Reader Request: Coping with Post-haircut Questions and Comments

pixie cut from back

Reader Sonia reached out with this request:

I have read your piece “If You Want To, You Should Totally Chop Off All Your Hair” (brilliant!) several times, and after two years of psyching myself up, I made an appointment to totally chop off all my hair. I am 100% committed. And excited! And terrified. My hair is currently one length, mostly straight, and ends several inches below the tops of my shoulders. I’m 45, and it’s been this way (or longer) for 26 years. And I’m SO TIRED OF IT. Hence, the chopping.

My question is, do you have any advice for when I get up out of that salon chair and take my first few forays in the world with dramatically different hair? I’m talking somewhere between a faux-hawk and a pixie. REALLY short.

A couple years ago, when I accidentally died my hair fire engine red (I have naturally dark blonde hair), I was petrified to go into work. My dear friend Lisa Beth told me, “Put on a bunch of eye make-up, and walk in there like you F-ing own the place!” I did, and it worked.

Here are my stats: Dark blonde hair, some grey at the temples, very fair skin, grey eyes, rimless glasses 24/7, minimal make-up, 5’9″, 200 lbs. I tend to dress in dark colors and conservative styles for work.

Any bit advice for walking into work that first day?

As a pixie cut veteran, I was so excited to hear Sonia’s question! Here’s what I told her:

Your friend’s advice is stellar, and I definitely advise going in equipped with some confident, positive replies like, “Isn’t it fun? I’ve been thinking of doing it for ages and am so happy with how it turned out!” Changing up your dressing habits or makeup may make even more waves, so you’ll have to decide for yourself if you want to go a similar route as you did when you dyed your hair red. On one hand, it might cause people to ask about a full makeover. On the other, if you’ve been thinking about making other changes to your style or makeup you could get all of the newness out of the way at once!

I don’t really have a game plan for you, I’m afraid, but I’ll tell you this: Some people will have opinions, some people will make remarks, some people may even be forward or inconsiderate. But virtually NONE of that is about you. People instinctively fear change and that includes changes that others make. Their discomfort is about themselves – some may admire your boldness and wish they had the guts to make a similar change, some may have feelings about arbitrary age/femininity “rules” that they feel you’re bending. Their unease is caused by the fact that you made a decision that pushed them out of their routine. And it is NOT your responsibility to soothe them. You are making this change for yourself, and they’ll just have to get used to it.

I would also add that most changes have a two-week interest-based shelf-life. After that, people often don’t remember what you looked like before. Our memories really are that short! Several years ago, Husband Mike decided to wear suits to his SUPER casual office. Every day. He wanted to make it his personal uniform. And, as you might expect, he got a stream of “job interview” jokes and curious comments. But they lasted for two weeks, then tapered, then stopped completely. Now, this will only help you if you’ve made a relatively drastic change and plan to stick with it consistently from here on out – which is the case with a haircut. If you wear the occasional foofy tulle skirt but generally stick to pencils and A-lines, that’s a different deal. But if you get a makeover, switch styles drastically overnight, dye your locks bright blue, or do something similarly permanent, count on about two weeks of inquiries. Your peer group should acclimate by then. (Hopefully.)

I would never say that you should make massive changes to your appearance no matter how your friends, family, and peers might react. Because you live in the world, and you interact with people, and if you’re fairly certain they’re going to be obnoxious about it, that’s a very real concern. But I hope that arming yourself with some pithy responses, preparing for about two weeks of irritation, and remembering that these comments are only slightly related to you and your choices will help you feel braver and more able to make the changes you want.

Image first seen on Instagram.

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10 Responses to “Reader Request: Coping with Post-haircut Questions and Comments”

  1. Roselyne

    If you want it: do it! Rock it! Prepare for about 90% compliments and 10% annoying nonsense, and try to focus on the first people!

