I did something drastic today. Maybe foolish. Certainly impulsive. I shaved my head.
I didn’t give myself a pixie cut, or even a Marines-style buzz. I shaved the whole thing off in one fell swoop. Bald. Super bald. Mr. Clean on a good hair day bald. “We’re all born bald, Baby,” said proud baldy Telly Savalas. I guess today was a rebirth of sorts? Am I over-thinking this? Its too late to reconsider now! Look out Daddy Warbucks, make way Bruce Willis, there’s a new chrome dome in town.
When I was first considering it, my friends were supportive. One cheered me on via text. “It grows back! Go for it!” she urged, confidently. As it turns out, she’d been into the wine and has no recollection of this conversation, which is a fun discovery after you have rendered your head a reflective surface. A piece of advice: ask your friends their opinions on drastic physical changes in person so you can gauge their sobriety.
Another friend was encouraging, but unable to hide her obvious discomfort with the idea. Her words said, “Some women can really pull it off!” Her subtext said, But I’m not sure you are one of them.
My husband flat out said he wouldn’t like it. No sugar-coating or false enthusiasm there! He did acknowledge that it’s my hair, and I should do what I want with it, regardless of his feelings on the subject.
“Will you still have sex with me if I shave my head?” I asked.
“Yes,” he replied, without elaboration. That was good enough for me.
Today, as my husband napped, and my kids played an educational video game, I sat on the floor with scissors and a set of electric clippers. I carefully laid a sheet down, figuring it would be easier than cleaning hair off the bathroom sink for the next five years - and part of me knew there was no way I would be able to do it while looking in a mirror. I grabbed the scissors to start. Let’s do this.
As it turns out, when your hair is as thick as mine, shaving your head is harder than it looks. My hair fought for its life. Any fantasies of Demi Moore in G.I. Jane, or even Britney Spears circa 2007, were quickly dashed as I tried to hack my way through my dense forest of hair. I tried the clippers instead, which worked marginally better, but mostly sheared three strands of hair for each huff and puff they gave. At this point, my hair was seventeen different lengths, and sticking straight up. If I had been looking in the mirror, I’m sure I would have seen Goku staring back at me.
Forty-five minutes of attacking my head at all angles later, the last of my remaining hair fell into my cleavage. The sheet had given me a false sense of security that I would be able to do this neatly. It looked as though I had fought Cousin It to the death with my bare hands. Hair everywhere. Everywhere but my head, that is.
I ran my hand along the surface of my head, trying to get a handle on what I’d done. I couldn’t look yet. I let my fingers be my eyes for a moment, feeling around as though I were performing phrenology. I was bald all right. The good news was, I didn’t appear to have a particularly lumpy head as far as heads go. As the shock wore off, I raised myself off the ground to steal a look in the antique mirror on the dresser.
My friend’s subtext was right – I couldn’t pull it off. I look less Amber Rose and more Komodo dragon. But it feels simply wonderful. It’s smooth and cool and light, and it feels satisfying to the touch. I assume my five-year-old agrees, because he won’t stop licking it.
It does feel liberating, in a way. I took a shower and dried my hair in twelve seconds instead of five hours. My son told me he likes it because he can see my face better – a sweet and unexpected compliment. I proved to myself I could do something this bold. Looking in the mirror, I felt a mix of embarrassment and validation. Regret and pride.
The first question I was asked by shocked family and friends was, “Why?” I don’t know, to be honest. I never would have done this is my youth. My teen years were not filled with rebellion, but with a desperate attempt to fit in and call as little attention to myself as possible. Even allowing my naturally curly hair to do its own thing was not an option. I spent hours a week frying it until it gave in and laid flat, giving me more of a chance at blending in with the crowd.
Until an hour ago, I was the only member of my immediate family who had never been bald. My mom is a cancer survivor, my dad shaved his head to support her, and my sister once shaved her head for a fundraiser. Meanwhile, I stood on the sidelines, hair blowing in the breeze like Fabio, cheering, “Good job, guys!”
I guess at thirty-eight, I figured I had nothing to lose. I work from home, I’m married, and most importantly, I just don’t care what people think about me anymore. I felt like doing it, so I did it.
I thought about some of my female idols - Danai Gurira, as warrior Okoye in Black Panther, who made me scream “Yes!” at the screen. Emma Gonzalez, child social justice warrior, who makes me yell “Yes!” in real life. What they have is badassery for the ages. What they don’t have is hair.
Maybe that’s why, whenever I feel stagnant or stressed, it comes out in my hair. When I find myself feeling cornered or threatened, the first thing I do is cut my hair, or dye it, or change it in some way. It’s a way of regaining some autonomy, of taking back agency of my life, even if just in the form of a superficial physical change. Maybe it’s how I call on my inner warrior.
Or maybe it is part of my transition to middle-age. Despite never considering myself much of a beauty, I had the benefit of youth on my side. That youthfulness is fading, and what little advantage my looks gave me in this world are going with it. Bold chances are what I have now. I will now get by on my courage.
My hair will grow back. I don’t love how it looks, but I love that I did it. As one of my fellow bald friends put it, “I think every woman should try it once. It’s one of the most intimate transitions we can experience for ourselves.” I can forever say that I shaved my head once.
If you’re thinking of doing it, in the words of my drunk but accurate friend, “It grows back. Go for it!” It does feel empowering. At the very least you’ll save a fortune on shampoo.