The Struggle is Real: In Between Short + Long Hair

My portraits—and hairstyles—from preschool through ninth grade. Longest hair: top row, right. What my hair looks like these days: middle row, right. (Who else turned up their collars?)

I'll admit up front that this post is not really related to running.

Except that it kind of is because a ponytail—or, I should say, one potential ponytail—is involved. And everybody knows you wear a ponytail when you run, if the length of your hair merits it.

The length of my hair has never, ever merited a ponytail. The longest it's ever been is shoulder-length, and those long, lustrous hair days were exclusively when I rode an elementary school bus. It seems it was chopped (my decision? I can't remember) somewhere around 3rd grade, and despite my intentions to grow it out in 5th, I quickly retreated back.

(For the record, during this trip, I also got stopped in the women's bathroom and told I was in the wrong place.)

So for 95% of my life, my hair has been short. And I've liked it that way for a variety of reasons. Ease of use: a little water, a little juushing, and it's almost as good as new. Saves on shampoo and product. <3 minutes to blow dry, if I choose to, which I usually don't. Provides a little sass in a world of long + straight. Integrates all of my gazillion cowlicks with relative ease.

If I'm being honest, I also don't have the patience for long hair. Or at least for growing long hair. I head down that long-tresses road, thinking this will be the time I can finally deal with that in-between weirdness (see above picture, middle row, right). Then I'll be emptying the dishwasher or checking Twitter, and, despite my not even thinking or touching my hair, total exasperation just hits without warning.

"If I don't get my hair cut stat," I think, "I am going to lose my sh*t."

Then I make an appointment, which is usually a week away. By the time it rolls around, I'm back to being ok, but I've had that moment, and I know it'll come again. So I get chopped.

Anytime I've left it up to my stylist on how to cut my hair—I'm pretty low maintenance in that regard—I always end up with some variation on this theme. (But I love this picture, recording the audiobook of Run Like a Mother.)

That said, I never had many style options with sassy + short. I could throw a bobby pin in for the simple sake of accessorizing—and trust me, that simplicity is a difficult look to nail—but beyond that, it pretty much looks the same whether I am running or trying to look radiant for a night out. Just me, a crazy determined cowlick, a forehead that won't quit, and a few wisps.

Pretty short here on a visit to NYC with the then 10 yo.

Lately, though, I've been growing it out, also for a variety of reasons. At this point in my life, there isn't much on my body I can change with no effort, but hair is one of them. God bless follicles: They grow whether we ask them to or not. (To be sure, my hair is also changing without approval: Grays multiply like rabbits in a cage.)

(If I'm being honest, there isn't much in my life right now I can change without it creating waves in areas that would benefit from feeling rocked. With two adult freelancers, one teenager, and one loud + energetic 12-year-old living under the same roof, status quo is a pretty lovely thing.)

I've always admired the ease with with somebody can twist up her (or his) long hair; throw it into a ponytail and pull out some sexy wispys; create braids or ringlets (not terribly sexy, I realize); and suddenly have a totally different look. I may never live in Paris or launch myself off a cliff like Thelma + Louise, but I could maybe have the French-like experience of creating a twist with my locks. (And maybe I'll eat a croissant while I'm done up. Oo la la!)

Athletically speaking, I daydream about wearing a visor and have it not look weird. (Visor + short hair: doesn't look weird on all people. But it does on me.) I've always been intrigued about how it would feel to have a ponytail swish when I run. I'd like my hair not to totally flair out of my bike helmet.

And there's a practical side to this all right now too: My stylist, already a bit of a haul to get to, moved 45 minutes in the other direction, so she's out. I had one (pretty pricey) cut right before the AMR Retreat in Ogden, and it just felt blech.

I'm not averse to paying for a good haircut—it's the one thing you wear everyday, right?—but I am averse to paying a haircut from a stylist I don't really know, especially when I sit down in his/her chair and am wishy-washy about what want.

Right now, my hair is very in between. Not long enough for real ponytail, but I can gather a few locks in a baretted one that screams TRYING TOO HARD. I've also got random layers that are best classified as wings.

