I'm a Military Blogger


Monday, August 29, 2011

What shaving my head taught me about being a woman

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.


Me said...

You look beautiful...but I think you always have. I loved this post, and admire your guts!

Amanda Cervantes said...

You look effing BEAUTIFUL. I sat there and looked through some of your pictures yesterday and honestly? Your face has never looked so bright and beautiful. Nor has your confidence ever spoken more volumes than it does now. I remember you always apologizing for your hair and not having it done in the morning. You are so very brave and seeing you in this new light is INSPIRING. I LOVE that you did this for YOU! XO. Love always,

Someone who is PROUD to be your beffy :)

Anonymous said...

hmm. i dont quite know how i feel about this. i mean, why did it take the act of shaving your head for you to realize all that?

mynaturallife said...

Great post! It's your hair, do with it as you wish.

the princess said...

I LOVE what you said, and I think you look amazing. You are so right, we are indoctrinated from an early age,to think that our identity and our "beauty" is directly tied to whatever society deems appropriate and feminine. Good for you girl! :) -Sherise

Ken Morrow said...

Symbols are powerful tools. Our emotions are powerful influences over our intellectual life. I understand why you did it.

Some things you just can't hypothesize or imagine yourself into a deep enough conviction about. Sometimes you just need that tattoo, piercing, pony tail, beard, or shaved head, dammit! Why do you think so many guys grow so much hair when they get out of the military? Bingo! It's about re-establishing one's self-determination.

Your exercise in challenging the expectations of society vs. your own self image has left you with a deeper, richer, more mature sense of who you are. You are more self-actualized and less dependent upon reinforcement from others. This doesn't isolate you. It makes you more fit to interact richly with the world around you because you are more confident and comfortable in your own skin and soul.

Besides, you're a pretty hot baldy!