Are we going to stand for this abuse, or?

By Sam Reed
Feb 12, 2021 @ 3:31 pm
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Side Parts vs. Middle Parts
Credit: Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images

If the phrase "the Lawrence brothers" moves you in some type of way, chances are you part your hair to one side and have an extensive collection of skinny jeans in various shades of indigo and black. These are just facts! But now, Gen Z is trying to weaponize these aesthetic preferences by telling us that they make us millennials "old," and even worse, "out of touch." (And yeah, this goes double if you're in Gen X. Sorry, I didn't make the rules!)

It's one thing to accept yourself as you are: A person born in the '80s and early '90s, or even earlier. It's another thing entirely to sit back and take it as a younger generation on TikTok decides your moment of cultural relevance is over — insinuating that you are less internet savvy or in the know just because you have a 401(k) and a flippy side part. 

This is online harassment, and we don't have to take it. 

The TikTok slights: 

Against my better judgment, I open TikTok between one and 18 times per day, having fully accepted that I'll probably hear a 23-year-old declaring themself with Big Upperclassman Energy, "one of the older people on this app." Such is life as a 28-year-old millennial on an app notoriously popular among Gen Z. 

These microaggressions are tolerable, as long as I can still watch a golden retriever DJ and a Korean woman fall in love with a homeless onion. But a few months ago Gen Z came for my hair, and I, along with the thousands of other millennials on TikTok, lost my shit. "Prove me wrong, but I'm not sure there's a single person who looks better with a side part than they do with a middle part," said user @missladygleep on the app, whose voiceover was then dubbed over more than 21,000 videos of users showing their different parts. Gen Z took to the comments of these Before and Afters to declare that "a middle part looks sooooooo much better!" and that we subsequently looked younger, and therefore cooler, with said middle part. When we objected, they parodied us — the first shots fired in the battle between the generations

Our shared traumatic hair history: 

This is disrespectful on multiple levels, not least of which is because I objectively look better with a side part and no one can tell me otherwise. It's also ignorant of the trauma we millennials harbor with regards to our parts. At this point we've done it all: We've had the blunt bangs, the swoopy side bangs, the curtain bangs; the pin-straight hair, the mermaid waves, the pixies and bobs, highlights, lowlights, ombres and balayages. In our youth we bought flat irons with removable plates so that we could crimp random sections in some attempt at Lizzie McGuire cosplay and adhere sparkly hair stickers to our deep-fried strands. We bought zig-zag combs, zig-zag headbands, and other painful plastic hair accessories from Claire's with our weekly $5 allowance. If we were lucky, someone in our family would finally oblige when we begged them to give us Topanga Lawrence-inspired cornrows. (What can I say, some of us were young and ignorant!)

There was no social media then, no YouTube to tell us that these styles were, in fact, Very Bad. We had no way of knowing that no matter how good Zenon, Girl of the 21st Century, looked in Baby Spice-inspired double buns, when we tried them they would fall down to our ears and we'd be called Princess Leia for the whole fourth grade. Zetus lapetus!!

Let's not forget that we had center parts. We tried them out back in 2004, during our pin-straight days. Remember Megan Fox in Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen? Famous center part-haver Amanda Bynes in anything?! People, we've been there, done that, and there's a reason that we've quite comfortably settled on side parts that's pretty straight forward: It looks better objectively

But what really looks better:

"Beauty is subjective," you might say. Oh, is that right? Then why are so many people horrified when they see their faces in the inverted filter — which shows you what other people see when they look at you rather than your reflection? Riddle me that, Gen Z. 

The Instagram-adjacent myth that your "good side" is always on your left was busted in a 2018 academic study (shout out to the University of Winnipeg for doing the work that matters), and there's no conclusive evidence that side-parts are more attractive than center-parts. However, there's another finding often used in the "science" of attraction: There is a correlation between faces we find attractive and the symmetry of those faces. Reminder that correlation does not equal causation, but for the purposes of this article, wouldn't it make sense that we would want a hair part that obscures, not highlights, our (mostly) asymmetrical faces? 

In conclusion: 

In the mid-to-late 2000s, we millennials faced the final frontier of tacky hair: The poof. With Lauren Conrad and Snooki as our guides, we pulled our not-quite-grown-out swoopy bangs toward the crowns of our heads, nudged them forward an inch, and secured our unicorn hair horns with an unseemly amount of bobby pins. Around the early 20-teens, as we headed to college, we finally settled into the most-flattering, least labor-intensive look: The side-part. So you can have your center parts and your curtain bangs and all the other styles you found in our third-through-eighth grade class pictures. We've been there. We moved on, and we're not looking back.