Splits and Endings

Woman with long hair crossing her arms Photo : Alana Bagladi

I’ve noticed recently that breakups often seem to evoke a strange desire for women to change their hair. I’ve seen it happen many times with my friends and I’ve even felt a similar feeling myself. My suspicions that we were not alone in this feeling was further confirmed by a Twitter poll I created. Why do we feel the need to make a change to our physical appearance to further separate ourselves from the ending of a chapter in our lives and is that the only reason women have changed their hair after a breakup?

To answer my question, I first reflected on the comments the boys I have previously dated have made about my hair.

“I like it dark, I like it long.” 

“I had a crush on Misty from Pokemon as a child, I’ve always wanted to date a redhead.”

“Don’t do blue or green. I don’t like them and you’ll look ‘scene.’”

“Don’t cut or dye your hair, I like it how it is” 


These aren’t all terrible things to say to someone but the place of power from which these comments are coming might play a factor in my own personal desire to change my hair after a breakup. To purposely defy what someone else wants for me and how they perceive me. Are these suggestions assumptions that their say has a huge sway toward decisions I make regarding my hair?

The first time I truly felt this way was after my first real break up with Pokemon guy. We had broken up pretty unexpectedly and I felt as though my future had died. We had planned an extravagant cross-country long distance relationship because we were going to beat the odds and make it last (we tried multiple to times to make it work but it did not, a surprise to no one).

I wanted to distance myself from the pain and give myself a fresh start so I ended up buying a box of hair dye and dyeing my hair in my dorm bathroom. I may not have overcome the pain by darkening my hair but I did feel empowered in my decision to defy his opinions about my hair and make a decision about how I wanted to look and who I was on my own. I walked out of the bathroom a stronger, better person.

Growing up, my mom was never allowed to pick her hairstyle because her mother always chose for her. My mom’s lack of freedom of expression through her hair caused her to promise her future daughter that she would let her style her hair anyway she wanted. As with most things my parents promise me, I push it to the limit and I have convinced my mom to let me do a lot of fun things with my hair. From bad highlights to a secret, illegal blue streak, my mom let me fully express myself through my hair. Having someone in my life who thought they had a real say in how I did my hair was a strange change to my mom’s mostly laissez-faire attitude towards my hair.

Because I change my hair so often, I sometimes feel a “Seven-Year Itch.” I want to make some change, usually a new color because I am in love with how long (and probably unhealthy) my hair is currently. I started to feel the itch to change my hair around the beginning of February. Ironically, this itch coincided with another unexpected and immature break up a few weeks later. I was torn between going partially blonde or cutting half of it off, a very drastic change from the dark, long hair I have. The conflicting feelings I had over this would-be drastic change were only strengthened by the ghost in my life. But this time, I didn’t change my hair because I don’t need someone else to make me realize the autonomy over my hair I already possess. It’s long, my roots are showing, and greatly need a trim but that can wait.

Even though I haven’t changed my hair, I am not hanging on to something that is over. I am making a decision on my own and without any boy’s opinion. I decided that I will eventually darken it but not because someone broke my heart or thought they had a say in the way I present myself. My hair is mine and how I wear, dye it, or cut it, is up to me.



Hannah Nobbe : Self-proclaimed Riot Grrl with an affinity for lipstick, spaghetti, and all things velvet