Defining myself on my own terms is something I’ve never given myself permission to do. So on New Years Day, I shaved my head. Not down to skin because it’s winter, but my hair was reduced from an 8” ponytail to a tiny 1/4” fuzz top.
I’ve been in a state of transformation for over 6 months. I stopped drinking in July and save for the sporadic splashes of wine, I’m basically sober. It has changed my life in so many great ways and it’s also really hard for (most) people to understand: if you don't drink, you're either in recovery or you're just "not fun." I don’t have a drinking problem, but I also don’t want one. I just want to wake up feeling awesome everyday. I call myself sober curious (a nod to Club Soda): I’m not opposed to wine but I also don’t want to drink a glass and feel like I need more. It’s a slippery slope for me and I wanted to quit while I’m ahead. But it was hard to quit because I felt like, “What will people think?” Would I have to have uncomfortable conversations with people drinking and me abstaining? Wouldn’t it just be easier to hold a glass of something instead of having to explain myself?
The Friday before Christmas, I read an article about fitness instructor Bethany C. Meyers that has shaved her head many times for a number of empowering reasons and I immediately wanted to do it. I’ve wanted to shave my head since junior year of high school, I just didn’t have the guts. Now, there were more reasons to than not to. My pro/con list was filled on the pro side with a lot of positive things:
• less time on maintenance
• save money on hair oils and product
• save money on haircuts
• easier to do yoga, swim, hike, ski
The Cons list was nothing but what others would think and one instance where I was scared about the grow out phase.
• Will people think I’m crazy?
• Will they think I’m sick?
• Will people think I’m ugly?
• Will my husband think I’m ugly? (He’s sad that I thought this, but I’m human)
• Will the grow out phase make me feel ugly?
I knew a bald head would be awesome but looking like a hedgehog for a month? Do I have that many hats?
I can tell you a long and boring story about the cut, the relief, the shock, the settling in, but the real takeaway is the physical transformation I’ve felt after shaving my head.
I feel amazing. I’ve never felt this good. I feel sexy, confident and so incredibly powerful. And this may be totally in my head, but I feel like my pushups have exponentially improved, in form and in duration.
Shaving my head was empowering. Hair is such a big deal for women. We spend so much time, money, and mental energy on it. It defines us in ways that are so ingrained, we forget they're there and we accept them by default. Getting rid of my long hair without cutting it into something “cute" was an attempt for me to reframe the conversation. I wanted to deconstruct what pretty has been for me, what power and privilege came with it. And I wanted it to be terrifying.
But it took a long time, and I agonized over the decision for a solid week. Why has it taken me so long to get here? Why do I care about what others think more than what I think, feel and need?
The “shave my head cons" list has applied to every decision I’ve ever made, but mostly the item, “Will people think I’m ugly/crazy/stupid?” What will they think? What will they think if I’m not posting cool stuff on social media? What will they think if I don’t drink at a brewery/party/wine bar? What will they think when I don’t have any hair?
I ultimately decided that other people’s opinions matter as much as I let them. If you surround yourself with cheerleaders, including what you say to yourself in the mirror, life can start to feel a little less daunting and a lot more supportive. And you start to realize you can do a lot of scary things that you normally would never consider.
I still care. There are bad days and weird days and good days and phenomenal days. But the way my hair looks is insignificant for me in this place that I’m in. What my hair looks like has nothing to do with who I want to be and what I want to do and where I want to go.
I may always care, but I’m learning, and trying, to care about the people that matter, not the faceless crowd that I imagine is always judging me. I have no way of knowing the truth of their judgment. It may just be something I tell myself and it may be true, but it’s insignificant. People that support and love me, that have gotten to know who I am at my core, they matter most.
I’m applying what I’m learning about my hair experiment to the rest of my life. What else can I do that’s so brave I think it’s crazy? What is something I’m worried about others thinking is crazy? That’s where I’ll start next.
See you there.