The fusion of experiment, acceptance, independence, emotions, identity, comfort, norms and choices in young women's lives.
All stories included are direct quotes from the subjects.
All names are substituted by personalized codes of each subject's choice.
Honestly, I’ve never liked my hair long. When I was a child, my father was always struggling to put them together. Not everyone is very feminine and there are people who are more like rebels. I’ve never liked wearing it down, so I’ve always put it in a ponytail. Everyone always said that they liked my hair down, but I myself didn’t like it. I’ve never really felt comfortable and I’ve never felt like it’s me.
One day I just decided that I’m gonna go and cut it. It was a major shift. In the morning, we had breakfast with my friends. I said, “Okay, I’m going to the hairdresser and I’ll be back in like three hours.” I left, I came back with a new haircut and they were really surprised, “Whaaaat?! It looks really good!” The first moment when I actually saw myself in the mirror I was like, “Wow! This is very short, very short! This is very weird. I am not sure whether I am comfortable with it.” But then I liked it.
I like it like that. I like trying to do the slick back or experiment with it. It’s really nice, very easy, and it just feels like me more. If I were to compare myself from back then, when I had longer hair, I would say that I was a very insecure child, who was brought into the new circle of school. Once I cut it, I felt like I was back in the plate. It is how it is. That’s how I like it. It feels like it’s my circle, so I stepped into my circle.
And it just feels nice. It feels right. It’s finding you. I’ve been always trying to find my style, what do I actually really like. And I think it is only this year when I actually realized it.
When I was younger, I always had to cut my hair short. It was a rule. My mother always cut it short and I used to cry every time. But I had to do it. When I came to university and I was without my parents, I didn’t think about cutting my hair anymore. I just let it grow and then it was disgustingly long with no shape. I trimmed it a bit and since then I have been going with this style. Every time I go back home, my mother is trying so hard to cut my hair.
I am trying to prove my choices. I am proving to myself that I am kind of independent. I can do whatever I want. I can have long hair for the first time ever. I can make choices for myself instead of looking for my parents to do that for me.
I truly dislike that people judge the tomboys, girls that are not feminine. I find it kind of contradicting, because I have long hair, but I have no type of feminine attitude. I like this imbalance – one thing is feminine, and then no, my actions are not feminine. I like to contradict myself, I guess. I do contradicting things, I give confusing signals.
I was never a big fan of my body. I started wearing baggy clothes, because I didn’t want the details to show that much. Since then I’ve realized that I am much more comfortable going around with baggy clothes. I just feel myself in them. If I wear tight clothes, I feel very uncomfortable, I feel very self-conscious. I notice all the things that I don’t like in my body. I am constantly checking if everything is okay, If I’m looking okay. If I’m wearing something tight, I’m gonna have to wear something oversized on top of it to hide it just a bit. It’s kind of a way to hide insecurities, this is how it started. But then I realized that this is actually the style I like for myself. And when I look at myself in the mirror, I feel like this is me, this is what I like to be.
I don’t know if other people would feel the same, but just commenting on each other’s looks or body choices, “If it's not something good, please keep it to yourself.” Everyone is having their own struggle with how they look like and with their bodies, even the prettiest person. So, if you have nothing good to say, please don’t say it.
All my life, I’ve been told that I’m skinny. I don’t think that I am extremely thin, but for many people this is not the normal. I am, in fact, within the weight norms. I usually eat a lot and I eat quite well, especially for my physique. There is just no way I can gain weight, except for when I do sports. Then, my body forms muscles and I look better.
I came back after travelling and after many experiences, which made me lose even more weight. I was very exhausted and being home was an adjustment period for me. I did not like the food abroad and I don’t know how much I’ve even eaten at all. I really was thin at the time. I soon met a woman who was about to send her daughter to the same university at which I go. The first thing she said to me was not “Hello, how are you?” but “Why are you so thin?”
I tried explaining to her that this is how my body behaves in general, and that it has also been affected by my travels. She kept asking me things and I started to ignore her questions, as the conversation became too much for me. It felt uncomfortable, because the topic of our meeting was different.
