New Years day I looked in the mirror and was surprised to see that I had hair. Not just any hair but girly hair that brushed against my shoulders and turned up because it is now long enough that it should drape just below my shoulders.
You might be wondering why that would be an odd thing, since I am a girl. I used to have long beautiful hair that came all the way to my butt. It had a life of it’s own. On more occasions than is normal, people who have no claim to my life would tell me I better never cut it. When I changed shampoo brands, a guy told me that he only ever came into my place of work to catch a whiff of my previously scented shampoo. (I worked in a remote site, where there were very few women. It seems a little less odd with that knowledge.)
What I am trying to say is that my hair was a huge part of my identity and how others saw me and how I saw myself.
Well almost 2 years ago now, I shaved my head bald. Yes completely, to the skin, bald. It was for a good cause and I donated it all to Locks of Love, a wonderful charity that makes wigs for cancer patients. I would do it again if the circumstances were right.
Doing this though had many expected and unexpected side effects. I had a few days before I did it to mourn the loss of my hair. I knew it would change how people saw me, but I was unprepared for how it would change the way I saw people.
At first people tried not to look at me. I did not wear wigs and only wore hats when I was outside. I couldn’t really hide it, so I bore it with pride. Quickly though my hair grew into stubble and then short boy hair. It was amazing the way people treated me, even those who knew why I’d done it.
For a while people stopped looking at me at all. Then when my hair was long enough to try and style, the looks returned. Only they were not what I expected. People stared openly, especially when my best friend and I, who also shaved her head, were hanging out together.
It was quite an eye opener to go through the stages of re-growing my hair. I learned a lot about the world and how many people see others around them. More importantly though, I learned how much the way other people see and react to us, effects how we see and feel about ourselves.
It is this lesson that I am most grateful for and why I would recommend trying it to any woman who asks if they should. It is both frightening and liberating to learn you are more than your hair, or your looks. You find inner strength you didn’t know you had, but more importantly you find strength through the unexpected support of those around you.
Doing something unexpected will always bring both criticism and praise. This experience was no different. But it gave me so much more than I could have imagined. So going into the New Year I am going to try to remember how amazing doing something frightening can be.