My Big Bangs Theory

Every few years or so, bangs—by which I mean the hair at the front of your head when cut to hang at, near, or above the eyebrows—come back into fashion. This is important to me because it means that once or twice a decade my hair is at least on trend if not actually close to being IN style.

I don’t know how long bangs have been cycling in and out of fashion but it has definitely been happening since the 1800’s. I know this because I recall a chapter in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series wherein a teenage Laura, on the brink of becoming a young lady, causes a stir by cutting a bit of fringe over her eyes in order to appear more stylish.

Let me make this clear: Never have I ever worn bangs in order to appear more stylish. Although on occasion I have adjusted the length, depth, and shape of my bangs in an effort to make them look better with the rest of my hair, at no point in my life have I had bangs with the aim of looking stylish.

Billie 1971 (Even in 1971 this was NOT stylish.)

No. The sad truth is that I wear bangs because, for reasons known only to her, Mother Nature cursed me with the ugliest forehead and hairline known to humankind. Without bangs, I look less like a woman than John Goodman could with the aid of Hollywood make-up, movie grade prosthetics, and CGI. In fact, without the bangs, if I were to tie back the rest of my hair, I would look more like the slovenly lead singer from the movie The Commitments than a 40-something mother of two.

So while actresses and models may opt for bangs in the interest of style or fashion, I do so out of vanity and a desire to protect those around me. Call it a social service. Call it philanthropy. Call it altruism. But trust me: By wearing bangs, I am doing you and everyone else on earth a big favor.

Billie Grad (The only time in my life I did not wear bangs, I wore a mullet instead.)

I’m sure there are several people reading this with a head or heart full of doubt. You may think I’m being overly critical of myself; that maybe I spend too much time in front of the mirror. Because everyone has one or two things about themselves that they would like to change, you may even be thinking I would look perfectly fine—if not exactly the same—with or without bangs in the same way you would tell another person they don’t need breast augmentation or a nose job. But you would be wrong.

I know this because once or twice I have attempted to grow OUT my bangs in hopes of looking more stylish, and each and every time someone who loves and cares for me deeply will frown at the new look and, without provocation or prompting, comment gently as to the absence of my fringe in such a way that tells me I’ve made a terrible mistake.

Wedding 1 (In 1985 I had the smallest fringe of my life–and the biggest bow.)

Even if he or she doesn’t realize at first what’s different, his or her expression will always make clear there’s something wrong and eventually register dismay, disappointment, or disgust. At one point, after a male friend accused me of exaggerating as to just how wrong I could look without bangs—after he naively suggested I grow them out—I carefully arranged them to blend in with the rest of my hair and then watched as he desperately tried not to cringe in horror.

Happily for me, bangs are having another moment. And thanks to the talented Erin Helt, my hair looks great. Unfortunately for Princess Primrose, who has a gorgeous forehead and hairline but whose face gets lost when you add fringe above the eyes—it may be a while before they are out of style again. Good thing neither of us is a slave to fashion.


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