I’m realizing that it’s up to people’s manners. If I meet someone, I wouldn’t directly tell them, “You are so thin!” If it comes to question, I would be careful how I’ll put it into words. I used to take things personally, but as I’d accepted it with time, it has stopped impressing me. There is nothing I can do. This is me. I can’t change myself, neither can I change the people who say those things to me. I feel confident. The only thing I miss is sports. I realize that having muscles on my body makes a difference. I plan to bring sports back in my life soon.
The first thing that inspired me to grow my hair that long is a girl from my dance classes in my childhood. I fell in love with her hair so much that I decided to grow mine long, too. I let it grow for years and it finally got long. I really like how it suits me generally. I like myself better with long hair because I feel more feminine.
I feel more beautiful and more confident. I radiate my personal energy somehow. Everybody associates me with my long hair. They are used to seeing me this way. It is a part of me. It is my choice.
Even when I was little, it was still my decision to grow my hair long. When we had a dance concert, we had to braid our hairs. Since my grandma was always doing my braids, it was harder for her to cope with my long hair, but she was still okay with that, because I was happy.
Sometimes it’s not really convenient. Last time I cut it, because it was hard for me to workout. But now I’m used to it and it’s fine. I know how to wear it, I have found some ways, such that it’s more comfortable. It’s a bit of a sacrifice of the comfort, but I prefer to have it longer, rather than to be more comfortable.
Actually, the norm is to have long hair – not that long like mine, but long. To have done nails and some girly stuff. I fit in that, because I do my nails, I wear dresses and skirts sometimes. But I don’t think that should be the norm. Every woman should present herself as she likes. I don’t really care if I fit in. I do this for me, only for me. I’ve always done it for myself. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t do it.
Some people think it’s too much. But also a lot of people like it. I’m not perfectly fitting in the norm. I think I’m kind of on the border. I don’t care about others’ opinion on my look. When you like yourself, others will like you too.
I was five years old when I started playing. It was my big dream. I trained for 13 years. Football is the thing I fell in love with. The thing, which I still love. This is why it was so hard for me when I had to stop. I still love sports a lot. Not only football, but all sports in general.
This is a sweatshirt of the team I played for. Underneath I am wearing a Liverpool T-shirt. It is a part of my identity. Definitely, I don’t have a problem wearing sports clothes and walking around with such. This is absolutely normal. The fact that you are a female doesn’t mean you can’t wear sports clothes. I don’t think there should be a particular dress code for what women are supposed to wear.
There is no person who wouldn’t want to feel free and comfortable, but many don’t do it. Maybe because they are ashamed for some reason. I don’t believe in the stigma that we should always be formally dressed. I believe everyone has their own choice.
My tattoo is a line, a text that says, “And the one we live in now." It is actually a line from my most favorite musical, called Hadestown. When I first watched it on Broadway, I was going through something. It was a very difficult period in my life. The musical is a multi-layer performance, which can be read into many ways. I feel for me, it was about being hopeful and trusting that I’m getting myself to a better place.
I guess it is not too common where I am from to have a tattoo. At least for a girl that is not rebellious. My dad doesn’t like it. At first, he was very opposed to the idea of me getting a tattoo. He is saying, “Why would you want something so permanent on your body, knowing that would change?” I think that makes sense actually.
I had a lot of doubt at first, but I just feel like that’s exactly why I should get it. Because the present is now and now is important. I need this reminder on my body. So, I feel like I need to make this decision for myself and write this reminder on my body for myself. It’s what makes me feel more like my own person.
I feel accepting in a sense that I accept that I have been through a lot of hardships. Sometimes it feels like a scar. If I haven’t been through those hard times, I wouldn’t get a tattoo. This is something that happened to me, this is a lesson that I’ve learned. And I still want to continue learning. It’s a part of my identity and I want to carry it. It’s more like adding up, building it and completing it, in a sense. I feel more like myself.
I’ve been told that I have a super eccentric style for clothing. Even weird. I tell people that we need positivism in life. It is important. Media keeps feeding us with all the bad news for us to only to be wearing boring clothes.
