The first imagery I had of rebirth through one's hair was seeing the Black women in my life seemingly shapeshift with their hairstyles. On screens and in real life, I saw how we could never truly tie others down to one perception, and more importantly, that we have the power to dictate what said perception is in the first place. I remember sitting in a hair salon with my mother and seeing the options arranged on the wall, each choice showcasing what seemed like a different path or facet of individuality. The tables were soon turned onto me, a laminated document thrust my direction, containing row upon row of different haircut styles. It all seemed too much, honestly. I marveled at the obvious ability of others to choose.
How was I supposed to hold all this power, when I didn't even know it had existed in the first place?
When faced with my own choice, I always opted out, foregoing anything exciting and sticking with "just a shape up." It was in those moments that I was not only distancing myself from my identity but also ultimately instilling a sense of distrust in my ability to make decisions for myself.
A long time ago, it was just a haircut. However, years go by, and you realize your haircut has become something larger than it once was, and the struggle to keep it squarely between you and the existence you hope to embody is an effort far too great and costly. It's like getting into a car with someone and they tell you they know the way, but then you wind up lost, and instead of trying a new path, they continue to take the same directions. It defies all reason why you would keep pushing away from arguably the "right" path, but standing up to tell the driver which way to go is so much scarier. This refusal to acknowledge that something different might work clearly goes against the grain of logic, but for me, it was so cozily a space of mediocrity and indifference. It was a way to work around so many other pressing concerns; knowing there was a mountain of things hiding behind this anthill. Eventually, the tires wore thin, the gas ran out, and I finally had to get out and start walking.
It goes without saying that things have changed. I've been walking for a minute now, but this year especially brought plenty of new ways of thinking and arguably more bleach than originally expected. Hair bleach, for me, has been like scissors and glue. I've watched like an avid scrapbooker, as the space that used to be so blank has been cut into, and the segments of who I wish to be are glued closer and closer to me.
I was so scared to essentially set flames to my head, and bear witness to the aftermath. Hopefully, we can all agree that there's a certain level of masochism to be found in the act of bleaching one's hair. Simply sitting down to pour chemicals on one's self reads a bit like a horror film. It's made even worse by the fact that all your senses are somehow implicated in this act of violence. All at once, your body is overtaken by the awareness that change is taking place. Your nose is abruptly assaulted by the whiffs of something that smells like it was meant to kill. Suddenly, your scalp is radiating with the vengeance of a small, contained fire. You're left wondering if this was even worth it. Meanwhile, the realization that there is no going back from this is ever intensifying.
As you rinse it all away, new thoughts seem even louder, deafening almost. It is in those moments that you finally see just where you stand in relation to the line of acceptance for yourself. You can either choose to walk over it or stand a safe distance away, bracing for the worst. Unveiled from your towel, you're faced with a new reality. You've been transformed but in the best way possible.
The truth is I don't think we give the act of bleaching one's hair enough credit for the amount of character development that takes place in its aftermath. With all of that said, honestly, hair is whatever we make it. It can be a prized possession or a way of reclaiming one's power in times of strife. Possibly, it means nothing to you, or maybe you just don't have any. Like anything, though, what matters is the attention and energy we put towards it. For me, my hair has definitely always been a part of my identity, but it was also, unknowingly, a roadblock and hindrance in my own journey of self-expression.
Stripping myself of the ideas that I held of myself wound up applying to far more than just saying bye to my black hair. There have been so many thoughts that stopped me short of diving into things that might have been something. To look back now, I can't imagine that I was ever so closed off, so detached from what mattered to me.
It's only human nature though that we see ourselves, and like the landmarks that we pass every day, our perception can become stale, to the point that we don't even see ourselves changing, our needs evolving.
I think in a year where everything feels more slow and still than ever, any kind of proclamation or even reclamation of self is welcome. Many of us need some kind of confirmation that we not only have some sense of control but also that the body we exist in is actually ours, too. As someone that struggled for some time to even pinpoint where to begin, I can understand the feeling of the world closing around you, as pressure mounts to make some kind of decision. The process of finally learning to trust yourself is something that takes place over thousands of decisions, not just the one that confronts you today. My best advice is to take stock of where you are and think about the decisions you're scared to make. Who knows, you might end up with some fun hair!