Every woman has had some kind of experience with bangs. Maybe it was good, it's very possible it was bad. Most of the time it was bad. Bang culture is a complex phenomenon. It's a very physical expression of an inner desire for change. Bangs are a reaction, an answer, a coping mechanism. It's a feminine experience that most women can comment on in some way or another.
My experience with bangs goes a little something like this:
When I was a little girl, my mom cut me bangs. There was no prior discussion - she did it and afterwards I found myself staring at myself in the mirror while she asked, "Is this how you want to do your hair from now on?" I can't remember my response, but I figure any kind of resistance would have fallen on deaf ears. So I had bangs, and I didn't have a say in it.
In grade twelve I got a haircut that one of my colleagues deemed "model hair". I think what he meant was that it looked good but didn't want to outright compliment me, because... boys. They were of the side swept variety and looked best when they had been shaped nicely by the outer rim of my Fendi glasses. What kind of grade 12 girl has Fendi glasses? I kept that hairstyle going for a long time - well into college.
Then came the break up.
New looks regularly follow traumatic times like a break up. There is the deep longing to be different from who we were when we were wounded. For me, I chopped off my long wavy hair into a bob and kept the side swept bangs. A very dramatic modification for a girl in her mid-20's in her last year of university. I posted a picture to Facebook and incurred several comments on the improvement. I had succeeded in some way of creating a new Robyn - who needed that old shitty boyfriend when a new hair cut could work just as well.
My boyfriend (now husband - important yet not relevant) was attending a wedding that I hadn't been invited to. Well, a couple glasses of beer later, a pair of scissors, a Googling of "HOW TO CUT YOUR OWN BANGS", and with Joy Division's "She's Lost Control" playing in the background - I took to my hair with liquid courage abandon. Somehow it didn't turn out into a hack job and to this day it is one of my most shining moments.
Every woman has some kind of comment about bangs and is usually prefaced by a very proud, "you got bangs!" It takes a certain kind of woman to look her hair stylist in the eye and definitively say, "Give me bangs". When I got my most recent set, my hairstylist held the scissors to my hair while asking: "You sure?" It's just hair, but she knew the implications of bangs.
Women relating to bangs is women relating to women. It's a common ground. Most people can get bangs - rich, poor, black, white, Asian, big, small or any other descriptor that sets people apart. It's an experience that allows us to tell our story of what it was like to journey down an unknown path. Women can open up a little bit and get beyond the basic small talk of "what do you do?" We can finally talk about what it's like to be humiliated by bad bangs, how real it is to decline a camping invitation because of bangs, it lets us talk about how to incorporate bangs in our lives. It allows women to connect to each other instead of comparing and allows us to have a very intimate moment about our hair. We can safely talk about being women.
Now whenever I see a woman with bangs I wonder about her story and the similarities in our decisions-making. It makes me look at her in a brave light because I know what it means to fulfill a longing for change through a little Youtubing and a lot of courage.