On Saturday, August 22, 2015, I was driving to Ways To Wellness, the local holistic store where I worked, when a revelation came forth in my mind like the billowing of a wave. “I’m going to shave my head bald today, and I’m not going to tell anyone.” The fear of someone thinking I had cancer, or my head being oddly shaped, had discouraged me from shaving my head. I had been at odds with myself for months. In the beginning hours of the morning, as the trees, cars, and all of life ebbed and flowed around me, I came to the awareness that those reasons were irrelevant.
The earliest memory I have of my hair was around the age of four. I was sitting out in the front yard of my childhood home, playing with colorful paper, glue, and scissors. The sunlight tanned my skin, and the grass was warm, soft. A breeze swayed through the yard, and as I did my arts and crafts a questioned formulated in my mind: “Do scissors also cut hair?” The next thing I remember, my mother was walking out the front door to check on me. Before she said a word an excuse came bubbling up out of my little mouth, “The wind blew my hair into the scissors Mommy!” Tendrils of my hair danced across the yard in the wind.
As I grew in height, my hair grew in length. By the age of six my hair reached past my waist, years after my self-made haircut. Every morning and every night, I would stand in the bathroom as my mother would brush and braid my hair. Sometimes I would ask her to do multiple braids, one time as many as eight, all sticking out in random directions on my head. My mother said I looked like an octopus. Most days it would be one long braid, down the back of my head. In elementary school, there was one other girl who had hair as long as mine. One day, the teacher took a tally of who thought who had the longer hair. We both took down our braids, and the teacher measured the length of our hair. I won by two inches.
When I arrived at work that Saturday my day moved with routine, but a newfound light had illuminated inside of my heart. As I worked on the window display for summer, I couldn’t help but reflect on what brought me to this moment of confirmation. I had developed a nasty habit of twirling my hair, and it was causing it to thin. I had no intention of continuing this. There aren’t too many times when you can completely remove a habit. Shaving my hair seemed like a viable option. As extreme as it sounds to shave my head because of a bad habit, it wasn’t the only reason that brought me to this decision.
I am aware of the general consensus of what makes a woman “attractive.” Most people would agree that women with long, flowing, thick hair are gorgeous. Many would also be quick to say that women with short hair are “butch.” Some people who are even harsher would say, “a dike.” I chose to cut my hair to say I do not agree with this ideal. This is not to say that women who choose to grow their hair long, and spend time grooming it, are somehow wrong or vain. It is merely preference. I only hope they do it for themselves, because it’s what makes them feel confident. I shaved my head to show that the length of a woman’s hair does not determine her beauty, or her worth.
The first time I ever cut a significant amount of my hair was the week before third grade. My mom’s friend, who was a hairdresser, came over to our house. As I sat on the back porch in the summer’s fading heat, she braided my long hair for the last time. Moving up to third grade was a significant moment for me. I was changing teachers, moving to the other side of the school building, and I would be in a whole new class of students. I wanted to embody that change, my growth, the new person I hoped to be. Nineteen inches cut off and donated. I remember shaking out my new haircut, and exclaiming, “Wow! It feels like a log was taken off my head!” There was definitely a weight difference, but I think I was just being dramatic. Full of excitement and joy, I called my new third grade teacher to tell her the news.
As I aged and moved into middle school, it seemed that girl’s hair got a lot of attention. Most of the girls I went to school with had long, straight, blonde, or black hair. I had thick, frizzy, curly, brown hair. To say the least, it wasn’t the only thing the other kids would pick on me for, but it was one of the only things I could change. In seventh grade, I convinced my mom to buy me a hair straightener. Every morning, I began to pull out my curls with scorching heat.
Later that year, I convinced my parents to let me dye my hair black. This grew into me dyeing my hair on my own and changing colors, almost two to three times a month. My parents took a lot of coaxing to allow me to do anything with my hair. My father has always wanted me to have long, natural hair; in the beginning he was the one to hold strong. My mother loved me too much. She understood too well the importance of self-expression to keep me from doing what made me happy. My father ultimately felt the same.
In later years, I found a local hairdresser who could permanently straighten hair, and my mother brought me to get my hair chemically void of all my curls. In hindsight, I now see how troubled my parents were in watching their little girl struggle with such a dislike for her natural hair. The hair they gave her.
By the end of the work day, I was almost bursting at the seams wanting to tell anyone, someone, about my big shave. I didn’t tell anyone because I wanted to know that I was doing it only for myself, without the need for any outside confirmation. I did almost spill to my friend and co-worker Kylie, but I caught myself, and only told her that I had a surprise for everyone tomorrow. She guessed I was going to be bringing in some cookies. After work, I went to the grocery store and bought a three-pack of new razors. I had never shaved my hair before. Judging by the thickness and inexperience, I had a feeling I was going to need them all.
I’ve known many women in my life who have struggled with cancer, or a disease that has taken their hair from them. I am well aware of the many women in the world, who I do not know, who have also lost their hair. I shaved my head in honor of them, to support them. My hope was that even if one woman who was insecure because she had lost her hair, saw me walking with a proud shaved head, would feel more comfortable with her baldness.
By the time I had reached sophomore year, my hair had become the consistency of hay. It was around three inches, had been cut, styled, bleached, straightened, and dyed more times than I could remember, and it was the cliché, “I don’t even know my natural hair color.” I finally reached a point in my second year of high school where I was comfortable enough with my hair to let it be curly again. It was liberating to let my hair be. It was frustrating as well. Years of straightening had made me very unknowledgeable in how to care and style curly hair, but after a few real haircuts, and tips from hairdressers and my mother, I began to truly love my curls. For the next three years, I only straightened my hair three times and only to be reminded that I preferred my curls.
After I graduated high school, and my hair was finally reaching past my shoulders again, I made the decision to dread it. At this point, I’m sure my scalp was screaming “Enough is enough!” but I know how stubborn I am. I had dreamed about dreads for quite some time. I would admire people with dreadlocks; they seemed to hold an ethereal glow. I was captivated by the beauty of their hair. I spent over three days knotting in my dreads. When I was done, I had thirty-nine dreadlocks.
In the first six months of having dreads, they required more maintenance than my hair ever had: rolling them, washing them, making sure they were dry, keeping them from fusing together, and making positive the products I was using were dread-safe. All the while, hearing horror stories of poor dread maintenance, and getting asked stupid questions like, “Can’t you get bugs in your hair?” “Don’t you have to shave your head if you don’t want them anymore?” “Don’t you miss brushing your hair?” “You can wash dreads?” “Dreads are GROSS and SMELL!” I also got a lot of compliments and shared great stories with others who also had dreads. When I saw someone else with dreads, it was like we were in a secret club; we understood each other’s journey with dreadlocks.
I kept them for over a year, but I reached a point where I realized it was time for me to let them go. It took over a week, but I was able to brush them out. I cut them all back to around three inches, went through an entire bottle of conditioner, and when I was done, found myself in desperate need of a haircut.
After all of these escapades, I decided to once again let my hair be and just grow. I had gotten my curly hair maintenance down to a science, for the most part. You can’t really brush curly hair, you can only do so when it’s wet, and I only used my fingers. Sometimes, I would go up to three days without brushing my hair, and I would find dreadlocks beginning to form again. I went for two years with no hair alterations beyond a regular haircut. Only once did I get some color put in my hair, a beautiful dark teal called Enchanted Forest.
In the early spring of 2015, the desire to change my hair began to build within me again. I knew this time that it would be something much more extreme. I wanted to shave my head. For around three months, I contemplated the idea. Considered my reasoning, asked people for their opinions, looked at many pictures of short haircuts for girls, and tried to psych myself up to make such a drastic haircut. In May, I finally made a hair appointment. I had decided that even though I wanted to be completely bald, I would start off with going short. If I liked it, I could always go shorter. Thirteen inches cut off and donated. My head was shaved down to number three. I was ecstatic with my very short hair. I got a lot of support from friends and family as well. The truth was I had really wanted to go completely bald, but I was too afraid to. As my hair began to grow out again, I still fought with the idea of wanting to be bald.
In many cultures, hair is a representation of power. The Native Americans believe that your strength is held in your hair. Traditionally, they would grow their hair long, out of respect for their mother, their grandmother, and the divine feminine energy that gave birth to all. In the Bible, there is a story about a man named Samson, who had inhuman strength and had made enemies with the Philistines because of it. In his dedication to God, and since the birth from his mother’s womb, a razor had never been used on his head, thus granting him his gift of great strength. Through deceit, he revealed to his lover Delilah the origin of his strength. She had his hair shaved, as he slept, and he was seized by the Philistines. During the Vietnam War, men were deployed into Native American reserves to find the best trackers to be enlisted in the service. With protocol, the Native men’s hair was shaved. Only after, did the military discover that the Native men had lost all their abilities to track. Was it in the belief of their hair granting them power? Or does our hair truly hold, finite energy receptors, allowing us to perceive beyond our physical senses?
My belief is in the latter. I chose to shave my head, to release this power back to the Universe. I shaved my head, to give back to Creator the energy, which I was trying too hard to control. I have found myself at a great turning point in my life recently when I stopped trying to control the current of my energy and my life. I had become too absorbed in what I wasn’t doing, what I wasn’t experiencing, and worse, what I was too afraid to do. Instead, I focus on my intention, my direction, and my motivation. I allow what may come and welcome it. In releasing my power back to Creator I say, “I give you my being, unfastened, yours for the making. I am reborn in your likeness. I manifest through you. I am you. I am.”
On the night of Saturday, August 22, 2015, I went out into my back yard with a pair of hair clippers and cut my hair. The act only shared between me and my higher power. It took me two hours to fully shave my head down to the scalp. What I found at the bottom of my hair bed was empowerment, liberation, and unity with the Divine.