Can't Get There From Hair

Advice Goddess

By Amy Alkon

My first wife and I married in our early 20s and broke up several years later. When we were married, she had very short hair, even though I wanted her to grow it long. She was not only adamant about keeping it short; she claimed she couldn’t get it past “the awkward stage.” Also, she’d always bite her nails, a habit that annoyed me. I’ve been happily married to my second wife for 10 years, but I can’t help but be surprised that my ex, who I’ve seen a few times in passing, now has hair down to the middle of her back and really nice nails. Please note that I don’t want her back; I just want to know why she wouldn’t grow her hair and nails when we were together. Should I ask her? 

— Wondering


“The awkward stage” is what you enter when you ring up your ex-wife and ask why she was such a nervous, nail-gnawing hag back when you were together. 

Sometimes a hairstyle is just a hairstyle and not a coded message: “L’Oreal, because I’m worth it. Short hair and bitten nails? Because you’re not.” Maybe she was into a particular style, or maybe she thought she looked better with short hair. Of course, it is possible that the apparent foreverness of marriage made her figure you were stuck with her, so why spend all the extra time hot-oiling and blow-drying? You wanted eye candy? Too bad. You get eye broccoli. 

Many women don’t understand or accept how important the visuals are to men, thanks largely to the toxic feminism that’s seeped into regular people’s lives. While there are lipstick feminists out there, the prevailing message of the women’s studies feministollahs is that male sexuality is criminal or close to it, and women degrade themselves by doing anything to appeal to their “patriarchal oppressors.” As a result, women like your ex-wife may feel justified and maybe even virtuous for taking the lazy way out with the soccer mom hair cap and the all-you-can-eat fingernails. 

Sure, Natalie Portman can shave her head and have even more men drooling after her. Of course, it’s the rare man who’d throw her out of bed if she slipped in with a big rotten ham hock balanced on her skull. Men, across cultures, seem hard-wired to prefer long hair — probably because it signals youth, health, and fertility. In a Hungarian study, women’s faces that were rated as less attractive by men were judged much more attractive when the researchers stuck long hairstyles on the photos. Darwin noted the preference for long hair in the West African population (along with the earliest reported use of hair extensions), and in “Survival of the Prettiest,” psychologist Nancy Etcoff points to all the classic paintings of women with long, flowing tresses. Yes, it seems there’s good reason you don’t see Venus on the half shell with a really butch haircut.

If you truly are 10 years into a happy marriage, you might just accept that while hair and nails do not continue growing after death, they often grow like crazy after a divorce. 


(c)2009, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA  90405, or e-mail (

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