships in a way that’s less ink-permanent. I care about my family and my friends. I want to leave my school and my environment better than I found it. I oversee and guide a team of 30 people and I try to make them feel heard, supported and valued in the process.

But if one thing about my edgy, teenaged self has stuck, it’s my hair. There’s something almost magical about the ability to roll out of bed in the morning and not have to ponder the “What should I do with my hair today” question. I still don’t have to think about the amount of time it takes to wash it, I can still just run some product through it and call it a day. But I did have to stop dying it; after my last bleach job, my hair felt like coarse straw that belonged more on a farm than on top of my head.

So the next time you go up to someone and ask about their hair, their tattoos, their glasses or retro t-shirt, remember that there’s most likely some kind of backstory that they may not want to share. Luckily for all of you, I’m an open book.