Losing the battle of the bangs

hair scissors and comb

I have come to realize that there is a sisterhood among all who were young in the era of my childhood. This spans from the 1950s through the 1960s and slightly beyond. It is a strange thing, that which unites us all, but it is clearly such a strong common thread that no woman misses a beat when this subject comes up.

It is clear that we all were plunked down on a chair somewhere. Our mothers or grandmothers brandishing the instrument of our great chagrin — a comb and scissors. “Sit still! This will only take a minute,” is the command I remember to this day.

Just when our bangs were reaching a reasonable length, it was suddenly decided by those in power that it was time to snip that hair short enough that the entire forehead could be seen in its full and pale glory. And we all have photographic proof of our mighty suffering.

For me, this excruciatingly awful experience took place at our grandmother’s house. Mom must have conspired with her mother to say, “It’s time to embarrass the heck out of all four of my daughters again. Let’s line them up and clip their bangs as short as possible.”

So Grandma sharpened her scissors and was ready for us the moment we arrived. Unknowingly, we bounced through her door with gleeful innocence. Quickly, in laser-straight lines, those bangs were lopped off. We had been taught to be seen and not heard, especially at grandma’s house, so there was no way in the world we were going to speak up and say, “No thank you. My entire head of hair is just fine right now.”

We sat there and took it and knew not to make a fuss. We could always cry later. If anyone was smart enough to place bids on that, there would have been millionaires made over just this one event alone.

It was a universal horror for every single female in my age group, and there is a maneuver that seems to be common in our experience. Ridiculous and fruitless, I remember pulling on those extremely short bangs in hopes of stretching the hair back to a reasonable length. Yank hard enough and involuntary tears would spring to the eyes, so a girl could pretend she wasn’t really crying over such a thing.

My aunt used to say, “Oh, look! Your new haircut looks like you are ready to go to a birthday party!” I never, ever understood her rationale on this one, but it was repeated every single time she saw us in our newly mortified state. Little did she know, we were likely praying there were no public events to attend.

When I hear today’s young mothers discussing how their daughters fuss over their long hair, complaining of not wanting mom to do this or that with it, I am astounded. Why didn’t we think of this? Why didn’t we stand our ground on that battlefield of sharp scissors and say, “I refuse to let you humiliate me with micro-short bangs!”

The reason? This was only a tiny bit more possible than to have awakened one morning and thought, “I will sing an operatic soprano lead in an Italian broadway production today.”

We didn’t wiggle or whine or beg. For an entire generation of little girls, the mere thought of voicing protest just simply wasn’t in our repertoire. Because of this, countless women are my forever sisters, all heroic, silent survivors of the battle of the bangs.


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.



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