At the age of 14 I began a love/hate relationship with my hair. Finally old enough to own my own blowdryer, buy the "luxury" shampoos, and read the glamour magazines, I was convinced that if I could just have the perfect hair, that everything in my life would fall into place. If only my hair was pretty, if only I had the flowing, well-behaved locks of every popular girl in school, I could conquer the world.
I'm sure most women feel that way. Their hair is as much a part of their identity as their beliefs. Just yesterday I watched a video of a girl lose her hair to chemotherapy and cry because she was no longer beautiful. Without our hair, what are we women? Are we ugly? Am I really supposed to believe that society would rather interact with dead cells sprouting out of our heads than the face that is speaking to them? Do I really want to teach my (future/potential/nonexistent) daughter/s that their worth rests in whether or not their appearance conforms to societies standards of beauty? No, I don't.
More out of curiosity than anything else I decided to liberate myself from the burden that was my hair.
The effect was immediate.
"Oh my God! What have I done!" I almost wanted to cry at my stupidity. What planet was I living on where shaving my head could possibly be considered rational? But the more I stood there and looked at myself in the mirror, the more I began to notice features that have gone unnoticed for so long. The forehead that I always thought was giant is really not all the big. In fact, my face is not even really as horsey as I thought. And my eyes aren't as small. And apparently my ears don't stick out at all. I actually have a neck!
The reactions of friends and family were mixed. There were a few people who were downright horrified, if not bordering on angry. "Why would you do such a stupid thing? Do you not realize that without hair you might as well be a boy?" A BOY? Is that how society distinguishes between genders? Women have hair and men don't. What about men who have long hair? Are they now women? Are women suffering from hypothyroidism, alopecia, thinning hair, menopause, and chemotherapy boys now too? Some even thought I was a lesbian, because obviously all lesbians have short hair, all heteros have long hair, and people traditionally come out of the closet via head clippers. Of course.
Most of my closer friends expressed that while they could never really pull off the bald look, that I was brave for shaving my hair. A few people were jealous that I no longer have to spend an hour with styling tools. Wouldn't it be nice, they said, to have that kind of freedom to spend time on things other than hair. Reactions amongst the public were equally as varying. Strangers gave me looks of pity, thinking I was a cancer patient. Some looked at me in disgust. There goes another rebelious anti-establishment Sinead o'Connor wannabe, and I bet she hates the pope too (I don't). No one dared broach the subject, and when a teenager in a Taco Bell exclaimed "Holy fuck! That woman has no hair", the surrounding people almost tried to choke him into silence. Don't. Talk. About. Women. Who. Don't. Have. Hair. They Probably feel ugly. When a woman has beautiful hair, you compliment her. When a woman liberates herself from that hair, you silence yourself lest you draw attention to what YOU perceive as a flaw.
Once my hair was gone, I started thinking about what it meant to have hair and to not have hair. How did I feel about being bald? Truth be told, I feel strong. I feel empowered. I feel beautiful. I feel different. I do not feel ugly, shameful, embarassed, or insane. If anything, I think "letting go" of my hair was the best decision I've made in my entire life so far.
I decided that I'm not going to stand for a society that dehumanizes women without hair, regardless of why they don't have any. I want all women, with and without hair, to be able to look in the mirror and see what I see now when I look at myself: beauty. Not just physical beauty, but a beauty that is innate in all of us, that cannot ever be destroyed, no matter what toll life takes on us. No longer should head shaving be associated with humiliation or shame, illness or insanity. Now that I've let go of the one thing I always associated with being feminine, I realize that I can never lose my femininity. I will ALWAYS be a woman and all I can hope for from now on is that I will always view MYSELF as beautiful.