On the plus side, I've been living in that awkward no-style for so long, I think I may have just settled in. On the other side, I'm not sure all of this growing will be worth it: What if I finally get my 'tail and it just wilts?

The only way to tell is to wait and see. Although you never know: I may be in the (TBA) stylist's chair next week. Stay tuned...

Hairstyles: Are you wed to one basic style? Why or why not? How about growing out hair? Tips or tricks?

27 responses to “The Struggle is Real: In Between Short + Long Hair

  1. You should wear your hair however you like, without worrying about what other people think/say. Here’s what I did to hit upon my (current) preferred style: I gathered up lots and lots of photos of myself (like what you’ve done above, but only me as an adult), then I considered, in which hair cut do I *reliably* look good? The surprising answer for me: short. I’ve had my hair long(ish) all my life, except for recently when I got impatient growing out my coloured hair. Short it is. For me. You do what makes *you* happy.

  2. I used to only have short hair up until my 30’s. When I discovered that you couldn’t really properly highlight the short part on the back of my head and my natural hair color got darker and darker from my youthful blonde, I decided to let it grow out. Also, this was the time flat irons were invented (thank you!!) to allow my thick but straight hair not to look TOO thick and bushy when long. I have to say, long hair is SO much easier for me than short. I only wash it once a week (I did more pre-menopause) and use the dry shampoo after runs. The flattening iron styles it i less than 3 minutes and I put it up out of the way whenever needed over the course of the day. There’s usually a scrunchie on my wrist! I am way too close to 60 for comfort and I suspect there will come that day I’ll just look stupid in long hair (by long I mean shoulder length or a few inches up or down), but for now, I wouldn’t go short unless I had to! I think it is worth the grow out pains!

  3. Mine is finally pony tail length but it was helped along by a snow storm cancelling one appointment and then my stylist having shoulder surgery and changing salons. I’m liking it though. Its still a low pony that doesn’t swish much but I’ve made it over the hump. It also helps to get it cut into styles along the way.

  4. I cut my hair off – SHORT! – (again) just yesterday! Anyone on the fence about going short: just do it, it grows 🙂

  5. Like others who have commented, I also have hair that is perpetually in the “in-between” stage between my chin and my shoulders, barely long enough for a stubby ponytail. I’m sure there’s nothing more attractive than sweaty hanks of hair plastered to my cheeks and neck! (Sure, that’s why I can’t ever seem to get a decent race photo; it’s my HAIR!)
    I work at a gym, where virtually all of my colleagues have hair so long and luscious that if they cut off enough to donate, they still are left with several inches more than I ever can achieve.
    Just this morning I realized the longest layers are now past my collarbone, which means it’s reached the point where it’ll stop growing and the ends will frizz. Sigh…

  6. Feel your pain. Especially the “omg I need this cut now!” Factor. I actually have never had a regular stylist b/c I can’t with the appointments and waiting. I once called the salon from the road “I’m 3 blocks away, anyone got an opening?” Sigh. And when I ask for expert opinion I always end up with a mild variation of the same cut. So I, think that’s probably what suits me best. Anytime a grow it out to any degree I end up in a pony 24/7 anyway.

    Hair and boobs – always coveting the other side of the fence.

  7. After four years, and very long hair, I went short and donated my hair. It’s barely long enough for a stub of a ponytail, but at least it’s off of my face while I run. I miss being able to throw it up into a ponytail on any given day, and now I have to “fix” my hair every day. I’ll hate the growing out process.

  8. Dimity – you are the CUTEST, then and now!! <3 I wish I had the guts to cut my hair short, but that would mean dying the grays more often and a not so pleased husband 🙁

  9. I have been wanting to cut my hair short for years. But when I am in the stylist chair I always chicken out. Just because I want to be able to put it in a ponytail to workout. Ha ha! Maybe some day I will be brave.

