As someone who has spent most of their adult life wearing a size 14 or above, the process of finding clothing I love (especially in brick-and-mortar stores) has never been completely stress-free. But browsing for a new eyeshadow palette or a perfect shade of lipstick? That is a shopping experience that’s never failed me.
I’ve never browsed a Sephora or Ulta with a friend and been embarrassed that the store carried their size, but not mine. No type of makeup, no matter how trendy or how daring, has ever been off-limits because of the size I wear. Though I’ll probably always love clothing a little more than makeup, there’s something about beauty that has always felt a little more freeing than fashion. However, I recently realized that beauty was more connected to body image than I may have thought. I made this discovery the way many women have learned eye-opening things about themselves: getting a major haircut.
My Haircut Experience
After a few years of growing out my hair, I was ready for something a bit different. It was summer. I was constantly hot, and I never felt like styling my hair which fell mid-way down my back. I wanted a change, so without too much thought, I asked my hairstylist to make me bright blonde and cut about four inches.
By the time all was said and done, I had a long, nearly-platinum cut that grazed my collarbone. It wasn’t as drastic as some hair changes, of course, but it was different. When the stylist was done, my first thought was simple: I loved it. My second thought, to my dismay, was: Does this make me look bigger?
I had worn my hair this length before (maybe even a little shorter), but when I had the style in the past, I’d been thinner. Now, I wore a bigger size. And though I was so much more confident and self-assured than I had ever been, the question still pinged in my head: What if my body isn’t meant for this haircut? What if it doesn’t hide or distract enough? What if it’s not feminine enough? It’s not that my haircut was particularly groundbreaking. After all, it was a long bob, but it didn’t change the fact that the questions were there. And I hated them.
The Influence of Fatphobia and Diet Culture
At first, these thoughts unnerved me the same way any haircut second-guessing does in the hours right after the appointment. After all, who among us hasn’t worried that they made the wrong choice immediately after a major hair change? But I knew I loved how the cut and color made me feel. I went back to my first instincts once again, trusting my initial reaction. What was bothering me were the other questions that arose in my mind—the ones based on the idea only thinner bodies could "pull off" certain things.
When I reflected on this more, it wasn’t the worry of the haircut being "wrong" for me that bothered me, though. I wasn’t annoyed or worried at all; I was angry. The question was a big, flashing reminder that even if you’ve spent years unlearning fatphobia and diet culture, it doesn’t mean there isn’t still work to do. It doesn’t mean that it goes away.
More than anything, the thoughts reminded me that acknowledging fatphobia means acknowledging it everywhere, all the time. It’s realizing that, Wait, there aren’t that many plus-size models in makeup or hair campaigns — and why, exactly, is that? It’s realizing that, Oh yes, there is a societal expectation for cis women in larger bodies to be hyper-feminine. There is a narrative that long, luscious hair somehow makes a curvier figure more acceptable, or better—that it hides things.
None of those things are pleasant to realize, of course. The truth is that it’s easier sometimes to ignore them altogether and pretend that it’s not all that insidious after all. The problem with that, though, is that it puts the onus back on all of us. It makes us believe that maybe we would look better with a different hairstyle, different outfit, or a smaller body. Personally, though, I believe that we should strive to shrug off all the bullshit societal standards in the world and focus on the one question that really matters when it comes to a haircut, outfit, or life: Does it make you happy?