Short post: haircuts and ableism

I know I said something not too long ago about how my recent diagnosis with fibromyalgia had brought me face to face with internalized ableism, but I’ve actually been busy with work and haven’t returned to it yet. (The draft will take some thought to revise, and my energy is focused on a job search and a really huge data analysis.) I do have time for a less complex rumination on a small way in which this has manifested:

I am resisting getting my hair cut.

What does that have to do with internalized ableism? Well, it often hurts to stand up long enough to wash my hair while I am showering. (I need to invest in a padded nonskid mat, but I haven’t gotten there yet.) My tendency to headaches is made worse by the weight of my hair when it is up in a ponytail or bun. I get chilled more easily at work, where the air conditioner already makes my hands hurt if I don’t wear gloves, because my hair takes so long to air dry. (Hair dryers have never been something I’ve been able to use.)

The counterpoint? My hair is pretty when it’s long. Cutting it because it doesn’t fit well into my current sense of the fibro feels, somehow, like letting the fibro win. That, frankly, is ludicrous, and I attribute it to internalized ableism. I fear that I will be less attractive to men I’d like to date if I cut my hair, but I had a short haircut a couple of years ago and loved its look and feel, and got numerous complements. And I have gotten my hair cut almost every summer since I was 12 or 13, so it’s not like getting my hair cut now is really unusual. Despite this, I still feel like it’s giving in…that by keeping my hair long I am somehow standing strong, defiant in the face of a change in my body. The voice in my head says that if I can maintain this hairstyle, maybe it won’t hurt so much, or I’ll get used to the pain, and I can just convince myself that the sad and upsetting things that have happened over the last year either never happened, or don’t matter anymore. Naturally, that’s not the case. The bills, the prescriptions, the doctors’ notes…these are physical reminders, outside of the pain and light sensitivity that lurk in my daily life, that this is really happening.

The only legitimate reason I have to delay getting my hair cut is that money was tight for a bit, due to some weirdness with work and health insurance stuff. But there’s no reason not to go to a local chain for a simple cut, really, even if I crave the indulgence of getting my hair cut at a local salon where I went last fall to get a bit of a trim and a new style.

Funny how cultural narratives about female beauty have filtered into my brain this way…the fact that long hair is so often seen as feminine and sexy, and that “disability” is decidedly unsexy. It’s just a haircut, though – it doesn’t change the fibro, my worth as a human being, or anything else that’s, you know, actually important. It doesn’t change the odds of my getting a job or publishing my research or making friends! And it doesn’t change my relationship with my sister – about which, oh yes, there is much more to say. I will simply note here that she finally has hair long enough to put in a ponytail, and it curls in the cutest way, but she still has a bald spot from her psoriasis, and maybe I hadn’t really considered how my hairstyle reflects how I feel about us.


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