BENDING THE KNEE
At the beginning of July 2017, before a long overseas trip to Singapore, Vietnam and the UK, I had all my hair shaved off.
Frizzy, brittle, fine and flyaway. To say I do not like my hair is a massive understatement. It is perhaps, the only thing I am not at peace with in my physical self.
It is curly in some areas and straight in others. It boasts a huge fuck you cowlick right in the middle of my goddamn hairline. Even in a gamine crop, it takes me forever to style. Its disarray throws off the line of my neck, which I view as one of my nicest features.
So on a whim, I had it shaved almost completely off. And I fucking loved it.
In the shower, the water on my scalp was a brand new sensation. I felt so clean.
My face had nowhere to hide and I proudly showed it to the world. I swear, I even grew taller.
I lapped up the freedom of being able to get my hair wet with no repercussions. I jumped into the famous infinity pool on top of Marina Bay Sands with zero fucks given, while all around me girls with full faces of MAC took selfie after selfie.
I walked through the steamy streets of Hanoi in the middle of a downpour.
I danced with joy and abandon in a summer sun shower at the wedding of my dear friends in London.
The shape of my head pleased me more than any of the hundred different styles I’ve tried ever had. Without the trappings of a crappy mop on my head, my femininity emerged in other exciting ways. I felt the desire to wear tighter clothes, my round skull echoing the curves of my body. I felt modern, I felt sexual. I felt myself.
I was mistaken for Amber Rose in all three countries and photographed when wearing large sunglasses. Young men and women complimented my ‘style’ on the street.
My suitcase lost weight in the form of a Parlux, flatiron and the array of heavy products I had previously carted around wherever I toured, gritting my teeth as I dealt with my despised hair and cramming myself into the narrow corridor of fuckable for everybody.
After five weeks, I came home from my holiday and went back to work.
Loving my new look, I reshot all my advertising to show it off. My photographer and I agreed that the shoot was a raging success. My body was lean and conditioned from eating so well in Vietnam. My tan was a dark shade of molten gold, having being sunned for a month close to the equator. The images were received well on social media.
So imagine my shock when I suddenly lost around 25% of my income!
Perplexed, I went over the data. Nothing else had changed. Surely it was coincidental? How could taking a short crop to a buzzcut couldn’t account for so much fallout? Yet it had. The numbers showed that I was barely recruiting any new clientele.
My regular clients didn’t seem at all bothered by it in person, although I was absolutely mortified to receive one text message asking after my health. Whether he thought I was undergoing chemotherapy or having a Britney moment was unclear.
For two months I tried different variables. I switched up my advertising platforms, dumbed down my bio, even changed my age on my profiles.
Finally, in sheer frustration, I replaced my beautiful new photographs with the previous set.
Would you believe it? My workload immediately went straight back up.
I was incredulous. Why would 5cm of hair make so much bloody difference?
Here’s the thing about making your income from the desires and vulnerabilities of others. You have to live your life within those confines, in your own damn body!
You can be a little different of course, but push just a little too far beyond the Barbie mould and you are no longer widely viable. Tattooed Barbie is perhaps passable, as is slightly chubby or slightly muscular Barbie. Maybe even smallish-breasted Barbie, only half-Caucasian Barbie or Barbie who is no longer in her 20’s (ie mature at the grand old age of mid to late 30’s.)
Provider beware though. With each slight intersection that challenges traditional female beauty, you become a little less accessible. It’s a risk. You become more difficult for the top of the privileged food chain to digest. Your net of desire and your income becomes ever so slightly smaller with each thing that sets you apart. Yes, it fucking sucks. But it is definitely true. Whilst niche markets have some traction, we all know that the sex worker with the biggest net catches the most fish. Slim, tanned, with big tits and long hair. That’s the basic formula. However comfortable you may feel in your own skin doesn’t change the algorithm. The funky strangers on the street who might love your avant-garde look are unfortunately not the same people who pay your mortgage.
“Grow your hair long. Men prefer long hair, something to play with and caress. It doesn’t matter what your hairdresser and friends think.
It doesn’t matter that short hair is easier to wash and dry or that your hair is thin.”
– The Complete Book of Rules,
Time-rested secrets for capturing the heart of Mr Right.
Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, 1995.
(Essentially men like long hair, doesn’t matter if your hair is shit.)-
So what’s a Ho to do? I swallow my anger again and again and tell myself it’s worth it, to bend the knee in exchange for a great income and the vast, wild, almost unimaginable freedoms that money brings in of itself.
I tell myself that I can compromise if it means I’ll be safe financially. I tell myself most people have to wear a work uniform of some kind. And deep inside, I know that playing along is a bit of an intimate joke I have with myself.
At least I can have a laugh whilst I’m bending the knee. Listening to overwhelmingly rich-middle class and mostly white men tell me affectionately that they loved my hair “just a little bit longer” but I’m “just so interesting that I pull it off.” (What they really mean is that with my tattoos, little bit of muscle and my mature age that it’s lucky that they’re not too intimidated to pay to stick their dicks in me.) And I smile, suck them off, pat their heads and take their money. I maintain the pixie crop to stay in a slightly larger net and it works a treat. Compromise.
I try not to take it personally.
And sometimes I remember walking through the hot rain in Hanoi last July and smiling wide at nothing in particular. My sketchbook in my bag, my feet half underwater and my hair the absolute furthest thing from my thoughts.
— Photography by Emma Salmon – The Blacklight Sydney —