    Illustrating example: I cut about 4 inches off my hair, to get a just-above-the-shoulders bob. Most people gave super-nice compliments, which I try to focus on. The 2 comments that were hilariously bad: on colleague who, 3 weeks after, came to tell me that ‘my hair turned out to not be AS ugly as she’d first thought” (gee, effing thanks? Why do you bother opening your mouth?) And a friend’s now-ex chose to take the opportunity to tell me that “he, and most men, prefer women with long hair” (to which I responded that, since I wasn’t planning on sleeping with either him OR most men, I didn’t see why his opinion should matter, and why was he sharing it again?)

    I’m sharing those examples just because the ‘negative’ comments are so ludicrous that a disbelieving ‘wow’ and changing the subject can totally be appropriate answers. Most people will be nice, ESPECIALLY if you make it clear that you’re super happy with the change. Good luck! 🙂

    • Nebraskim

      That comment about how “most men prefer women with long hair” is one I’ve heard over and over. I love your retort to his ridiculous comment. Rock on!

  2. Monica H

    I work at a semiconductor company, with lots of engineers where the predominant office style could best be described as”bland.” A few years ago one of my female coworkers decided to dye a front lock of her hair bright purple. When she was questioned about it, she replied, “it’s just hair….” like it was no big deal. This is another possible response, although it probably works best if this closely reflects your attitude about it. To her it really was no big deal. It was effective at getting people to stop questioning the significance of it.

  3. pope_suburban

    I got a pixie after my hair had been halfway down my back, mostly because I realized that all I ever did was throw it up in a clip anyway (and hair skills are not my forte; I had ambitions but I could not seem to learn how to execute them). I have no regrets, and everyone at work as terribly surprised but nice about it. It wasn’t even a week before everyone was used to it. The only person who was remotely negative about it was our creepy toner supplier; I regarded his crestfallen face and the reduction in his attention as a delightful bonus of a haircut that was great anyway. Even he didn’t say anything, it was just some obvious body language and a big change in how he interacted with me. So in my experience, most people will be nice about something like this.

  4. Nebraskim

    I have done the “chopped my hair off” thing numerous times and loved it every time. My hair is short right now, not unlike the look in the picture above. Often people will respond to a drastic change in an OMG WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU way that feels inappropriately over the top. I agree this is because people have difficulty with change and are shocked and just blurt out stuff. But most will be OK and supportive and delighted by the new you. Some might be rudely blunt: “Why did you do that? I liked your old hair better.” Your response, as Sally suggested, should be “Sorry you feel that way. I love it.” Whatever happens OWN THE DECISION and be proud. Long ago, when i chopped hip-length hair to a short bob, an obnoxious male co-worker said to me, “OMG I would NEVER let my wife cut her hair like that.” I said back, “OMG I am sooooo glad I am not your wife.” Don’t let the fear of what others may say about your hair dissuade you from doing what you feel is best. Just do it.

  5. Dana Burrell

    The best thing about short hair? earrings! Put on your favorites… you know, the ones that you sometimes could only see when you tucked your hair behind your ear. Wear em’ and rock em’!

  6. poodletail

    People will definitely have opinions and feel perfectly free to express them all. My favorite: “Your hair!”

  7. Heidi/FranticButFab

    I get inspired to go pretty short about every 7 years (last time was last spring). It’s generally only positive or even neutral (“You got a hair cut.” “Yes I did.”). My favorite this last time was my colleague who did not notice the entire day that I’d cut my hair off until late in the afternoon when I walked over to his desk, asked him a question and he looked up and did a perfect double-take.

  8. Melise

    I cut off all my hair because I have a rare condition and my hair touching my face was causing me physical pain (profile image does not reflect my current haircut). But it definitely feels different when I look in the mirror and I’m not sure how to adjust my style. I’d like to keep wearing large earrings like I did prior to the chop but it feels like such a big contrast- the short, masculine haircut and the big, femme earrings. I also tend to wear skirts and heels so I’m not sure what I can pull off.