Reading advice columns is my guilty pleasure (and I’m someone who doesn’t believe in guilty pleasures. All pleasure, no guilt!), and I’ve been fascinated by older posts in Ask A Manager about hair. One was from a woman whose husband had grown his hair in his last job and wore it in a low bun (at the nape of his neck). She was wondering if he should cut it for interviews, and the responses were fascinating. This was from April of 2017, which wasn’t that long ago. He worked in accounting, which is a pretty conservative industry. The responses were all over the map with one person actually naming herself ‘boys shouldn’t look like girls’ and labeled herself as a female, then had a incoherent answer about how the men in her job (she’s the only woman, the guys work in what she calls dirty jobs, but in customer-facing roles) had to have short hair and be clean-shaven because they needed to look professional. She was by far the outlier on the conservative side, but she wasn’t the only one who was hesitant about it.
A very interesting side conversation developed around whether it was more professional for a man to wear his long hair in a ponytail or a bun. Someone threw out the term man bun, which annoyed the fuck out of me. Someone else said, “Why not just call it a bun?” And, yes! I get that it was started as a way of poking fun, but there’s an undercurrent of, “Hey, it’s not really a girly thing at all–see, it’s a MAN _______.” Man bun, man purse, man boobs. None of that is needed. Someone explained that with the man bun, it was more about men scraping together barely enough hair to make a bun whereas most women have enough hair to make a big fat bun. I can see that point, but I still hate affixing man in front of things that are traditionally feminine.
Anyway, one person said that a topknot was unprofessional in general which was news to me. There was some regional difference as to whether a ponytail or a bun on a guy was more professional. Top of the head vs. nape of the nap. It was a robust argument, and all I could think was, “Who the fuck cares?”
There was another post about women and long hair and how it had to be pulled back to be considered professional. This was straight from Alison, and there was a lot of robust discussion in the comments. I have hair that goes past my butt–
Side Note: My hair has been waist length for nearly two decades. I cut about three inches off the ends every year or so and I’m done with it. However, in the last year or so, it’s grown about four inches and is now past my flattish yellow ass (used to be completely flat, but now there’s some ass, and it’s all in thanks to taiji). Initially, I attributed it to taiji because why not? But it makes more sense that it’s diet-related.
Side Note to the Side Note: I cut out almost all caffeine. Recently, I learned from my taiji teacher that 3 – 6 glasses of caffeine a day (8 oz of coffee as one glass) is perfectly fine for most people. When I was hyperthyroid, I was told to stay away from caffeine. That makes sense, but I’ve been hypothyroid for over thirty years. Therefore, I don’t have to be as vigilant about caffeine. I’ve been contemplating adding it back to my diet (but not pop), but I’ve decided that I’m just going to be chill about it. I am not going to deliberately add it back, but I’m not going to stop myself if I want the occasional cup of coffee. Currently, I have maybe two glasses of caffeinated tea a week, but that’s it.
I have hair that goes past my ass, and I mostly wear it in a bun on top of my head. Sometimes, I wear it in a high pony, and more rarely, I wear it down. Recently, I’ve gotten compliments when I’ve worn it down, which is nice, but not really the point of anything.
Most people in the long hair for women post were adamant that hair worn down is unprofessional. I hasten to add that we’re talking about white collar work, meaning business-type offices. There was argument about bun vs. ponytail, and also the position of each. It was really weird to read that so many people consider hair worn down as unprofessional. They were passionate about it, but there was no real reason when you boiled away all the noise. I can understand in a job where you’re working with, say, heavy machinery. You do not want to get your hair caught in, say, a thresher.
In an office, however, is it really a problem? You could argue it might get caught in the copier, but most people with long hair are very aware of the pitfalls of said long hair. I can understand saying that hair put up in a bun looks neater, but I couldn’t fathom how vehement some people were being about it. I mean, I get there is a different vibe if I wear my hair up in a bun versus if I wear it down, but I’m still the same damn person! I still talk too much at times and too little at other times, still have the same cranky and sarcastic sense of humor, and still am hypersensitive to any criticism, though I do my best to hide it. I can still type over a hundred words a minute on a Dvorak keyboard whether I wear my hair up or down. I can still edit the hell out a piece whether my hair is in a topknot, a ponytail, or tickling my ass. I can still be as warm or as cold with my hair down as I can be with it up.
When you get down to it, many of the professional norms of an office are arbitrary, and it’s interesting to see how invested some people are in maintaining the status quo. It’s easy for me to observe from a distance, but after reading the blog for some time, I realize that I would never fit into a white collar office. I am too weird, and I just don’t give a shit about the things you need to care about to operate in that world.
I think one of the problems with spending a lot of time online is that it’s much easier to declare things should be a certain way online. It used to happen when I was really involved in politics. People on Twitter would get really up in arms about some certain topic, and I would ask people in the real world what they thought about it, and it was barely a blip on their radar.
Someone in the RKG FB group asked why it was so hard to have a reasonable discussion about something online (in this case, pop culture), and I said because it was too easy to forget that there were people on the other side of the screed you’re writing and because for the more temperate people, it was easier just to shrug and walk away. Things are put in such neat categories online, and everything is black or white. While I love my stories (advice columns), too often the commenters fall into rigid thinking that is reinforced throughout the comments. It’s not often that someone will say, “Hey, you know what? I thought about what you said, and you’re right. I was wrong.”
It’s also a fascinating peek into the unconscious that most of us hold back. Not directly, necessarily, but watching the meta-story emerge in the comments is one reason I am addicted to my stories. I’ve read Ask A Manager enough that when certain commenters show up, I know what they are going to say before I even read their posts. Sometimes they surprise me, and I appreciate that, but I’m usually right. It’s a great psychological study, and speaking of psychology, my mother mentioned again that I would be a great therapist the last time we talked. She was saying I could get my Master in two years and then be a Marriage and Family counselor. I blurted out that my only advice would be, “Get a divorce”, which my mother thought was funny. I wasn’t completely joking, however, and I blame my stories. Nobody writes into an advice columnist to say, “My marriage is wonderful, and what should I do about it?”
I have thought about going back to school to get my Masters, PhD, or PsyD in Clinical Psych, but it frightens the hell out of me. First of all, I’m not even sure that I should get it in Clinical Psych. It would make more sense to do, sigh, Industrial and Organizational Psychology, but I. Hate. IO Psych. As for Marriage and Family, yeah, I could do it. Do I want to? No. I don’t believe in marriage per se, and I know it’s detrimental in general to women who are married to men. I don’t think I would have the patience to deal with it. Also, it’s funny that I told my mom how my brother suggested I do life coaching, and she just breezed past that as if I never said it. It’s also funny how my brother thinks I should do life coaching and my mom is pushing me for marriage and family counseling.
If I were to go back to school, what do I want to do? Clinical psychology. What would I do? I don’t know. I have no idea. That’s part of the problem.