Nearly every day, one of my most faithful e-mail correspondents treats me (and who knows how many other lucky undisclosed recipients?) to a link to whatever the hardest of the hard-core right is worrying about that day. And on Inauguration Day, my fellow Americans, the top-of-mind topic was neither gay marriage nor climate change but Michelle Obama’s bangs.
Naturally, this particular piece expressed epic opposition to her new look, and it wasn’t as though some other hairstyle would have elicited a big thumbs up, either. But progressives, too, were talking about the tresses – a lot. And given that our reaction to any first lady’s looks say far more about us than about her, why is it again that we care?
I support every woman’s right to change it up every now and again, but am a bangs moderate, neither pro nor con, and mainly just glad for the first lady’s sake that she’s a beautiful woman, because anyone in that role has to endure such scrutiny of every aspect of her appearance.
As on just about any topic I can think of, however, there’s considerable disagreement among ‘She the People’ writers on the new ‘do.
Nikita Stewart: I must admit my friends and I were talking about it all week. I was in the middle of an “important” conversation Thursday evening when I got a breaking news alert from a friend with Us Weekly’s declaration that Obama had bangs. I think they give her more of an edge. From her hair to the dresses and coat she wore for the inauguration, there seemed to be less frill and more sharpness. When I was looking at the pictures this morning, I thought they even helped signal what we’ll see in the second term. The Obamas are about to be about business.
Michelle Bernard: I got bangs in June! For me, a new hairdo usually is indicative of a major internal shift. It can be indicative of a spiritual awakening, a divorce, the birth of a child or a tragedy like the death of a loved one. I believe that Janet Jackson cut off all of her hair after Michael died… For this Michelle, bangs reflected a new beginning, a sense of joy and happiness I hadn’t felt in years. The world can’t see internal joy, but you can show it with a new ‘do.
Natalie Jennings: I love the bangs; they are really flattering on her. And I love the spectacle around them and her Inauguration Day wardrobe. No small coincidence that she launched @FLOTUS Twitter account and the new look on her 49th birthday.
Annie Groer: Mamie Eisenhower sported the first first-lady bangs I remember, and I always considered them too short and curly, like doll’s hair that sprung like little coils from her forehead. Michelle’s bangs are way more flattering, but whoever told her that false eyelashes the size of Louise Nevelson’s ocular awnings were an okay look really blew it. When I wasn’t wondering why my president felt compelled to chew Nicorette gum on worldwide TV, I was hoping someone would give Mrs. O a spot of glue for what appeared to be her rogue left eyelashes.
Carla Baranauckas: There are bangs, and then there are bangs. There are the bangs my mother tried to put on me by cutting a somewhat straight line across my forehead. Michelle Obama’s bangs are not those. They are beautifully cut and styled. They make her look bright and energetic. But it is of little import if I like them or even if President Obama likes them (he said he did). What matters is whether she likes them.
Lori Stahl: I don’t like them as much as her other styles but haven’t read any of the coverage because I hate that we are still making an issue of first-lady hairstyles. Hillary has moved on, and so should the rest of us.
Patricia Murphy: I personally don’t care for The Bangs because they make Michelle Obama look so much like Kerry Washington from “Scandal” that I kept wondering how Kerry Washington ended up on stage at the inauguration so close to the president, and thinking in the back of my head that Michelle Obama might be having an affair with the president (like Washington’s character on the show), which I guess she is.
Anthee Carassava, who is based in Athens: For Greeks, it’s a break from budget haircuts and trimming deficit.
Jamila Bey: Black women and our hair are too oft misunderstood for words, but Mrs. O looked fierce and stunning, as always.
Suzi Parker: I vote no. Bangs are tricky, and I don’t think they work on her. I tried to wear them for a few years and felt like a sheepdog. Michelle looks much better with her hair flipped up in a sassy do or swept back in a styled coif wearing a dress that makes her look like a Greek goddess. We will always care about what our first ladies wear and their hairstyles because it gives America a topic that is simple to talk about, unlike the budget, gun control or abortion. Remember Hillary’s headbands?
Donna Trussell: I made my Facebook status ‘Michelle has hair. People with hair sometimes change their hairstyles. That is all.’ That said, I like it. But then, I also liked Hillary’s headbands…
Bonnie Goldstein: I admit I wondered for the first time in decades whether I could pull off bangs; I never could before, but she made me want to try.
Joann Weiner: I care more about Michelle’s bangs than David Axelrod’s mustache!
Krissah Thompson: The timing of Michelle Obama’s new hairstyle intrigued me, because I have always given hairdos special significance. I don’t know any black woman who doesn’t have a hair story! Changing hairstyles, for me, is a signal of a new season in my life. The first lady’s new haircut was slyly unveiled by her staff on Twitter on her birthday, the weekend of her husband’s second inauguration, near the start of a new year. It is a new term — of course she has a new do.
Mary C. Curtis: The political and diplomatic world shifts, not because of policy but bangs? Sure, it’s silly, and I could be a grump and ask if hair will take away from Michelle Obama’s work for healthy children and military families. But it’s one of the few safe topics to argue over nowadays. It’s cool that the most stylish and glamorous White House couple since the Kennedys is African American. We’re talking about a black woman’s hair in a non-racial way. (For the record, it’s her business and, like the president, I think she always looks good.) But if she ever decides to rock an Afro or a natural look, prepare for war.
Melinda Henneberger is a Post political writer and anchors She the People. Follow her on Twitter at @MelindaDC.