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11 Things Not to Say to a Woman with Short Hair

By Meredith Carroll |

Ancient Egypt

Just for the record, I didn't cut my hair short because I thought I was too old for long hair

I recently cut my hair shorter than I’ve had it in years. Yes, it coincided with the birth of my second daughter. No, it doesn’t mean I’ve given up (well, maybe it does, but that’s not something you should say to me).

It’s funny how people think they have a license to say anything to women who cut their hair short. And by “funny” I mean rude and totally not funny.

Here are 11 things you should never say to a woman with short hair about her hair. Unless you’re trying to be funny (in which case, see above).

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Women with short hair have feelings, too

"May I help you, sir?"

This is what the saleswoman in the bookstore said to me when I was 12. I had ripped a picture out of Seventeen magazine and unfortunately declined to have my mom accompany me to the salon in an attempt to duplicate the model’s haircut. The lady felt really bad when I burst into tears. She felt even worse when she just couldn’t figure out why the little boy was crying.
Image: MorgueFile

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About Meredith Carroll


Meredith Carroll

Meredith C. Carroll is an award-winning columnist and writer based in Aspen, Colorado. She can be found regularly on the Op-Ed page of The Denver Post. From 2005-2012 her other column, "Meredith Pro Tem" ran in several newspapers, as well as occasionally on The Huffington Post since 2009. Read more about her (or don’t, whatever) at her website. Read bio and latest posts → Read Meredith's latest posts →

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36 thoughts on “11 Things Not to Say to a Woman with Short Hair

  1. bob says:

    I was just wondering about this.

  2. BlackOrchid says:

    lol well thanks for this. I’ve had a pixie a few times (and just got one now again) and it’s always fun to get the comments.

    I don’t really ming. the worst is my kids tho — “oh mommy you were so PRETTY when you had long hair” . . . sigh!

    (off to buy a wig)

  3. Pikachu says:

    I’ve had short hair for a dozen years, sometime super duper short and sometimes just plain old short, but I’ve never had anything but compliments. Someone telling you that you look better with short hair isn’t a dig, it’s a compliment. Looking better is a good thing.

  4. the original Sarah says:

    Someone once told me that my haircut was so cute, but on them it would make them look like a lesbian. *sigh*

  5. Alison says:

    @The Original Sarah – that is hilarious.

  6. Meredith Carroll says:

    @Sarah – LOL!

  7. kate says:

    I work with a bunch of males, and after the last time I donated my hair for locks of love, I got “you look like that ugly receptionist in ghostbusters”…yeah their sweet like that.

  8. Heather says:

    My hair is long now, but I had different short styles for years. I once buzzed my head. That may have been my favorite. It was a super bold choice since I was still in high school when I did it. You can imagine the comments (and rumors) that went on there. The worst was my Pentecostal grampa. He was never so happy when I let it grow back out. Mostly though, I would get a ton of complements. I loved my short hair and I love my long hair. I just wish I could switch back and forth depending on my mood.

  9. LN says:

    I have short hair (thing Michelle Williams meets Ginnifer Goodwin – only not as cute;)) and I get asked 2 questions ALL THE DAMN TIME: 1) you’re a lesbian right? – last time i checked I knew plenty of lesbians with LONG hair. and 2) why won’t you grow it long? umm, a) none of yr damn business and b) b/c I actually LIKE my hair short)
    *sigh* thanks for this post! :-D
    Happy Valentines Day! :) )

  10. mama b says:

    I’ve had various short hairstyles in my adult life. No one has ever said anything like that to me. I get nothing but compliments. Oh I guess my grandma has said a thing or two, but she’s just being mean on purpose.

  11. 12know says:

    I’ve had short hair nearly all of my adult life (from 22 onward). I’m now at an age where really long hair (couple of inches below the shoulders or longer) would not be flattering. I’ve never received a bad compliment on my hair though. More along the lines of looking “cute”, which is okay. Better than being called a lesbian (which I’m not). Men usually like women to have their hair at least shoulder length but don’t realize that longer hair takes more prep time to look it’s best. An older man (someone 45 or older) would appreciate that a woman is not solely defined by longer hair but by her confidence and overall outlook on life.

  12. Joolz says:

    I agree really short hair does free up time for me. When my hair was really short last year I would use my fingers and a blow dryer for maybe 2 minutes now that it’s almost to my shoulders I have to use a round brush to blow dry it in sections then a flat iron. I saved over a half hour of my day with short hair! I’m not sure how you think it’s a slam on you for someone to say that to you.

