and I am not an exception. Some of my earliest childhood memories involve squeezing and sucking fat rolls, collecting a formidable arsenal of acne products and praying that the newest hairstyle would somehow transform me into someone who more closely resembled the models, movie stars and celebrities we were all trained to adore. Being a short, food-loving tomboy, I was (and still am) a prime target for the shaming and bandwagon techniques of Big Advertising. I've probably spent enough money on beauty products and services to have traveled around the world and bought a home...cash. My hair has experienced the brunt of my experimentation.
I think I got my first (yes there was more than one) perm before age 10. This was followed by a pretty bad bowl cut (we've all been there, right?) and then a series of straightening techniques and COLOR...oh lawd the colors my hair has been. It's been brunette, fire-engine red, auburn, brunette with highlights, black, blonde with highlights, blonde with low-lights, platinum blonde, purple, blue and grey. I've had a bazillion different haircuts as well.
Even though my move to Thailand was supposed to initiate a lifestyle shift toward seeking fulfillment and joy rather than money and stuff, I was still holding pretty fastly to the ingrained concepts of beauty and my obligation toward it. After my $300+ pre-Thailand hair style had grown out, I decided to get a keratin straightening treatment. This was followed (several months later) by the decision to dye my hair darker (Thai hairstylists are notorious for burning Western hair with bleaching). Long story short, my stylist accidentally bleached my hair instead of using a darker color. My hair turned green and was basically burned off at the ends. After an emergency correction operation which took several hours, I emerged from the salon with slightly shorter, very BROWN hair. (I'm naturally brunette but this was like, bad box-brown.)
I cried. I cried for a few hours, felt better for 30 minutes and then pouted some more. My loving, patient husband listened intently as I audibly worried over my new look for almost 24 hours. I tried some makeup techniques to "match" my new hair and created a five-year plan for how I was going to heal my hair and correct my appearance. I went to work the next day and my coworkers were supportive. But then it hit me...fuck this.
When the fuck did it become "normal" to cry over hair? Why was I willing to change my career path and my entire life to pursue happiness and then still spend huge chunks of time and money trying to be pretty? I realized something had to change. I had to change.
So, at the end of January, I shaved my head. I shaved it once, let it grow a little and then shaved it again. To spare you further sentimental rumination, here are the 10 lessons I learned when I shaved my head:
1. There is nothing wrong with the shape of your head. Also, there is no "good" head shape.
For the longest time I have believed there was something "wrong" with the shape of my head. It was bumpy, lopsided and maybe a little too big. Oh and my forehead...I could never! This is one of the major reasons many women (and men) give for being fearful of cutting or shaving their hair. This is bullshit. Even if you do have some defining visual characteristic on your head, rock it. The only people who try to tell you there is such a thing as a "good" head shape (or body or anything else for that matter) is trying to sell you something or has been brainwashed by advertising. Do you really want Johnson & Johnson dictating your life decisions?
2. Less time spent primping means more time doing meaningful shit.
After I shaved my head I found it way less difficult to get in my morning meditation. I also loved having more time to read and engage in leisure activities at night when I'd normally be conditioning, brushing and drying my coif in preparation for the next day.
3. You will save money.
For obvious reasons.
4. My female power and beauty does not emanate from my hair.
If you are female and believe that yours does, I would advise that you take a long, hard look at a mirror...on the floor...while standing over it.
5. People will not think you're ugly.
At least nobody will say so. Almost all the feedback I got about my hair was supportive and positive. Some women even expressed a little envy, indicating they could NEVER do such a thing (yes they could but I digress). Mostly people just thought it was badass. There were only 1-2 people who expressed shock or disdain at the sight of my bald-ish head and quite frankly, those were not people who's opinions I respect anyway. Again, if someone is telling you there is only one way to be beautiful they have ulterior motives or have been utterly brainwashed (see number 1).
6. Lovers (who are not assholes) do not care.
If you're worried about what your man or partner might think, don't. Think about it- if your significant other changed their look, would you kick them to the curb? If no, the same probably applies for them. If yes, you should consider re-calibrating your moral compass, Shallow Hal.
7. I learned to notice and love my face.
Having no hair to hide behind, I was finally able to study the features of my face. Taking a break from the seemingly endless effort of trying to look like everyone else made me appreciate my features for what they are...mine. That's what makes them beautiful, that they exist and they are specific to me. I don't know when "beautiful" became a prescription for sameness but I think it's sad and boring. Your particular features and essence are beautiful because they exist and (hopefully) function, not because they look a certain way.
8. The opinions of others have no bearing on the outcome of your life unless you want them to.
I got a lot of looks after shaving my head. Some curious, some approving, some judge-y, some innocuous. As a person who basically uses approval as fuel, I struggled with all the unwanted (and wanted) attention. Over time, I realized that it was my decision to allow myself to waste time and energy trying to decipher what these people might be thinking of me. I asked myself "what real power do these people and their opinions have over my life?" The answer was none. People can and should think whatever they want and usually it doesn't have anything to do with you. You only need to worry about pleasing yourself, your partner, your pets, your children, your friends and maybe your boss every now and then. Everyone else is none of your business.
9. Self-love is a necessary life skill, not a luxury.
10. You can do the thing you think you can't do.
The number one reaction I get from women about hair is "I can't do that because blah blah blah." The same goes for people who have expressed envy about our becoming expats in SE Asia and traveling the world. The thing is, you can. If the sacrifices you'd have to make are too inconvenient for your lifestyle, so be it. If you're not mentally or financially prepared, cool. If you're afraid, I get it. However, these aren't "can'ts." These are "wont's." Barring biological deficiencies, you're in control of a lot more than you probably think. There are a lot of things I won't do but after facing my fear and shaving my head, I won't call a "won't" a "can't" anymore.
Hearts and stuff,