Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Brave, Bold, Fierce

Right after I buzzed my head I got the same response from multiple young women (mainly strangers):

"You are so brave - I've always wanted to shave my head but I could never."

Part of me expected this without question - it would have been my response. But part of me just thought my desire to do this was weird and crazy (see all the contradictions in my reasons in the prologue).

Men and women, friends and strangers tell me I'm bold or fierce. They attribute personality to me just by seeing my head. People look upon me with more substance. The attention I get on the street seems less sex-object-y and makes me feel more formidable.

I was coming back from lunch one day when a janitor held the elevator for me. She told me the story of how her brave sister cut off all her hair in solidarity with child cancer patients even though her husband hated it. This woman has not seen her sister in over a decade since she left her home country. She told me that every time she sees me she is reminded of her brave sister. I was deeply touched.

But changing my hairstyle is bold? Are we 13 again and in middle school? Apparently conformity didn't fade away with teenage angst.

So what stops these women who want to chop it all off from doing so? 

They could be afraid they couldn't pull off such a style - no hair to frame their face. And on top of that it takes so long to grow back. So if you don't like it... you got a while to learn to love it.

They could be afraid of not being wanted anymore, not being considered sexy. I had so many people tell me that men would no longer be into me. (I'll speak to that in a future post)

They could feel bound by the standards of female beauty that box us into trying to have the most voluminous, shiny, perfect cascade of hair. Look up beautiful women on google image search. Not one without big hair.

And hair represents health to us - if you can make yours shiny and bouncy you must not have any diseases and have a nutritious diet! I've been asked if I shaved it because I was sick. But only a few times - I mean the rest of me has not changed.
Though my grandmother thinks I look diseased in this selfie

Think those are unrealistic fears? Here's some proof in the pudding:

I called a "custom hair" store in Princeton to ask if they could make my cut hair into extensions. Here is part of the conversation I had with the man who picked up the phone right after I explained that I shaved off my long hair:

"Wow - I've been doing this for 20 years and I've never heard that one before."
"Well, I'm not your average girl."
"Yeah. Your poor boyfriend."

Excuse me? Can you believe he said that? It is that sentiment that propagates a societal gaze that boxes in the "acceptable limits" of a woman's appearance, and condemns any woman who ventures outside those boundaries.

I can't imagine the shame he spews on his clients with hairloss. And so I have never been to that hair shop to look at wigs. I'll never go.

Would you change your look if those fears were totally a non-issue?

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