On Shaving My Head

It’s a funny thing about shaving your head — you realize real fast exactly how much of a buffer your hair has been between you and oodles of things you never before considered. A week prior, I had shaved the entire bottom half, leaving a stylish but irritating flop of hair on the top that was very punk rock and very adorable, at least according to myself and a handful of people who quickly got attached to this look. It seemed like such a simple thing, just getting rid of the rest of it, no big deal at all. I was so wrong.

Shaving the lower portion of my head came after a series of haircuts that were getting progressively shorter and more androgynous. There was the pixie bob, the asymmetric long pixie and a million variations in between. With each cut I would get more and more frustrated as it grew out. I'd slick back my hair constantly, feeling frustrated that the sides wouldn't sit smooth and flat so I could get it all out of my face.

Getting back to the androgyny thing, it surprised me a little how much I was into it. I never got any of the cuts because I was striving for a non-gender-specific look, it was more of a natural benefit. It made me feel more powerful and independent than usual, and it was especially appealing to me as a challenge to the opposite sex. Sexual harassment, especially on the streets of New York, is appallingly rampant and each time I’d get a cut I’d find myself saying in my head, “Oh yeah you want to fuck me? Well how about now asshole?”. As if by cutting my hair I was removing my sex appeal in some way. Well, it turns out I wasn’t, and in fact, I wound up attracting a whole new breed of guys who were specifically into short hair on women. Regardless of the response from the opposite sex, these changes I was making with my hair presented delightful opportunities to feel like a general badass.

Given this history, I was totally caught off guard by my immediate response to the cut — I cried. Not in a “What did I just do to myself?” regretful way, but in an involuntary physical reflex way. It was as if I had ripped off a giant scab I didn’t even know I had and all of my emotions were suddenly exposed like the nerve of a bad tooth. A few minutes later I got hit with that “What did I just do to myself?” regretful feeling and everything was that much worse. I was a mess.

My friend James is the one who did the shaving (he'd also been the one to partially shave my head the week before) and there we were in his kitchen when my soft gooey insides all came tumbling forth. He didn't seem surprised; apparently hairdressers are pretty hip to the fact that there is a strong emotional/physical connection between hair and self, a great detail to find out after the fact. Anyway, I sucked it up and we had a quick dinner across the street. I asked him if he thought I made a huge mistake and he basically said, "Look, it's a big change! But sitting here across from you stuffing your face, it's like being with you normally — you look like you. And you've got a good face so it's fine.". So I continued stuffing my good face and calmed down a bit. After dinner I thanked him profusely for the new look and quick therapy and then headed off towards my remaining evening adventures.

It was a big help that I had two different sets of very public plans immediately after the cut — 1) I had committed to chairing a pretty well-attended recovery meeting, and 2) later than night I was attending an underground house party in the Bronx. When I arrived at the first event, I immediately saw two friends who knew about my plans but surely doubted my conviction. Seeing them gave me the immediate hutzpah I needed to whip off my wool beanie, all "Ta da bitches!". It was terrifying and exhilarating and my heart was beating a mile a minute but I survived. By the time I got on the train to the party in the Bronx, I felt like I was owning the look. Every once in a while I'd catch a glimpse of myself in the window and it was disarming in a very positive and sci-fi villainess kind of way. Also, it turned out to be a real plus when I was later sweating my ass off on the dance floor.

But then I went home and went to sleep.

When I woke up the next day, it was as if I was a totally different person from the chick who had made the decision to cut all her hair off and later enthusiastically embraced the change. I felt awful and couldn’t stand the sight of myself in the mirror. Every time I passed my reflection I would cringe and ask myself why the fuck I did what I did. That feeling of having my emotions exposed? This was so much worse! I felt like my everything was exposed now! EVERY THING. It was such a dramatic difference from having hair that my mouth would just hang open and I would start tearing up. I was so caught off guard — I mean come on, there was so little difference in the amount of hair I had a week ago, how could this be such a big deal??

The bad feelings continued for about 48 hours until thankfully, I was forced to leave the house to keep another commitment, again in front of a bunch of people. I was nervous, but at least starting to get over myself and the shock. All I could do was hope that some day soon I could maybe get back to feeling like the empowered chick who got off on challenging the world.

When I actually walked out the door and got to where I was going, that initial badass feeling began to return. And now, almost three months later, I wonder if I will ever grow my hair out again. Having a shaved head feels more reflective of who I am on the inside than any other cut I've ever had. Which is not to say I don’t occasionally find myself staring longingly at someone with long flowing locks or admiring some beautiful hair accessories before remembering I have no hair upon which to attach said accessories, because these things happen on a weekly basis. But what happens more frequently, is the feeling of “Fuck yes here I am motherfuckers!” and it the BEST. FEELING. EVER.