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love out loud: post-breakup shake up

There are a number of things I find troubling about the video clip for Katy Perry’s latest single, ‘Part of Me‘. One is that its “timely” release and blatant references to her relationship with Russell Brand (no matter what she says about having written the song years ago) lend weight to the suggestion that their marriage was a publicity stunt, which I suppose we’ve all guessed at, but which I so wanted not to be true. Another is that it may contain, as Naomi Wolf has suggested, propaganda for the Marines encouraging women to enlist. I’m not sure I’d go quite that far, but it’s certainly bizarre product placement at the very least. And the third is its normalisation of rash post-break up decisions.

Break-ups can be a great chance to reflect on your life and consider whether what you’re doing and where you’re at are truly making you happy, or whether you’re perhaps just comfortably cruising along. Trying to accommodate another person with their own ambitions and desires requires a great deal of negotiation and compromise and a break-up is the ideal opportunity to be selfish (plus it’s one of the few times no one will criticise you for only thinking of yourself). It can be the perfect time to start afresh.

But break-ups also often leave us in an incredibly vulnerable and volatile emotional state, and few would argue that it’s the right time to be making major life-altering decisions. The ‘Part of Me’ video depicts Perry with a new haircut and a career change, neither of which are inherently bad. Indeed, many will note the epidemic of “post-breakup haircuts” within their social circles; it’s an easy, painless and relatively impermanent way to signal a new start or a new identity. When you consider that women’s femininity and appearance is so often tied up in their locks, it makes sense that a haircut, an external change, can be used to represent an internal one.

However, there is no real need to go to the extremes of cutting off all your hair in a public bathroom (note: do not carry hairdressing scissors if you’re planning to confront a cheating partner) and joining the military.

One of my friends recently went through an unexpected break-up; she’d thought everything was fine between her and her partner when he told her he simply didn’t feel the same way anymore. She was a little down for a couple of days, but soon started gathering opinions about cutting her shoulder-length hair into a cute, asymmetrical bob. She leafed through magazines until she found a style she loved and took the photo to a salon. Soon afterwards, she realised that having a partner had mediated the stress of her job, and that the role wasn’t quite what she wanted to be doing after all.

She is now both nervously and excitedly exploring regional traineeships, overseas volunteer work, and returning to study; possibilities more open and appealing to her now that she has no one to consider but herself. She has made significant changes that have left her feeling really positive about the future, but gave them enough consideration and thought to make sure they were actually right for her, particularly when she’d just had a major life change.

Obviously break-ups are painful and there isn’t really a prescriptive way to get over them. Some will want a radical sea change while others will cling to creature comforts, and neither is implicitly better than the other. But I do suggest that if you are in the camp of wanting to make changes to your life, that you nonetheless err on the side of caution immediately after someone has trampled all over your heart.

Sparkle, glow, keep your parts to yourself … just leave the cut ‘n’ colour to someone who knows what they’re doing.

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