Sometimes when I walk outside, I get those looks. My prom dress, for example, was very extravagant. It weighted six kilograms and it was full of metal threads and laces. I was like a robot. I heard some people talking while passing by me, “This girl is crazy! How could she dress like that?” Overall, I don’t get hurt by people who are not directly in my life.
I write poetry since second grade. Poetry is a part of me. It is a way of pouring out my feelings. I can’t speak as good as I can write. When I am conflicted with someone close to me, I write letters to them. This is the way I express what I want to say.
This is my second book. It’s named after me and it speaks on my behalf. I shared with my teacher in the high school writing club my idea of releasing a poetry book. I read some poems to her. She said, “For me the right thing is to continue writing prose, poetry is not your thing.” I remember crying all the way back home. Your creative writing teacher is supposed to give you wings and inspire you. It was horrible. I cried all my tears out. I felt very sad. In the end of the night, I told myself, “I will release this book!”
From time to time, I just need to do something with my hair, because I can’t take it anymore. I simply get sick of it being in just one color. My natural hair is fully brown, but it has been blonde, dark red, ginger. I made it purple. It has been pink and purple. And blue. Overall, it has been everything. Eventually the color gets washed out, and that’s the problem.
In my country, the most common model is dark hair and dark eyes. Sometimes people don’t take it well, my hair. I’ve had negative responses from my family, from my grandma. She would say, “Why would you do that with your hair? Look at yourself!” A friend of mine once told me, “You look like gypsy with this color.”
I think that enough time has passed that I don’t take such comments personally. I have my reasons for doing this, I know why I have done it. I am a person who loves diversity. I get sick of routine - it exhausts me.
Each time I celebrate my birthday or New Year’s Eve, it’s at a different place. When I look back in time, I can differentiate those events. I can feel my days are not repetitive. Maybe the way I look is also a way to mark different periods of my life. The first two weeks after dying it, my hair looks great but then the color fades off and the hair starts looking dry. I think that’s a good metaphor for humans – deciding to start a new phase of your life. In the beginning, everything seems perfect and according to plan. Then, real problems appear and real colors show, too.
For me clothing is an important part of my life. Many people judge that I buy and throw away so many clothes. This is not true. I never throw away clothes. I always recycle or resell them. It has an impact on the planet and I connect myself to that idea. Recently, I have become more sustainable in fashion. I provoked myself to do so, because I was seeing people judging me a lot. I want to be more and more sustainable, but that’s hard.
I think clothes are big pollutants. As they harm the the environment, they harm your body, too. When you wash them, they release chemicals, which you put on your skin. For me it is very important to have quality clothes. I feel better when I wear such. I’m happy when I do it.
I think that I am different than the mass, in terms of my style. At least some people tell me that. I don’t usually dress in the casual style, even though I try to I wear jeans and sneakers. I don’t know how to exactly describe my style. Maybe it’s more chic and fashionable. Not so basic.
I’ve had some comments. Perhaps I take them as judgmental. I’ve been told that it’s too much. I have felt bad hearing that, those comments are unpleasant to me. I’m dressed this way so that I feel good. I really can’t say the way I dress is to attract men’s attention, nor can I say it is to impress women. I just feel good. I do it fully for myself.
I feel different. I feel that I’ve found something that makes me feel myself. To dress well. People close to me would recognize me by this. As much as I feel different, I have found something of mine, to which I stick. I feel good and I feel confident.
I am a very big fan of one musician, an Australian multi-instrumentalist. Since two years already, I have been very inspired by her style and her way of making music, her thinking. In a way, I feel like she is a great friend of mine, even though I haven’t met her.
I met a Jamaican guy. We randomly talked about this artist. I shared about how much I actually love her. We talked about her style and he said, “Do you want one or two dreads? I can make you for free, you know.” It was an immediate decision. I’ve never thought consciously about having dreadlocks, about having this change in my hairstyle.
People ask me so many random questions, “Is this your real hair?” or “Is this a fake hair?”, “How this is possible? Can I touch it?” They’ve asked me about how I’ve done them. Even if someone says something negative, I don’t take any comment about my appearance personally, "If you don’t like it, just I don’t wanna talk to you. I mean, why would you say anything to me anyways?"
