OPINION

Just Thinking: Question of hairstyle isn't worth taking part

Margo Bartlett
Guest Columnist

What’s all this about side parts? 

I know “side parts” may sound like what you ride in while someone else drives the motorcycle, so I should explain that I’m talking about hair. I keep hearing that center parts are in; side parts are out. 

I have so much to say.  

Margo Bartlett

First, the center-part campaign appears to be coming primarily from TikTok, a social app that allows users to post videos that have been livened up with filters, music and sounds. Its popularity among certain demographics might be compared to the popularity of cars as transportation. I’ve seen some TikTok videos, and a person easily could while away an afternoon, or perhaps the lifespans of several goldfish, watching them.  

Lacking TikTok, my teenage years were spent listening to fashion magazines telling me that center parts were only for people with “perfect features.” The articles never explained whether “perfect features” meant perfect in the sense of Audrey Hepburn or perfect in the sense of symmetrical, such as both eyes being the same size and sitting on the same invisible line above the cheekbones.  

It hardly matters because since when does hair agree to be parted over here today and over there tomorrow? Some hair – the hair Audrey Hepburn had, for example – might behave like an obedient dog, but not mine. My hair has its own ideas about which way it’s going to lie, and it laughs at me when I so much as make a suggestion.  

To be honest, I haven’t tried to wheedle my hair into anything for years. After decades of bickering, we finally came to an agreement: It does what it wants, and I go along. This works pretty well. As of this moment, I don’t even know if I have a part. I’d have to look. 

When I was in high school, a popular hairstyle was called “a bubble.” It was round and smooth, like something that floated out of a plastic wand and settled on a girl’s head. To make their hair perfectly symmetrical, girls backcombed it and then smoothed the top layer of hair over the teased part to make a plump hair ball.  

I never had a bubble because my hair wasn’t thick enough. Once I teased the underside, I was out of hair. Professional hairstylists despaired of me. But we’re talking about parts here, and girls who had perfect bubbles had no parts at all. At best, a girl might have a little dot of scalp in the center of her hair, like the point in a fountain from which the water sprays up and out. 

Then, seemingly overnight, bubbles disappeared, as bubbles will, and girls started wearing their hair long, straight and parted in the middle. You’d have thought fashion magazines hadn’t been warning us that this was tantamount to trying to look like Picasso had been hired to do school pictures. (Girls also started playing guitar and singing folk songs about giving their love a cherry that had no stone, proving that center parts could lead to unintended consequences.)  

And here we are again, welcoming center parts. And again, I reject the idea. Not because a fashion magazine told me to, not because I’ve tried and failed to achieve a center part and not because I’ve finally learned what “even features” means. 

I reject it because I no longer concern myself with hair parts. I wouldn’t dream of having an opinion. I’d sooner argue about whether sheep farmers should use sensor technology or take a position on Potato Head gender. If anyone wishes to debate hair division, pick up a copy of Glamour, which still is discussing parts, all these years later (“TikTok teens have spoken: The side part is dead,” October 2020). I’m stepping away from the fray. “Ask my hair,” I’ll say when asked. “We have a noncompete agreement on the subject of parts.” 

And then I’ll focus on something I know something about, such as folding laundry. As my husband can confirm, I have strong and immutable opinions about that.

Write to Margo Bartlett at margo.bartlett@gmail.com.