Growing out my hair has been one of the most transformational periods of my life.
When I first shaved my head, it was as if someone reached deep down inside of me, grabbed my femininity and any beauty I’ve ever possessed and pulled it out along with all the confidence that has ever lived in me.
My head shaving act happened over a period of about three months. It started with a six-inch chop off and ended with me being completely bald.
The day I decided that I was utterly disgusted with my hair was the day that initiated the incident. My hair had become dead, limp and lifeless. No amount of curling or straightening, pony-tail or bun could make it look any better. And so, in the solitude of my one bedroom apartment, I looked in my bathroom mirror and cut off six inches of hair. That was a pretty wild thing for me to do.
What if it’s uneven? How do I cut the back straight? I don’t have money for a real hair cut to save this mistake. What will I do?
But it didn’t matter.
It felt awesome. It felt like I was cutting off the heavy moments of the recent past that had left me feeling like a failure (being fired, the feeling of unemployment, the uncertainty of what to do next) and was choosing to let go of the pain, guilt, and shame that went with it.
After the sense of panic left, I realized I really had nothing to worry about. I did not have to go into work the next day to reveal my uneven haircut and I did not have to see my friends unless I chose to. I had no one to answer to but myself. Heck, I could hide in my apartment forever if I wanted to.
And that’s exactly what I did for the next two months.
Sleep, eat, meditate, and smoke weed.
Eventually, I was back in the mirror, but this time I was staring at my sideburns and baby hairs.
My hairline felt overgrown and it seemed to be crowding my face, almost as if it had let itself go.
So I grabbed my mini shears and snip snip snip… good-bye sideburns.
And for the little blonde wisps of baby hairs that cornered my face, it was time I outgrew you. I snickered as they fell to the ground.
What the hell was I doing?
“Oh well”, I thought, I’ve already done it. And I walked away from the bathroom.
I didn’t touch my hair again for a few days, maybe a week… time during unemployment becomes obsolete… especially when you’re high on cannabis and meditation.
I noticed I didn’t really look much different and maybe that was the problem. I was ready for a BIG change; I was ready to do something crazy, something drastic… because I could.
Since my firing, I had decided it was time to take control of my life. I was done letting people tell me what I have to do, what I should do, what I can’t do, what I’m supposed to do. I was done letting outside influences decide the direction of my life. No one can tell me who I am supposed to be, or who I am. That is for me to decide. If I want to take some time off from working, I can. If I never want to use my college major again, I don’t have to. If I want to sell fruits on the side of the road in Maui, so be it. If I want to give myself an awful haircut, bombs away. Because, the thing is, I can do anything.
So I just started cutting. This time I took more length off, but shortly after I decided it wasn’t short enough.
“Let’s see how short I have the courage to make it,” I thought as I re-approached the mirror, yet again.
Chop chop chop.
Another 3 inches fell into the sink. It no longer touched my shoulders and it was the shortest I had ever had my hair cut past the age of 8.
“But lots of girls have super short hair,” I figured.
This was not that drastic of a circumstance. I decided it would be fine. And I walked away from the mirror.
So there I went on living in my hideout. Sleep, eat, meditate, smoke weed.
Then I was back at the mirror.
Every time I started cutting my hair I became completely engrossed in the moment and never had a plan. Maybe that is what felt so good about it and what kept me going back for more. I was never enthused about the turnout, but addicted to the process.
I was letting go of everything and just doing. No more thinking about it, no more thinking about anything, just doing it. So when I surfaced from this thoughtless state, it was always quite the surprise when I’d stand back and look at what I had done.
Sometimes my jaw would literally drop at the sight, other times I would giggle at the choppiness and unevenness, other times (when I started to have less and less hair) pure panic would ensue. But I kept doing it. With each cutting, something was revealed within me that previously was not there. A part of my body awakened.
The next time I went to cut my hair, I cut off the whole underside. One of my good friends had done this and I always thought it was a bold and bad-ass move. I figured I am bold and I am a bad-ass now, this works.
