As a lady, it's pretty standard to keep a full head of hair. There is hardly ever a dull moment when it comes to hair maintenance and discussion in the worlds of advertising and pop culture as we females are taught: Your hair has the potential to be beautiful and desirable -- you just have to put the work (and money) into it. For roughly 21 years of my life, I played into this practice, experiencing the several stages of long-hair maintenance that are typical for those of us with obnoxiously thick locks. For reference, they are as follows:
1. Be a kid. Grow hair and get trims when instructed. Hide in bedroom after breakfast every morning to avoid the dreaded, mandatory brush.
2. Be wildly confused about hair. Brush it sometimes. Allow it to dread here and there because that is just an interesting concept. Feel awkward when dreaded hair chunks begin to mesh less and less cohesively with rest of mane. Brush thoroughly. Cry.
3. Discover Manic Panic. Select random areas of hair to dye unnatural shades and feel immensely punk for short periods of time. Realize that temporary hair dye is temporary and the locks you originally bleached to allow that color to take hold will inevitably fade into pathetic versions of their once-vibrant selves. Read: pink (not so bad) and sea-green (definitively bad.)
4. Go shoulder-length. Hate yourself.
5. Grow it out, and be momentarily happy with hair, knowing that there are things in life more important than one's appearance, but feel conflicted about this fact because it's hard to ignore something that's just so in your face at all times. Decide to rock the bulky top knot whenever possible. Suffer from tension headaches.
6. Read "Me, My Hair, and I: Twenty-Seven Women Untangle an Obsession", edited by Elizabeth Benedict and published by Chapel Hill's Algonquin Books. Shout-out, home digs. Realize life has changed. Make a drastic decision.
I took the plunge. I was about to graduate from college. I was in a barely-functioning, 100% unhealthy relationship. I was loving my classes more than I ever had and yet so close to the end, trying to take stock of exactly what I still had control over and ready to make one final say about who I was in a city I was set to leave for good. This was around the time of the "Mad Max: Fury Road" release, and I'll admit -- a large amount of my bravery going forward stemmed from the absolute ferocity that was Charlize Theron's ability to get buzzed and still appear undeniably feminine. Could I be a nearly-bald babe, too? Could I channel Keira Knightley, circa 2005? Could I learn from Natalie Portman, Jessie J, Sinead O'Connor -- and just be beautiful without the ever-dictating suppression that is perfect hair?
The answer, of course, was yes. The lightness in my roots felt like beams of light extending upwards, like baby herbaceous tendrils finally given the chance to properly take in oxygen. I now accessorize with abandon, able to focus on my clothing and my favorite pairs of earrings, free of those frizzy hunks of keratin that once topped my being like accidentally imperfect decor on a birthday cake. More importantly, I can focus on my character and my work ethic as a human being, doing what I need to do in this moment of my life without the ever-present worry that is my hair.
Take my word for it: Oftentimes, it is more trouble than it is worth, and it is our gender alone that is automatically expected to bear its burden. There is, of course, a specific set of responses that you can expect upon taking your hair away which are predictable and indicative of beauty standards our society has in place. Children ask your gender; other women question your motives and call you brave; younger girls look at you and smile and tell you they're a fan. But overall, it's not much different; the world turns and you are different but your capacity to make change within it remains the same -- or maybe heightened -- as does the time you have left to make it. Plus, there is something inherently funny about being bald -- and we all could benefit from just a little more lightness amid our mundane and often depressing realities.
We have immense potential in this life to shift our perspectives by challenging what is considered normal. Don't miss out on your own chances to do so.