  10. I go between chin length and bra strap length and everywhere in the middle. It’s basically the same “mom bob”, just depends on how recently I got tired of it. I’m currently close to the bra strap length, so will probably donate it at my next hair appointment. That will take me back to chin length and the process will start again. (I’d love a pixie cut, but I know I suck at upkeep, so…)

  11. You are preaching to the choir here!! I am so lost as to what I want with my hair! it needs to be short enough to not annoy me when I run, or long enough to put in a ponytail to not annoy me when I run. I recently got it cut shorter than my norm to get out all the colored hair and am now mostly grey. it is growing and I am at that awkward stage of being too long but not long enough. I call this the fluffy stage (thank you humidity!). I’ve started clipping my sides back under my hat when I run. Don’t like that either but it is better than wings!

  12. I think your short hair is beautiful, adorable, feminine, cute, stylish, etc….Remember: people don’t pay attention and make rude comments. I too am a tall girl and have endured the mistaken gender more than a few times, mostly years ago when my hair wasn’t even super short. I recently cut my hair super short, and absolutely love it. But, I do think twice about my clothing choices and gender. I feel your pain. I love my super short hair and am actually happy to pony tail free–I personally was tired of pony tails (the weight of thick hair etc.). Do what you love and what makes you feel good!

  13. Dimity–I love your hair! When you were in Cincinnati for the Flying Pig, I almost asked you to take a pic with me so I could take it to my hair stylistf and copy your cut. 🙂 It was so cute!

  14. The struggle IS real. Growing out hair takes so much patience – if you consider it grows about six inches a year then you’re talking about years depending on how long you want it. I have alternated between really long and really short hair over my adult years and I have to admit the last time I had long hair (I got it cut off mid-October last year) I had a lot of fun with it – pigtails, ponytails, braids, updos, just as you describe. And it is nice when you’re working out to be able to pull it back and be done with it. HOWEVER…I feel like for me long hair is not nearly as practical as short. It requires more work, takes longer to dry, you find long hairs everywhere in your house, your hair gets caught on and in things (I think the last straw for me may have been getting it caught in the car door one day). I have settled on a short graduated bob for now – so it’s about chin length in front and stacked and short in back. I still have a few options – I can wear it straight or curly – and it’s long enough to tuck behind the ears or wear a headband. But it still can get in my eyes at times when working out. I feel like the pixie is the haircut that fits my personality best, but I kept it like that for years and am not quite ready to go there again; it is fun to have a few options.

  15. I have dreamed of long, straight hair my entire life. My hair was always chopped short because my mom didn’t want to mess with it. When I was 5 I clawed my short hair into two tiny ponytails, ran to my mom and declared “I have ponytails!”. Her response: “Honey, those are piggytails, not ponytails.” Crushed. My hair seems to stop growing when it hits my shoulders. I think my mid-life crisis is going to involve hair extensions.

  16. Love this column, love all the school photos, and agree that we want to a NOW photo! 🙂
    You totally and enviably rock short hair. Find a new hair cutter (stylist)!
    And PS hair follicles DON’T keep growing. Male-pattern baldness is no fun for your mid-age female runner friends. (Cough cough)

  17. This makes me laugh – I can totally relate. My hair length has been up and down several times over my life. It is currently very short. I like it much more short. I agree with the ‘sass’ element you mention. Whenever I grow it long, there’s no sass. Just long blah. The idea of having more styling options seems appealing but I don’t know how to do anything and always felt stupid if I tried, like it screams ‘trying hard but sucks anyway’.
    So my hair was longer (past shoulders) but I chopped it all off this past spring (gradually over a few haircuts) and it’s really short now. Yes I too feel like a goof ball in my running visors but my friends assure me it looks cute not ridiculous. Whatever. It is fast to style and makes me feel spunky as opposed to frumpy. And as long as I’m good about getting it cut every 4-5 weeks, I like it.
    Oh, and I too, have been mistaken for a male. I’m short though so, no ‘sirs’ just being mistaken for a little boy. (I am pretty flat chested too. Lol)

  18. I crave a change with my hair. It is freakishly white and short and sassy. If it can’t be done in five minutes, I need a cut but where am I going in such a hurry. My hairdresser suggested a “party clip” for one event and I laughed out loud. In another life, I’m coming back with long blond hair and long legs.