  13. Bobby says:

    Dudes don’t want another dude. Very few women pull off the short hair look. And if you change your hair from something beautiful to something stupid, a few people will not know what to say. I’ve known women who DO say short hari is easier, takes less time, and complain that too much was taken off. In more than a coincidence, older women lean toward shorter hair than younger ones, so the “old” argument isn’t too much of a leap. But it’s your choice of course, much like it’s our choice to grow a santa beard or have stringy long hair or a pony tail.

  14. Bobby says:

    Whoops I forgot to read that this is a supportive, diverse community, so my new comment is “If a man wants long hair he can grow it himself”. Of course then the woman would dump him so I don’t know if that really works.

  15. Lisa says:

    Oh wow! I know exactly what she means about the ‘You were kind of old to have long hair’ comment! I was 35 and had hair to my waist. I’m not bragging (seriously, it’s just hair) but I received lots and lots of compliments on it. Then one day, sitting at the lunch table at work, a woman in her 50′s pops off with “So when are you going to cut your hair? You’re not 15 anymore, you know.” SERIOUSLY!?

    For the record, I’m now 47 and my hair is even longer, and I still get compliments, so stick THAT in your bonnet, miss ‘no couth’!

  16. Chemo head says:

    I wear my hair short now because it really does save timeb. I really appreciated how much easier it was when I was bald from chemotherapy. Bonus: didn’t have to shave my legs either.

  17. Chemo head says:

    I wear my hair short now because it really does save time. I really appreciated how much easier it was when I was bald from chemotherapy. Bonus: didn’t have to shave my legs either.

  18. Nancy says:

    I am one of those few women that looks better with short hair, but a woman with short hair is usually always stereo-typed. With me, its always ,”Oh, she must be a lesbian,” I usually just politely correct them & thats that. But men need to realize that a female with short-hair does not neccessarily mean she likes girls only. It’s just too bad that society places so much emphasis on how a woman SHOULD look.

  19. CuteTeePi says:

    Guys like long hair, unless they’re closet homos. If you aren’t trying to catch a guy’s eye then lop it on off. But if you are then your hair can be something that does add to your allure…I wonder if anyone has ever done a study on women cutting of their hair and then husbands cheating? Oh and some guys are hot with long hair…some not so much…if it’s grey and scraggly or bald on top then just…NO!

  20. Mardi Shade says:

    I have always said that women who wear their hair long after a certain age have a “Menopause Special Hairdo”. What worked in high school and college just doesn’t compliment a woman over 50.

  21. Going Grey and Long says:

    I very much agree with the comment on, so, your getting older, when are you going to cut your hair? thing. I hate that comment. My mother cut my hair short when I was younger and I hated it. I did look like a little boy. Just not for me. My mom looks absolutely fabulous in a military flatop. She is neither gay nor in the military and it works for her. I wish she would stop trying to make it work for me. And as for the less time factor, I just get out of the shower, put in a little leave in conditioner and shake. Thats it. I am fortunate to have curly hair and there is no time factor with shake and go. I applaud woment that can look fab in short hair, but I want to be the long hair grey headed Aunt Jet in Practical Magic.

  22. Some Guy Named Bob says:

    Short hair may look very nice, and attractive, but on a stranger it always reminds me of women with baggage, issues; stuff with which I really Do NOT want to deal. Besides, I am married to the most beautiful, most wonderful woman in the galaxy. After 35 years, I’ve never forgotten why I love her. She wears her hair the way she likes it. To me she IS the Definition of beauty.
    Me? I only trim the edges of my beard. I’ve cut my hair once in the last 10 years, and that at my wife’s request. Growing a new crop was easier than explaining why. She tells me she didn’t know, and will not ask for that again.
    If “Locks of Love” wants my next crop, that’s where it will go.
    Hair care? Keep it very clean and well brushed. Yes, daily. It’s that easy.
    Hey, it’s hair. It grows.

  23. deloris(dee) says:

    I hate people who think that just because a women hits a certain age that they must have short hair. I have never bought into that age theory thing. I will dress the way I want and wear my hair the way I want, no matter what my age. I’m 60 yrs old and have long hair. My hair has only been short a few times in my life, but that just me. I have no right to dictate how other people feel.

  24. Jan says:

    I always find the guys that make the lesbian remarks are the ones you have blown off, yeah, that’s getting back at me, idiots!!

  25. pat says:

    I have had my hair short in a pixie almost all of my 58 yrs. The few times I have had shoulder length hair were disasters. I tried perms, made me look like I have a red brillo pad hairdo. Several yrs ago I had a bad perm and terrible color, when Loreal had a style show in Orlando asking for women to be models.I alomost was told that they couldnt do a make over because of the damage to my hair. They did accept me and as the show stopper model, I had my hair colored in a flattering red color and a super short pixie cut. I loved the lightness of being rid of the weighty damaged hair. My husband who normally likes long hair did comment on how nice the cut flattered me. My father in law said whoever did that to you shouldve had a baseball bat to them. I hate my hair when it gets a certain length touching my face drives me nuts.It is time to get my haircut now.

