I have great hair. It's just a fact- it's thick, it's healthy, it has many different shades (browns and reds) in it, it doesn't get damaged by heat, it's naturally wavy but can straighten fine too with some work. Over the years I have grown out my hair for different occasions and then cut it short enough to be able to donate the hair to Locks of Love or Children with Hair Loss.
In the fall I got ready to donate for the third time, about twelve inches of undyed awesome hair. First, I just cut my hair short enough to be a chin length bob.
When Zack left, I thought I'd get it trimmed up a bit shorter, and I made an appointment. Unfortunately my appointment was moved to be with someone else but I showed the person a picture and explained I just wanted it about an inch or two shorter but keeping the same piece-bob look. She turned me around from the mirror and revealed my new hair to me about two HOURS later.
She cut all my hair off. Even my bangs barely reached my eyebrows (before and in the picture I showed her the bangs went behind my ear). My hair was crazy different lengths all around and there were chunks of hair hanging over my ears but it was short up top. I've honestly never disliked a haircut I've had before and I didn't want to hurt her feelings, so I just paid and left.
|The face of a silly girl who cries over hair. Note the short bangs and the huge swaths of hair over my ears like ear muffs.|
And I cried at home. Me! I cut my hair all the time, I've never cried over something as ridiculous as hair. But this time I cried. I realized my hair wouldn't be back to normal before Zack came home. That this cut was not only very poorly done but not very feminine. That I didn't even want to leave the house. I tried to style it, to straighten it more, and it was just so darn short. Luckily I contacted the salon and was able to have an appointment the next day with the person who I was supposed to see all along. She "feminized" the cut as she called it and fixed all of the glaring errors that she saw. The salon also gave me complementary highlights to help soften the look. It looked better and I realized I'd have to make the best of it.
But I ultimately realized this wasn't all just about hair. For me, having long hair meant being able to hide. Being able to hide a larger chest that got me made fun of in school (which years later I realize was actually bullying and sexual harassment by some male classmates) and overly-sexualized as an adult. Being able to look away when I was upset and have my hair hide my anger or sadness or anxiety. Having something to mess with to quiet my nervousness in many social situations. Being able to disguise the weight gain that I've been plagued with thanks to some faulty body parts and health issues. And suddenly that shelter that my hair provided me was gone and I had to look at my entire face in the mirror.
The reactions I got to having short hair varied drastically. My family loved it and were nice- my husband went on and on about how gorgeous he thought I looked and how he loved me with short hair. A friend's kid told me randomly one day that he liked my hair better before (the truth from kids sure does hurt!). One friend told me she wished she had this cut and another told me that she'd threatened to do that with her hair before which I wasn't sure was a good or bad thing. Even if I was just trying to mind my own business and not talk about how I looked, anyone I saw that I knew commented on such an obvious change. It took a nice long while before I could respond without a grimace and the phrase "Thanks, I got this cut on accident."
My hairstylist and I started a project of growing my hair out to what I had originally wanted. The day I got the cut I went and bought a supplement to help hair growth. I went back to the salon once a month to have the back mullet-type growth trimmed so that the top shortened layers had a chance to catch up.
I also started to think about how we associate certain looks with femininity and what that meant in my life. In my social life I see my feminine attributes as a good thing. The media can only be inundated with so many pictures of the (fake) long tresses of the Kardashian sisters before I started to think that long, curled locks were beautiful and feminine. But on the other hand, I'm an academic. When I started graduate school I started wearing professional clothing, I took my acrylic nails off, and everything in the pink family disappeared from my wardrobe. I wanted to look like I wasn't trying to be overly "girly." I didn't want to look like someone who spent too much time on her looks because I wanted instead to be thought of as someone that spent her time thinking, reading, writing, teaching. In either sphere of my life, why couldn't I just look whatever way made me feel confident and secure?
It took a lot of adjusting when I realized I couldn't hide behind my hair anymore. I was forced to face the fact that this really had very little to do with my hair and instead other insecurities about myself. Even today, I excitedly posted a picture of new highlights in social media and amongst all the "likes" from my friends, it just took one comment from someone to make me feel ugly and vulnerable. I deleted the photo and posted one with my dog covering half my face instead (but to be fair it is his birthday!). Really this all boils down to me accepting myself and all the imperfect things that make me who I am. I'm definitely a work in progress.
And as a bonus, this is the awesome bed-head I wake up with every morning: