On Saturday afternoon, after taking the better part of four years to work up the courage for it, I finally shaved my head.
I’ve had long hair off and on (mostly on, pretty much except when I was required by jobs not to) since I was fourteen. Long hair was, for a long long time, a very important part of my self-identity. It was a visual identifier, a calling card. My long hair set me apart to some degree (though not so much after I started hanging out with the geeky crowd full of longhairs I hang with in Boston). During times when I didn’t have long hair, I didn’t feel quite like myself, like I wasn’t authentically Me.
But genetics has taken its toll on my hair over the last decade or so. My hairline receded a long time ago, but then more recently it started getting awfully thin on top in addition. My long hair went from being something I was proud of, something I identified with, to something that caused me angst and made me feel terrible about myself when I looked in a mirror.
I originally grew my hair out for me, because I wanted to, not to please anyone else. My dad, in fact, gave me plenty of crap about it over the 25 years or so I had it long. But eventually, I kept it for everyone else, not for me. I was afraid of what other people were going to think of me if I cut it, I was afraid I wasn’t going to be attractive anymore, I was afraid I was going to disappoint people, I was afraid I’d have any ugly-shaped head. (The first time you go super-short, there’s always the possibility that you could end up with something ugly-lookin’ and have to wear hats until your hair grows back in. I’m very happy that’s not the case with my dome.)
And I finally decided that none of that really mattered — or at least, didn’t matter as much as my feeling comfortable with myself and my appearance again.
So I cut it for me, not for anyone else.
After discussing it for awhile with Terry on Saturday morning, and getting all of the love and encouragement and reassurance I could ever hope for from her, I decided it was time. I’d originally planned to go for something more medium-length, but no… that would only have been further delaying the inevitable. And I was ready to stop the delay.
We went to the salon, I sat in the stylist’s chair, and when she asked what we were doing today, I told her it was time to take it all off.
“All of it?” Yes, all of it.
She braided my ponytail, and with a few hacking strokes of her scissors, lopped it off and handed it to me. I still have it, just like I have the twin ponytails from last year when I cut a foot off of my halfway-down-my-back tresses.
At one point, she left an inch-and-a-half or so on top and tried to style it, but it just looked horrible. Not her fault — my hair’s fault. It was just too thin. I told her to keep going, just to buzz it all over, and I think she either didn’t think I was serious or thought I didn’t know what I was asking for, because she only reluctantly did so after my asking several times. Even when she was done, it was still longer than I was intending, but hey, I’ve got clippers now and can take care of it myself.
When she was done, I had a nice half-inch long layer of fuzz all over my head. I looked at myself in the mirror, and for the first time in a while, I liked what I saw (and liked what I felt even better). It’s funny, but I think shaving my head made me look… well, I don’t want to say “younger,” but “not so old-looking,” if that makes sense. My hair had gotten to the point where it was dragging me down and making me look tired.
Now, all of that visual down-pulling is gone. I look taller. I look thinner. And yeah, I don’t look so old.
Also, it had thinned so much on the top that I felt like it looked kinda ridiculous, like I was either trying to hide my thinning or like I didn’t notice that my follicles had betrayed me in mass numbers. Now it’s even more obvious that it’s sparser, of course — but rather than looking silly, it’s more of an “eh, whateva” thing. Yes, it’s thinned, and I’ve done what you do when your hair gets too thin. Shrug it off and move on.
I’m happy that the response for the most part so far has been positive. A couple of people have been a bit freaked or disappointed, but for the most part, people have dug it. The word “badass” has been used more than any other so far, which I’ll admit is kinda cool. And I’ve really enjoyed having people rub my fuzzy head — maybe even more than I used to enjoy their running their fingers through it.
Here’s the big thing: “shaving my head” was always very firmly on my List of Things I Didn’t Think I Could Ever Do OMG, a thing that inexplicably terrified me. But I did it. It might have taken me four years, but I did it. And so far, it’s working out well for me.
So… what other things that I thought I could never do are actually within my grasp, if only I dare to reach for them?