Over the course of my almost thirty years, my hair has been every color that appears in nature – and even a few that do not. I’ve had every cut you can imagine – pixie, bob, shoulder-length, layers, choppy, bangs, you name it.
As I saw it, my hair was a form of self-expression. I could dress it up or throw it back. If I pulled out the curling iron, I was readying myself to have a particularly awesome day. With a straight iron, I was putting on my serious, working girl attitude. My bathroom was a maze of products and I can only imagine how much electricity I must have zapped with almost daily use of my blow dryer.
And then one sunny day in March, I shaved it all off.
The world did not end. I did not have a crisis of personality. I did not cry. Not even once. As a matter of fact, I smiled the whole time. I sat on a folding chair on a stage in front of several dozen people while a woman I’d just met took scissors to my ponytail and then clippers to my scalp. I held my daughter in my lap as she ate her Fruit Loops.
And I smiled.
It wasn’t just that I was doing it for charity. It wasn’t just that I had raised money for a cause I believed in. There were a hundred other ways I could have contributed without losing my hair.
But I wanted to. I was really happy and excited to be rid of it.
After all the time and effort I had put into making my hair look its best throughout my life, how was it possible I was so thrilled to no longer have any?
At the time, I worked in a medical office where I routinely encountered patients who had undergone chemotherapy. Whether than influence may have had something to do with it, years later, I still don’t. Maybe I wanted some sense of solidarity with those people, particularly the women, all of whom had gone through so much and still came out smiling and strong. Maybe I finally saw how unnecessary all of the products and tools and dye and time was. The hours wasted and the money spent.
I have to allow for the idea that it may have just as easily been postpartum hormones finally catching up with me. I may have finally gotten royally pissed about all of the dozen chunks of hair that came out in the shower. Perhaps I was just tired of the hassle.
Or I was just desperate for more sleep and less stress.
Whatever the real reason (and I may never actually find out), I wanted so badly to get rid of the dead cells sprouting out of head.
So I did.
The second I got home from getting it done, I went straight to my bathroom and gathered all of the things I would no longer have any use for. Hairspray, gel, wax, brushes, curlers, you name it. All of it went in boxes. I donated what I could to local shelters and I tossed the rest. My God, it felt so good. All at once, I felt free. Unburdened.
The next day, I did not fall into a panic. I did not spend hours in front of the mirror asking myself “Oh, dear Christ, what have I done?” I did not feign illness so I could stay home and wallow.
Nope. I woke up. I made breakfast. I took my daughter to daycare. I went to work.
At first, people almost looked sad for me. Some assumed I was sick. Others thought I was deranged in some way, because only crazy girls shave their heads, right?
Those who knew I’d done it intentionally seemed afraid, as though I was going to change my mind and insist upon wearing a wig or a hat or a head wrap until it all grew back. I could have laughed at them. I very nearly told a few of them off for their assumptive judgement.
I held it together somehow. I’d done what I wanted and I’d done it with all the best intentions. No one was going to trick me into feeling that was wrong.
Then I noticed a few things change. The number of people (men) who whistled at me nearly disappeared. I got stared at more often, but hardly ever cat called. The best days were when I went out without any make-up on and no hat to protect me. The few people who did notice me were relatively complementary with comments like “You know, most people can’t pull that off, but you do!” The ones who did not know what to say came up with things like “You have a very round head.”
To be honest, I found it pretty comical. Attention I had desperately tried to avoid was gone, and attention I hadn’t even thought to anticipate was… kind? Respectful?
From one or two women I ran into, it was even, dare I say… inspired?
Beyond the attention, good or bad, there was simply me. For a solid year and a half, I did not touch a blowdryer, nor did I use a straightener or a curling iron. I slept later, I made a bottle of shampoo last about three time as long as I would have previously, and I gave my focus to other things. Valuable things. Things I had put off.
More than that, I saw myself differently. I wasn’t hiding behind my hair anymore. Since I no longer had it to use as an extension of my personality, I had to display who I was in other ways. Valuable ways. Ways that showed people around me what I really liked about myself.
It has now been five years since those clippers touched my scalp, and I have not regretted it once, not even a little. Even through the awkward pixie to bob transitionary mullet stage, I was glad – grateful even – that I’d shaved it all off.
My hair has since grown back. I now know that my real (natural!) hair color is a warm chestnut brown and that when I let it air dry on its own, it is curly underneath and straight-ish on top.
I love it just as much as I loved my round baldness, but I’m not as stuck on its perfection as I once was. It gets pulled into a bun on some days and it gets dolled up on others. I got a new curling iron, but it’s just the one instead of the three I’d owned before. It doesn’t see a ton of action, anyway.
I want to shave my head again someday, though I’m hoping to grow it out as long as I can beforehand so that I can donate it again. No longer do I feel the need to primp and preen in front of the mirror every day. I do it when and because I really want to, and I don’t do it for anyone else but myself.
It’s not for everyone. I’m willing to bet that it was maturity as much as anything else that taught me to let go of the surface level preoccupation I once had with my hair. Just the same, it’s something I think everyone should try, even just once in their life. Addicted to hairspray or not, sometimes it’s nice to see the barest version of you.
And really, the extra sleep is incredible.