A few weeks later I cut off the whole right side. Natalie Dormer, I realized in hindsight, probably inspired this cut.
During these cuts I would restrain myself from going all the way because I did not want to get to the point where this project could not be hidden.
Up to that point I was able to rearrange my hair, and with the use of headbands, I could make it look like I had at least some hair in all places. Only the people that stared really closely in public could tell that something was off.
I knew I could not hide out forever, though, because the end of my lease was fast approaching. My plan was to leave the comfort, security, and isolation of my apartment with only a pack on my back and venture into the unknown.
I was able to make it through the end of my lease by using my severance pay and the money I made from selling my beloved car, Nancy, but now the time had come for me to move out; I couldn’t hide from the world anymore.
I moved into my friend Jan’s house. She was the only person I was contacting at this time, probably in part to her giving me work to do for some cash. But mostly due to her hippie nature and acceptance and encouragement of all things weird and different. She was happy to have me and I continued to help her around the house, with her daughter, and with their dog. Outside of them, I didn’t have to see anyone I didn’t choose to.
Each time I was left alone in the house, I’d cut off another patch of hair. I wasn’t fooling anyone but myself. Jan noticed but didn’t comment on how strange it was. I believe she did say “just shave it all off!” at one point, which gave me the final validation I needed to do it.
So while Minte, her daughter, was at school and Jan at work, I started cutting it for the final time. I was always curious about what I would look like with bangs so I saved that patch of hair for last. (Hard to tell when all you have are bangs. It was not an accurate depiction, I decided).
Then, with a few chops, I cut off the last of it.
“Ah!!! I have no more hair!! It is all gone!” I screamed inside.
No amount of covering or arranging can save me now. Throwing all caution and hesitation into the sink with the last of my locks, I got a razor and went all in.
Shaving my head with a razor was absolutely nuts. (Yes, it was a total Brittney Spears moment). I really had never thought about this moment prior to it happening. But there I was, in the shower, shaving my head as if it were my legs. What a strange experience! I might as well shave my legs too while I’m at it, I figured.
I stepped out of the shower feeling like a completely new person. A silky smooth, from head to toe, enlightened human being. I didn’t feel scared, insecure, or panicky. I felt confident, empowered, excited and inspired. I couldn’t wait for Jan to get home to show her. I had done it! I overcame my mental barriers and attachment to my physical appearance in order to get to this moment. I was proud.
I loved being bald. It is a sensation only some in this world have known. I was bald for about three months. I wasn’t ready to let it grow back immediately. I mostly didn’t like the way it was growing back. The moment the hair started to surface, the silky feel disappeared and a 5 o’clock shadow type emerged.
But mostly, each time I shaved it, I learned something new about myself. I overcame a fear; I broke a stereotype; I cleared an emotional blockage.
At this time in my life, I was discovering the inner world of meditating and gaining all the wisdom that comes with it. And in this world, male and female are the same. In this world, the world itself is insignificant.
I was also reading the Dhammapada and words from the Buddha and familiarizing myself with the Dalai Lama’s teachings. Everything was speaking to me.
The readings told me: You don’t need anything. All you need is you. You must detach from all worldly things. What matters is what is inside, not what is on the outside.
Shaving my head symbolized shedding and detachment in the most real sense. The more I let go of things, the more I let go of my hair.
Being bald was a test of so many things. It was as if all my sensibilities were shed with the shaving and I had to learn how to rebuild myself in a new way.
Each time I looked in the mirror I was forced to see myself in a way I had never seen before.
I figured if I could love myself in this alien-like appearance, I could love myself through anything.
Not only was I forced to look at myself in a new way, I was also being looked at in a new way.