  19. I’m all for trying new things. I hope you do grow it out some and we can see the new look, even if it ends up being short-lived.
    I had the same, waist length hair my entire childhood. In elementary it was braided everyday. Middle and high school it was down everyday. Most of my adult life it’s been boob length and only put up for activities. About 4 years ago I finally got the nerve to go short and got it cut above my shoulders. Right now it’s the longest it’s been since before that cut just because I just had my 4th kid and who has time for a haircut?

  20. I grew mine out about 6 years ago because it’s less maintenance. I know I would look better and younger with bangs and an actual style, but that ponytail is WAY too easy. I can’t give it up! Now trying to figure out how to maintain the greys! Dimity – in the last picture you look like Molly Ringwald from her Pretty in Pink days!

  21. I say go for it. There are so few things in life we can truly control so this would be one of them. The beauty is if you hate it after you grow it out you can just cut it again and you never know, you may love it and say “where have you been all my life?” I have semi long hair now. In my school photos they would all look the same too but with super straight, super long hair that when I was in middle school I cut and permed (oh the humanity!!!) I remember looking in the mirror after that and loving/hating it all at the same time. After that I pretty much grew it out again and played with color. Now it is so thin I “long” for the days of super long, super straight, somewhat thick/healthy hair but I’ve got what I’ve got and really, first world problems right?!?

  22. I am right there with you – well, actually a little behind you in the growing. Part of it is actually that I have this amazing grey thing happening, and I want more of it. But after 20ish years of super-short (bouncing between buzzed and pixie), I’m going for it. Well, until the urge passes. 😉

  23. I’m on the opposite side of the spectrum from you Dim. I’ve had THE SAME long hair style for literally my entire adult life, sans the handful of years when my daughter was little and was a champion hair puller. I went short then, hated it, and spent the next couple of years growing and cutting until it was back to one length and then just let it go. I have great hair (thanks Mom) and I’m settled into my style. Various lengths from shoulder length to midway down my back. Bangs..always bangs. Cheaper than botox for my five-head. 😉 My stylist, whom I love, and I play with color. I guess that’s how I get my “change” fix. Same cut, different color. BUT, I will say there are downsides. I can’t wear a hat…hats and bangs don’t play nicely. And my pony tail weighs about 5 pounds, so I get a headache when I wear one for too long. And it’s far too thick to throw up in a cute bun. So I guess there are struggles with any style. What seems effortless for one person is a pain in the butt for another. And yes, I popped my collar too. 🙂

  24. I’ve had short hair a few times in my life, but “manely” I’m a long hair girl. My naturally curly hair gets curlier the longer it is & I’ve never straightened it. No desire to. And I love buns, ponytails & braids! I air dry it, too, but that does take hours & is a pain. But every time I’ve gone short I’ve missed my ponytail.

    I have a friend who’s lost her hair from anti cancer drugs she took YEARS ago. It just suddenly happened. So be thankful for whatever hair you have!

  25. I really feel that we need a NOW photo for this story to really be able to provide feedback. Or maybe that’s not what you’re asking for :). Growing out hair UGH. I am the same. I have had all sorts of hair cuts including some desperately unflattering 80s ones (spikey hair with lots of gel – I looked like the dude from kajagoogoo). My hair is fine and straight and thin. The only thing I can do with it is wear it semi long (it breaks when it’s long especially when I’m stressed and I have two teenagers so that’s a permanent condition) and tie it up. From time to time I think that the solution I have been looking for all my life is bangs. So I convince my hairdresser to do it (he knows me well enough to try to talk me out of it) and then I spend years growing them back again. My hairdresser now says to me that he knows I tie it up and get sweaty with it so I just need half long hair, no bangs and he won’t let me cut it short again… He is saving me from myself though I know one day I’ll just walk into the competition’s salon as I’m determined that what I need is short hair and bangs…

  26. my hair has been long (like almost to my hair) since 2000 – so that’s 17 years with only a minimal trim (2 – 4 inches or so once per year). Before that I did a just on the shoulder chop from mid-back length – and so basically long hair since 1990s. So yes, I don’t really know how you feel, except maybe the exact opposite!! Occasionally I think I need to chop it off and try something fun and young and then I think oh no, and remember back to my short short hair days in grade school, where I was always called a boy…. so yes, similar but different.

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