It's been six months since I shaved off all my hair, and having always sported a huge mound of luscious curls with which I could do what I pleased, this was a largely dramatic change for me. In the many years leading up to that night in my bathroom, I had done nearly everything to my hair. From pixie cuts to dying it red, my hair was always my playground, and despite my incessant claims that it was "just hair", I maintained an internalized attachment to my hair that kept me stuck in ways I could only see in retrospect. So, in a rather dramatic pursuit of personal development, I decided to do away with it...and oddly, I've gained so much more from my hair in its absence than I ever did in its presence. Here are five lessons I've learned:
1. Being bald is not inherently easier than having hair.
Circa '16. As beautiful as I felt on this day, my hair alone took me an hour to do...which explains the lack of smile.
Although I loved my hair long, I had always maintained one point of contention: it was SO incredibly time consuming. Spending an hour or more braiding it up at night and sleepily wrestling with it for another hour every morning was always something I dreaded, and I naively fed into the assumption that shaving my head would automatically rid me of any tedious hair-taming responsibilities. I was wrong. Though the bulk of it was now gone, my hair continued to grow like weeds, and the free time afforded to me by way of clippers was quickly consumed by weekly haircuts, extra time spent on clothes and makeup, and constantly having to brush my hair to keep my natural curls lying flat (I never was privy to the "waves" look). I'm sure my experience would have been different had I not romanticized the image of freedom that a shaved head carries, but it was a well-learned lesson in pragmatism.
2. I've used my hair as a crutch rather than an accessory.
I would've never admitted it before, but for the longest time, I genuinely believed that without my hair, I was not beautiful. In fact, I found myself extremely grateful for the fact that I had a beautiful head of hair, because without it, I knew my self-esteem would circle the toilet bowl. Shaving my hair off felt like finally letting go of my walker and deciding to walk on my own for the first time. Body, skin, and face to the forefront, I could no longer quell my disdain for my outer appearance with my hair. And surprisingly, I found that I really liked the features that had long been hidden behind the curly brown curtain.
3. Guys are not as shallow as I once believed.
Don't get me wrong; I was definitely met with some unsolicited feedback from guys about how my shaved head made me look intimidating, masculine, or some other euphemism for "not up to my standards for what a woman should look like". However, I found that for every guy who was put off by my haircut, there was one who LOVED it. I was so pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm of my male friends and the few potential suitors who insisted that I keep my hair cut low, that it gave me 'character' and 'spunk' and made my features stand out more. The fact that they didn't just shrug off my lack of hair, but warmly embraced it, really changed my perspective on what guys truly care about.
4. I don't actually care what other people think.
As I flirted with the idea of shaving my head, I was initially paralyzed by the plethora of negative thoughts running amok in my head. Such thoughts included:
"What if people accuse me of having a 'Britney Moment'?"
"What if I look too masculine?"
"What if guys start assuming I'm a lesbian and don't want to approach me?"
Did any of these things happen? Yes. However, when I was met with shady looks and inquiries about my mental health, I handled them with more poise and indifference than I ever imagined possible. And I now realize that I never actually cared what people had to say to begin with. Those thoughts were my ego's manifestation of a bigger fear, a fear of breaking my own chains and waving goodbye to my comfort zone. In a way, I'm grateful for the thoughts, as I know they were intended to protect me, but I am so glad I ignored them, as doing that introduced me to the grace and resilience I never knew I had.
5. There was nothing to be scared of.
Niente. Nic. Nada. Everything is as it was, I just look a little different now. Well, maybe very different, but that doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things. Most of the fears I had never actually surfaced in reality, and even the ones that did weren't nearly as frightening as I'd anticipated. It's all good.
In the end, the big, bald wolf known as shaving my head wasn't nearly as life-altering as I expected. I don't look like a boy, I don't feel like one either. Guys are not repulsed by the sight of me; it's actually quite the opposite. People don't ask me if I'm terminally ill and was losing my hair anyway. My life ultimately didn't change as a result of me doing away with my hair for a while. And in losing my hair, I found myself.