Being bald was the greatest social experiment of all time. It was crazy to see how people looked at me. Some pitied me, some became nervous, some were confused, some tried not to stare, some very obviously stared. Many asked questions. No one could understand. And it was crazy because although I looked so strange on the outside, I felt so awesome on the inside. I felt like such a bad-ass. I felt I could walk out the door and kick down any obstacle in sight, stand on the pile of everything that I’ve conquered and roar. I couldn’t believe how invincible I felt. I loved it.
But of course, society didn’t understand and they tested those feelings of awesomeness with each and every interaction I made.
In reality, I would walk out the door and with the first human encounter, all my feelings of empowerment would vanish into a tiny hole and stay buried underneath my lack of confidence. Insecurity, low self-esteem, and lack of self-worth would surface and no matter how thick my armor of self-assurance was that I put on each morning, it would still be permeated by the stares and looks of bewilderment from others.
It was easy to tell myself not to care, but it was impossible to ignore the way it made people feel.
I kept thinking, “Men can be bald, why can’t I?” or “many Black and ethnic women are bald, why is it so shocking that I am?”
How could something I’ve done to myself by choice and something so simple as hair cause people to be so uncomfortable? I am still me. I am still a person.
Of course, many people also assumed I had cancer. I didn’t mind this so much as it is a natural assumption especially after being hit with so many St. Jude commercials on television. As a society, we begin to associate baldness with sickness.
It was frustrating because tt never crossed the people’s minds that maybe I chose to be bald as an act of freedom of self-expression or a symbol of liberation. Instead, I was deemed as crazy, concerning, or bizarre. When, really, I was the same person I was with hair, possibly even better.
I believe this was when I truly began resenting society. I felt un-accepted and out of place, I felt I didn’t belong, I felt worthless. I felt inhuman. I felt so severely different that I feared no one would ever understand me nor would anyone ever care to try.
The world as I knew it became an outside world to me. To “them”, I was the outsider, but to me, they were the aliens. We sometimes live in a world where people are so quick to assume negatively and contain such a limited amount of awareness, that when we see people of difference, we cannot not handle it. I wanted no part of this world. I wanted out. I did not want to exist in this world. And sometimes, I did not want to exist at all.
I had to tell myself I matter and I am a person no matter what I look like. I deserve to be here, I deserve to be alive.
I taught myself how to love myself and practice it in every moment of every day.
Instead of self-hatred, I practiced self-love. Instead of insecurity, I learned confidence. Instead of feeling worthless, I learned to value my very being.
With each and every glimpse in a mirror, I had to fight all the negative thoughts that were once so familiar and so immediate, and in the same immediacy, replace them with thoughts of love, kindness, forgiveness, and self-certainty.
Shaving my head forced me to love the me that exists without all the appearances we hold on so tightly to. It forced me to see myself as who I am and gave me the clean slate for me to become who I want to be.
Walking around without the security blanket of your hair is no simple task. The stares I endured, the questions that were asked, the double takes that ensued… It was not easy. But it was worth it.
Breaking away from the traditional and the conventional was incredibly liberating. It was so empowering that now I know I can do anything and be anyone.
I didn’t shave it all off at once because I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready to face the world as a bald person and I was still maintaining some sort of connection to society. I still wanted to fit in and be like everyone else. I still wanted people to view me a certain way. A way that was “normal”, a way that was expected of me. I thought this was how the world works. You stand out by fitting in the best.
Shaving my head completely shattered that idea and shook my foundation to its core.
Even though growing out my hair was an incredibly hard, awkward, and uncomfortable, shaving my head was definitely the best thing I have ever done. I am a stronger, more humble, more courageous person because of it. I can meet every trying situation with patience, poise, and placidity in a way that I never could before because I’m not so wrapped up in the things that don’t matter.
I have learned that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and while I may not fit the social norms, I am still a beautiful person. I learned to love and accept myself, regardless of other’s thoughts, opinions, and influences. I have found an inner peace that fills me with confidence and assuredness each and every day and I now know, with one hundred percent certainty, that I am beautiful, I am loved, and I am me.