“Wow! You cut your hair, were you dumped?” Is not an unusual question for one girl to ask the other after a drastic change in looks. And then there are the magazine cover headlines that denote the same; ‘How to get your sexy back after a break-up,’ ‘Make him regret it’. It’s a thing apparently. The first step towards a new, better you is the end of a relationship. After all, doesn’t the saying go; every end is a new beginning?
While, it is true that some resort to emotional eating after a break-up, thus end up putting on weight, a study done by a UK fitness company found that it was more common to lose weight rather than gain it after a split. According to the study, women lose an average of two kilogrammes in the first month after being dumped. It gets better, or should we say easier; if they stay single for a year after the break-up of a long-term relationship. Talk about a ‘heartache diet’!
But, it’s about a lot more than a loss of appetite caused by the emotional upset of a break-up. “It’s just something girls do to feel better about themselves,” 32-year-old Carol Wambua, a professional massage therapist in Nairobi, says about break-ups. “I’ve done it before, and being a massage therapist, many women talk to me as if I’m their psychologist. In fact, it is usually encouraged to do something physical such as hitting the gym, or get a massage to release endorphins, the feel-good hormones produced naturally by the nervous system to cope with pain or stress. Many women go for spa treatments after a break-up. I’ve even had a few cry on the massage table,” she adds.
Psychologist and counsellor Michael Mbiriri concurs. He says it is more about lifting the spirits than anything else. “The biggest cause of pain for a woman in a break-up is usually the rejection. Especially in the case where she has been walked out on by her partner. But even when the decision is mutual, the self-esteem takes a hit. They ask themselves what they did wrong, or whether they were not good enough. So, the steps towards looking better help in this way. It may not heal the broken heart, but it’s a step in the right direction,” he says.
But some would argue that women usually have more sinister intentions, like evoke jealousy in their exes, making them regret their decision. Or even, that their improved appearance is an attempt to get him back. Or at least, that’s what Stephen Mwangi, 29, says men believe is the case. “Women should stop trying to fool us with their ‘new beginnings new me’ talk. We know they are trying to make us jealous. Sometimes it works, sometimes all it does is pump up our egos,” he says.
However, James Otieno, a 30-year-old businessman had this to say, “Definitely I’m going to feel a tinge of jealousy. And even wonder why she never put such effort into her appearance when we were dating. But if I dump a woman, it’s not because she looked bad or anything. So, even if she all of a sudden starts looking like Tyra Banks, it wouldn’t change the fact that say, she’s an insecure girlfriend, or did something like cheat to make me end our relationship,” he says.
James, however, cheers on the women who take care of themselves after a break-up. “If it makes them feel better, then they should do it. It is better than letting themselves go,” he says.
“Getting back together with an ex is never a good thing,” says Mbiriri, in acknowledgement that sometimes women go through drastic changes in appearance in an attempt to reconcile with their past lovers. “It will only lead to more depression or a lower self-esteem. So, you go and get a new look, but he still doesn’t want you, then what? Instead of feeling good about yourself, you will feel worse. A short while later you will be back to square one. Hopefully, your hair will have grown a bit, if you want to cut it again after another break-up,” he concludes.