Things I Learned From Shaving My Head


Not too long ago, I wrote about the act of shaving my head — what led to the decision, how it happened, how I reacted... Well it's been over five months since I first cut all my hair off and I've learned some things.

Keeping a shorn head is a tremendous amount of upkeep, much more than I expected. My hair grows really fast, especially in warm weather, and I have to reshave my head every six days to keep it tidy. I think often of shaving it even closer with an electric razor or handheld blade to extend the time between cuts but I haven't made that jump yet; I'm worried about razor burn and scalp acne during my period. It is surprisingly difficult to trim it all evenly with clippers and not miss any spots on the back of my head. I have a weird cowlick on the left rear side of my skull and it always feels like a raised patch of hair no matter how deftly I shave it.

Children are fascinated, especially little girls. It's not uncommon for me to be on the subway with a small female child sitting across from me, mouth agape for the entirety of the ride. Occasionally random kids comment bluntly or question their parents innocently about my no-hair situation.

Traveling with a shaved head brings both unsolicited inquiries and lengthy stares. It is more unusual to find other women with shaved heads in Europe than you would think; it is even more unusual in the Middle East. People in upstate New York smile because they are staring. Here in the city nobody gives a single fuck and there are many many other women with the same style.

My self image and sexual identity have shifted. I'm often plagued with the feeling that I'm now seen as completely asexual, unattractive, repulsive, etc. I swing between feeling badass, happy to be a bit of a visual challenge and as though I'm now an "other", separated from the possibility of romantic relationships and sex. Sometimes I catch myself in the mirror and I love it, and other times I'm horrified and insecure for hours afterwards, the aesthetic turning on me in some way. The amount of other women I encounter with shaved heads does little to nothing in terms of changing this; ads make me feel a little better. 

I make note of every woman I encounter in a day with a shaved head or otherwise supershort hair, both as a means of reassurance that I'm not alone and as a point of comparison. Sometimes I see between three and five a day and I wind up feeling like just another basic bitch with no hair.  Other times I feel like we're a part of a sisterhood and it makes me smile. Occasionally we nod at each other in identification. 

Dressing is a challenge. So many things just don't seem to look right. Necklines, silhouettes, even jewelry. Sometimes I put on a pair of earrings and I immediately think it's like putting earrings on a pig or a hippo or some other large skinned creature with no hair. It just looks absurd and silly and like I'm trying to make some random object look feminine by dressing it up with doodads. A lot of the loose, hippy linen items I bought to wear in the summer make me look like a monk. I've stopped wearing t-shirts with writing and sleeves because the effect is just too masculine for my taste.

Instagram is now a source of research and consolation. How are other women with shaved heads dressing? Are they shaving it down with a razor or is that just an illusion because of skin tone/hair color matching? Do they wear earrings? How is their headscarf game? Are they sexy? How do they pull off super casual clothing without looking like a guy? I scroll and study and search some more. 

Porn has become a similar resource; I've become desperate to see women with shaved heads engaged in straight sex. I now know it's a fetish to watch a woman shave her head or to shave it for her; this means it's harder to find videos with a girl rocking a buzzcut rather than it is of razor-shorn skulls. Searching for "girl with shaved head" brings up tons of footage of women with long hair having it taken from them, and that of women with already short styles covered with shaving cream, getting razored by their own hand or that of an off-camera male. There is at least one site devoted entirely to porn featuring girls with shaved heads.

Despite the changes and challenges, I don't regret my choice. Every day I have the opportunity and decision to keep it up or let it go and for now I choose to keep it up. Living as a woman with a shaved head is great practice in owning up to my own insecurities; on a daily basis I face my fears and act in spite of my anxiety. And building these muscles of self confrontation makes the really tough stuff that much easier to handle.