I cannot imagine not having the dreadlocks. It is a part of me. If I decide to cut the them, something really has to be changed about me. It’s finding yourself in a way. Feeling comfortable in your own skin. Somehow you try to express what you feel inside outside. The more you do it, the more you don’t care. It’s feeling comfortable with yourself. After I had the dreadlocks, I never really saw that guy again. He told me that he is a big fan of Bob Marley. In his case, Marley really helped him to overcome difficulties in his life. He made his whole hair in dreadlocks as a kind of a tribute to him. All of this had a very symbolic meaning for my friend.
Both he and the Australian musician changed my life for the better. It’s like a big story around them. It is a symbolic meaning of showing my support towards this artist, and somehow feeling more connected to her. At the same time, the guy who made the dreadlocks holds a special place in my heart. It is also connecting the dreads with him. Like a memory.
The way I look now is absolutely the same as from five years ago. I started dyeing my hair when I was 13 or 14. Up to this moment, I wasn’t allowed to do anything with it. It was just long and plain brown. As for clothing, I just love dressing in black, because it gives me a confidence boost. I always feel my best while wearing black. I don’t like wearing colors.
I guess all colors in my appearance could be found in my hair, while my clothes are only black. Maybe there is some correlation – the idea of my hair being constantly colorful. I feel it is too much for me when I dress in color. There are two options – either my hair is conventional and I dress in a lot of color, or my hair would be colorful and I dress in black. There’s no other option. I have always loved wearing black, so why not having colorful hair as well?
I’ve had many fights with my parents. They have questioned why I dress like that, saying, “You are a girl, you need to dress more feminine – not only with baggy clothes. Not in black. Are you going to a funeral?” At some point, they realized I wasn’t going to stop wearing black clothes.
My father is a traditional person. He didn’t like me cutting or dyeing my hair. He likes me with long dark hair, which I’m not really excited about. I’ve had a lot of problems with him about it. For it’s not feminine, it’s childish, it’s rebellious. Up to present day, people in public transport would stare at me and comment on it.
I don’t care at all. I don’t take this things personally, because I am continuing with this style for a long time now. Neither I see if people are staring, nor I hear the comments. I’ve become completely ignorant, because I realized that after all, I do this for myself. It doesn’t matter what they think at all.
My appearance – my hair, my clothes, my style, form this one complexity, which builds me. In my opinion, it is unique. If you see someone having colorful hair and dressed in black, this is probably gonna be me. I like that. It is something I can claim as my own. It makes me distinctive. Bold, for sure.
About two years ago, I lost some drastic amount of weight. I didn’t do it on purpose, but that was the result of my body cleansing itself from toxins. I had a sort of hay fever. I decided it’s not worth taking medications, which will only stop the symptom. I realized there was a problem beneath that. Something was happening. I started eating only natural foods – fruits, vegetables, non-refined foods, etc. For about eight months, I was a vegan. And I felt better.
It is not something I define myself by. It’s just that some people like to eat one thing, and I like something else. I don’t think it’s necessary to brag about what you do or do not eat. I have never been too judged, yet people react strange sometimes.
Some people just don’t understand why others don’t eat meat. People think you won’t be healthy at all, if you don’t eat meat. Which is not true. I don’t restrict myself in any way. I don’t do it to follow a diet or because I have a trauma. It just feels right for myself. I do it because my body feels well. There are many more things, which define me and make me feel good about myself.
My connection with nature can be seen everywhere – starting from my personal space and my room. My pen is wooden. My lamps are wooden. I love those materials, which are natural. I try to have my mindset being connected to nature. It’s a little bit abstract. For me this is the connection with life. This is how I was raised.
I love wearing green, brown, orange - like the colors of soil, plants and flowers. It affects my thinking. I try to be calmer. When I just stand in nature, everything is very harmonic and quiet. There are no clashes and conflicts. I love going in nature alone. Most people are afraid of walking alone in the forest, in the mountains, or in the park. For me, this brings me much peace and tranquility. You can learn a lot about the world.
This project was created by Lilia Tsarska, a senior student at AUBG. It was produced as part of a Social Issues Journalism class taught at the university in the fall semester of 2021.
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