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“She cut all my hair off! There is no way three inches of my hair was that bad.”

You’ve heard it, or you’ve said it. A scissor-happy stylist went in on your scraggly ends, and now you’re upset because the length you worked to retain is on the beauty shop floor. But was it really worth holding on to? Or could you admit that the two or three inches that were lopped off really needed to go? Why is it more important for us to look like we have long hair rather than looking like we have healthy hair? Vanity, I guess. Feeling feminine, maybe. The sadness of feeling like you lost what you worked hard to grow, perhaps.

Hair length is a big deal for women of all cultures. According to Psychology Today, the attraction to long hair is wired into men and women. In a study cited by the magazine, men rated women with medium to long hair prettier. And researchers stated that people attribute long hair to health and wealth.  As it turns out, it’s not just about whipping your hair back and forth, it’s about the femininity and power many feel is attached to the length of their tresses.

Another reason is vanity. We want to look like we have the ‘health and wealth’ of Rapunzel. We want to be able to stretch our coils or our straightened hair past our shoulders. We want to show people that we are capable of having long locks without relying on extensions. We want shine, even if our hair has little sheen. We want hair that sweeps as far as we can get it, even if the ends are in shambles. We want to look luxurious, even if our hair looks and feels like a frayed potato sack.

You stood out if you were the little Black girl with the extra long hair growing up. This was especially true if you were in a classroom filled with girls whose mothers decided to process their collective daughters’ hair into submission (and breakage), leaving everyone else with a perpetually uneven, ear-skimming bob. Being that little girl with the long, shiny braids was an ego thing. It was a ‘better than’ or ‘less than’ point of view for some—a “good hair, bad hair” thing for others.

And let’s not forget the effort it takes for hair to grow. The long, bra-strap length full of chipped ends didn’t just happen. We didn’t just grow that hair–we achieved that hair! We made it happen by any means necessary: castor oil, scalp massages, pills, strategic eating and other wacky treatments and remedies. We want to celebrate that hang time we acquired, even if our hair isn’t in the healthy shape we think it is.

But when split ends and broken hair come calling, let it go. It’ll grow back. Yes, it will take time. Yes, it’s annoying. Yes, you’ll have to pay attention to your freshly trimmed ends. But it’s better than pretending you have something that you don’t. Sometimes a good trim, or in some cases, a big chop, is just what the hair needs to reach that length you’ve been yearning for. And to reach it the right way.

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