  26. Mary Allen says:

    The first thing I thought of was a person asking if you were a lesbian. Sounds crazy but people are rude and I have had short hair in the past. And if I did not have a boyfriend at the time they just assumed I was a lesbian.

  27. Nancy says:

    I have had very short hair (think Jamie Lee Curtis) for 15 years at least, and before that it covered my ears but was still quite short. I have never had the type of hair that would grow down my back – mine stops when it reaches just past my shoulders, and humidity takes over and frizzes it up very easily. So I keep it short because it’s easy and it suits my lifestyle.

    Two comments I would add to the list of things never to say to a short-haired woman:
    1. Never assume you know anything about her sexual orientation. Oh yes, people have actually asked me, out loud, in public.
    2. Never assume you know anything about the state of her health. I once had a complete stranger come up to me in a supermarkert and with great concern ask me if I had just finished my chemo. I’ve never had cancer or chemo. Now my boys think it’s funny to call my hairstyle the Chemo Cut.

  28. Amy says:

    I’ve had short hair my entire life. It’s often been the case that I’ve been called “sir” by someone not paying much attention. The best though by far was after a particularly short hair-cut when I was working in a small Southern town and a male co-worker said to me (southern drawl implied) “You look like you been scalped like an Injun.”

    If I took fashion advice from 50 year old male factory workers it might have bothered me.

  29. Kimberly says:

    I’ve always had short hair. The longest it’s ever gotten is just past my shoulders. I’ve heard it all, but mostly compliments. My husband doesn’t care what I do with my hair, but my father-in-law always has something to say and it irritates the heck out of me. He thinks women should have long, stringy, hair. I have 3 daughters. The oldest has long, thick, wavy, hair and the other two have fine, stringy hair. My middle one loves long hair and we battle lover the length of it all the time. You should hear the in-laws after the girls get haircuts. It’s unbelievable the things they’ll say to their grandchildren. But I think a cute, short bob on a little girl is way cuter than long stringy hair that has no body and just lays there.

  30. Tom says:

    Ladies, most men hate short hair. If you have short hair you are going to risk being called sir. That is just the way it is. If you insist on keeping your hair very short, do not get offended if we make insensitive comments.

  31. ajanderson74 says:

    I cut my hair short when I went to Iraq-it was cooler and less of a hassle trying to keep a bun when you are wearing a kevlar helmet. The biggest thing I get is “only lesbians wear their hair that short and you are surprised that you keep getting hit on by women?!” it is not like my hair length depicts my sexuality, intelligence or capabilities as a woman, a human and least of all a soldier but you would think we are still living in the dark ages with some people out there!

  32. Rob says:

    Surely the following comment does not represent the views of men, well, anywhere…

    “Ladies, most men hate short hair. If you have short hair you are going to risk being called sir. That is just the way it is. If you insist on keeping your hair very short, do not get offended if we make insensitive comments.”

    ….. because not liking something gives one a right to be rude?

    Did Emily Post write a new manual and I missed the press release?

  33. June says:

    Along the lines of the “Don’t worry, it’ll grow back”, there is the “Do you like it?”
    Why would someone ask that?!?! Is that code for saying, “I don’t like it.”? Or is that person really expect you to answer “Yes” or, worse, “No, I hate it. Thanks for asking.” People – LOL.

  34. Monica says:

    I don’t know some of these seem like they are complimenting you. It makes you look skinnier just could be because it frames your face nicely. And you look better with short hair sounds like a like to me. You should do a post of what people can say to a woman with short hair ;) . Don’t get me wrong most of those comments you totally want to smack the person upside the head and are very presumptuous that you don’t like the style or something, but I don’t think they were all that bad. After all we get upset when they don’t notice our haircut ;) .

  35. Chelsea Bailey says:

    I got my hair cut off and donated it to Locks For Love in honor of my friend that passed away from ovarian cancer two months before. A woman I work with said “This is more appropriate for your “station” in life.” Yeah, because a ponytail is completely inapropriate for a mother in her early 30s with TWO small children. My hair will grow, and when I whip it back up into a ponytail she’ll still be a jackass.

  36. Debbie says:

    Sheesh, can you say “over sensitive”. I have to admit, that I periodically go from long to short and back again and have never gotten any of these comments (other than the “its easier to take care of and frees up time” comments, which *gasps*, is true). If someone is stupid enough to say something like *some* of these comments, I’m sure they have or would likely say something else stupid about your otherwise beautiful appearance or other personal choses, so why care what they say? Be a little bit more confident.

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