First of all, let me register my disappointment with General Petraeus. He is the last in a cavalcade of public figures (Democrat and Republican) who has fallen short when it comes to resisting the charms of the fair sex. Some have tried to say that in our modern era—in the wake of the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”—sexual tastes and behaviors “don’t matter” and those who are discovered to cave in should be given “a break.”
My heartfelt condolences extend to Mrs. Patraeus, who seems to be, judging from the pictures obtained by the press, a cheery, good-natured woman. She has already weathered the strains of a military marriage, with its multiple separations, which in any way does not match those of a civilian couple. If they can make it through the next few weeks the prognosis for their union is good.
But why? Why would a man with a quiver full of accomplishments need to act in such a way? A few years ago Irish playwright Peadar De Burca interviewed over 200 men who engaged in extra-martial flings, and he has some ideas. Forget about drifting apart, having different interests, and feeling emotionally unfulfilled. He said, “One of the most unexpected things I discovered was that men nearly always cheat with women who have longer hair than their wives…They want to rekindle their youth with a younger version of their wives and long hair seems to equal youth.”
The paramour of General Petraeus wears a low chignon, which indicates that her hair has some length. The wife has a chin-length cut that is ubiquitous among professional women. When she was younger, she had beautiful long straight locks typical of the time.
It is crass and unfair to suggest that the general noticed the hair length of one or the other, but women are endlessly conflicted with their hair, and are given distinctly mixed messages by society and their best friends. Writing for Elle Canada, the playwright suggests that women compliment each other on a new haircut in an effort to limit the competition.
One time I was with my mother-in-law in a convenience-store parking lot, and a woman in the next vehicle got out, and had lovely long hair that swished by her behind (she had unfortunate bangs, but we’ll leave that alone). My mother-in-law (who has long hair herself) sniffed, “She should cut it. It’s too long. But men like it.”
A young woman may cut and grow her hair experimentally, but she is often “growing it out for the wedding” so she has more “styling options” for the big day. After the wedding, and sometimes before the honeymoon, many women submit to the barber shears. After baby is born, many more go in for “mom hair” (yes, it’s a term, like “mom jeans”) that is wash-and-go.
If a woman wears her hair incorrectly out of cycle, she will start hear people asking about when is she going to donate it to one of the organizations that collect hair to make wigs for cancer patients. Women are discouraged from growing their hair for their own sake and enjoyment. They must be growing it out for the greater good—the follicular equivalent to, say, recycling.
Then, as the change happens, some women experience thinning hair, and the advice is to cut it so it will be “less noticeable.” I really don’t follow this logic. If one has less hair…then cutting it will somehow obscure the balding patches? A few weeks ago I saw a woman on the street dressed in business clothes with thinning hair, but she kept it long. She was able to devise a flattering hairstyle that didn’t make her look like a plucked mole.
My advice to women is to go ahead and grow your hair if you’d like. Maintaining long hair is not difficult or expensive. My advice to men is don’t be a jerk and ruin your marriage. She loves you still.
Editor’s Note: The well-married Bombshell has lovely long hair.
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