Bang Theory

It takes forever to grow out bangs. It takes - I’m not really sure how long it takes, because I’ve never actually managed to do it.

Since the age of 4 or 5 when my mother sat me on the kitchen counter, brushed my hair down in front of my face, ran a strip of pink tape just above my eyebrows and snipped, I have lived life with only half a face. The rest is obscured by bangs.

Every year and a half or so, a model or actress makes big fashion news by cutting bangs (or fringe, to the English or French, though this word indicates a certain lack of commitment). And all of a sudden, it’s seen as a stylish option - something women can blithely run to the hairdresser and choose.

How I envy them! For these ladies, hair is just an accessory. They don't know it's all a continuum of darkness and personality disorder. Often begun by a frustrated parent in early childhood (“for God’s sake, would you get that hair our of your face!”) and compounded by TV’s influence (That Girl and Mary Tyler Moore), it can have an everlasting effect. A lifetime of ducking, hiding, peeping and squinting. Of contrived coquettishness and implied insouciance, smiling and people-pleasing. Marlo and Mary did manage to break free for a while with side and center parts but you’ll notice they inevitably show up in bangs again.


I know I should avoid women's magazines - they exist mostly to sell products. But I can't stop myself - I at least want to know all the different ways I'm doing it wrong. (French magazines are a little more forgiving, with flawed looking women the norm.) On one page you'll see an irritating article that says noone over 30 should wear bangs - it looks like you’re trying too hard to hold on to your youth. A female version of the male combover? Yet the makeovers always have hairdressers “softening” an older woman’s appearance by cutting bangs. They don’t tell the women that they’ve just been inducted into a kind of mafia of the hair, where you will try to get out and keep getting pulled back in. Some are strong enough to break free. Not me. I’ll get a little extra confidence going and almost manage to grow the bangs out. But the thought of full disclosure is terrifying or downright impossible. A bad day, a glass of wine, a mirror and a handy pair of scissors, and the months of pushing my hair to one side or the other while the front pieces grow out is washed down the drain. And the cycle begins again.

I’m thinking of starting a support group for the forehead-impaired. The members would mostly be women, although we would certainly consider accepting guys. We’d call each other up and talk it through in weak, haggard moments when the barber shears beckon once again.

But then some Goldie Hawn movie would come on TV and it would be all over...

Prompted by Sunday Scribblings