Dubai Diaries: The long and short of it

anjana@khaleejtimes.com Filed on July 30, 2021

I got hair goals from my mother who had thick, long, lush hair.

Which girl hasn’t grown up dreaming about long hair! Those fairy tale-like tresses that cascade down and bounce off your shoulders. Everyone admires long hair. Having long hair is like owning a garden. It needs extensive care, every single day. I have always watched in amusement how women, well-endowed in the department of hair, spend hours disciplining their luxuriant mane.

Ask them how they manage their hair, and they will let out a torrent of complaints about how difficult and time-consuming it is to wash, dry and tie it. Suggest they chop it off to make life easier, and you are inviting sneers and scorn from a wounded soul.

I got hair goals from my mother who had thick, long, lush hair. Apparently, her crowning glory was an object of envy in the little town where we lived. Everywhere I went, people would turn me around and run their hands through my mop and say, “Not even half as beautiful as your mother’s.” And I will be told — yet another time — about the fabled beauty of her locks that dangled up to the back of her knees when she was in her 20s.

I used to imagine my mom curling up alongside her plaited hair every night. My mom would validate my imagination and say that is exactly what she did. “All that is gone now. I lost so much hair after I gave birth,” my mom would say caressing her still waist-long locks.

Because length is tied to femininity, I think women are conditioned to love long hair. It is a prerequisite to looking attractive. My grandmom used to say girls need long hair to get a good husband. A woman is not allowed to own her hair and do whatever she pleases with it. In patriarchal societies, it is still tied to a family’s honour. A woman with short hair is a disgrace.

Growing up, I was the only girl among my friends who had ‘permission’ to trim my hair and try a few new cuts that was in vogue. My mom was a sport and would take me to salons and ask for haircuts that did not compromise on the length. I remember the ruckus I caused when I once pushed the limits and chopped off my hair up to my shoulders. My hair escapade was greeted with a deafening silence at home… that lasted almost a week.

They say, whenever a woman cuts her hair, she is about to change something in her life. When she is ready for a new start, first thing she does is chop off those dead inches. She is making a political statement that she owns her body and will decide what she wants to do with her life.

Sometimes, it is much simpler. She just needs a change. Last week, I just got liberated from the weight of my locks.

“Is everything okay?” a concerned Facebook friend messaged me. He thought I was ‘brave’, to cut my own hair. I just wanted to feel the breeze behind my neck this summer. That is the long and short of it. It is a grave misunderstanding that emotions are always tangled with the tresses.


Anjana Sankar

Anjana Sankar is a UAE-based journalist chasing global stories of conflict, migration and human rights. She has reported from the frontlines of the wars in Yemen and Syria and has extensively written on the refugee crisis in Bangladesh, Iraq and Europe. From interviewing Daesh militants to embedding with the UAE army in Yemen, and covering earthquakes, floods, terrorist attacks and elections, she has come out scathe-free from the most dangerous conflict zones of the world. Riding on over 14 years of experience, Anjana currently is an Assistant Editor with Khaleej Times and leads the reporting team. She often speaks about women empowerment on her Facebook page that has 40,000 plus followers.


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