Here’s a post I’ve had on my list of things to blog about since mid-April. I thought it would be fun to write about, but haven’t had much inspiration to sit down and spend words on it. As time has passed since I shaved my head, it’s become less weird and interesting. Other things have happened, life goes on, and I no longer spend quite so much time every day sending an exploratory hand up top just to reassure myself that “yes, I actually did that”.
This week is different, however, because something very strange happened a few days ago.
I stopped off on my way back from work to get some paint from a local DIY store. All very exciting. Walking up to the entrance, I noticed a younger woman stood nearby. She glanced up which got my attention as I carried on, being the paranoid, self-conscious bird I am – then followed me. In the reflective glass doors, I saw her staring at the back of my head.
I’ve been told that my recently shorn fuzz is long enough to hide the nasty psoriasis patch on the back of my scalp, but the sun was bright and she was close. I figured she must be staring at it, and I desperately wished that I was wearing my comfortable, concealing Panda-made hat and hadn’t been so stupid.
I shrank down into my collar and took an immediate right turn when I got into the store to get out of the woman’s sight. When I was sure she’d moved on, I stepped out and made to go where I wanted to go.
Only, there she was. A couple of metres away. And she was staring at me again.
I locked eyes with her, offering her a strained, lips-pressed ‘I bear you no ill will but this being social when we don’t have anything to say to one another business is a bit awkward isn’t it?’ pseudo-smile.
She hesitated then walked towards me.
“This is going to sound weird,” she said “but I really, really like your hair.”
Well, that was unexpected. I stammered something about it being for charity and how I liked it.
“It really suits you!”
I thanked her and moved away at speed.
I can’t remember the last time a stranger complimented me on my hair.
Shaving my head is something I’ve thought about on and off over the years. I’d largely consigned it to that mental box of “Coulds” that’s filled with things like “I could get a bunch of tattoos” or “I could go sky diving” or “I could start driving one day and never turn back”. It’s a collection of hypotheticals, some less life-changing than others, but each with its own risks that are substantial enough for me to hesitate and reassess.
There were a number of reasons why I didn’t want to shave my head. I suffer from occasional spotty outbreaks and sometimes these appear on my scalp – I don’t need any more surface area to casually display my wacky hormones. I don’t much like my face shape and was worried that without my hair I’d look like a malformed potato. My hair has always been one of my more distinctive features as not many people I know have naturally curly hair.
The prospect of shaving the whole mop off was not exactly High Place Phenomenon, but it would still be a commitment: A decision I’d have to live with until my follicles managed to push out enough thin, curly wisps that I could look in the mirror again and recognise Me as was.
I could get into heavy discussion now about the troubles I have with self-image, but that’s a big topic and not something I’m in the mood to cover.
The important part of that messy subject is that despite a fairly normal attachment to having hair, I also hate it.
I hate my hair so much that I’ve consistently dyed it since 2009 (with a few freakish experiments before then) just to feel in control of it. It’s thin, it’s frizzy, it snaps in a stiff breeze, and because of all this I couldn’t do a damned thing to style it even before the dye-inflicted damage. My hairline is also high meaning that in a headwind, even with my ratty mop streaming free and wild behind me, I’d look bald if you looked me face on.
Just for a laugh, I posted my photo onto /r/roastme at some point last year. None of the comments said anything I didn’t know and it was genuinely funny. “Hairy egg” was said in a number of variations, only reaffirming my own self-perception.
Off the Internet, the best comments about my hair were well-meant “your hair looks nice today!”s from people that saw me regularly.
Of course, me being me, I would immediately interpret that to mean “it looks like something vomited a bird’s nest on your head on all other days, so well done you for scrubbing up”. This would then provoke a series of self-deprecating comments on what a pain in the arse it was to get it looking that way, how horrible it was to manage generally, and how it would look like shit by the end of the day.
I don’t know what brought the “I could shave my head” thought out of the Coulds Box in late February of this year. It could’ve been any number of things – frustration with the lengthy process I’d go through just to get one “your hair looks nice today!” comment, only to immediately doubt it perhaps.
I posted something on Facebook. True to form my friends called me on it, and something clicked.
Fuck it, I thought. Why not? I’m going to be 33 soon which struck me as a sufficiently portentous age to make a change and it’s not like my hair was going to get any better.
To stop myself from hesitating again, I contacted a local charity and said I’d raise money for them when I did it. There was no going back, and on the 9th of April in the middle of a sunny park with friends, I did it.
It’s been a month since I shaved my head and the hair is growing back at an appreciable speed. It’s now maybe 5 – 7mm in length and those who’ve known me for a decade have raised their eyebrows and commented that they had no idea the mousey-brown its coming through as is my actual colour.
And do you know what? I fucking love it. There are so many amazing things about being effectively bald. Do you know how quick showers are now? Super quick, that’s how quick.
The first time I took a shower after I was pruned, I stood under the water, soaped myself up, rinsed, then wondered what the hell to do next.
Textures on the scalp are incredibly strange. The way my stubble caught on fabric was particularly fun. Something else it took me a while to get used to: Because the nerves of the scalp aren’t used to be directly touched by anything except hair and errant nails when there’s an itch, putting my head on a pillow and feeling the direct insulating warmth made everything feel wet. I’d have to palp my pillow after a few minutes just to check I wasn’t haemorrhaging or that one of the cats hadn’t decided to use it as a cushy litterbox.
Now there’s a little more hair up top, I’m looking less Richard O’Brien and more Ripley. It shows off the shape of my skull. I’ve received more compliments about that than I ever thought possible. Admittedly I mix with some very unusual people, but that seems to be a Thing that people pay attention to.
Apparently I have a very nice skull.
I can roll out of bed on a morning and feel tidy. No need to worry about scraping my hair back and resembling like a Babylon 5 extra, or leaving it down and looking like a big old pubic mop. I am what I am, and aside from a bit of eyeliner, that’s me.
This is my shape, these are my bones.
I’m thinking about it less because there’s less of it to think about. It’s one less thing to feel hyper-aware about.
There isn’t really a point to this post except to say how happy I am that I made the decision I did. I wouldn’t recommend embaldening for everyone. I could even be accused of making light of people who’ve lost their hair for reasons outside their control – alopecia, as one example. I don’t mean to be. This is a space for my self-centred thoughts, after all.
For me – for perpetually image-obsessed, anxiety-ridden, and mentally unsound me – literally cutting off another source of frustration has been more liberating than I could’ve ever thought.
I think I’ll be keeping it this way.
2 Comments Add yours
You need to do season one Delenn for Halloween this year!
Also, your hair looks nice today. x
It’s an indescribably nice feeling to discover something you like about yourself, especially something that you used to dislike so. You described it very eloquently though. I can relate to the very particular emotions with my own hair when I found a style that actually worked for me. I’m glad this “could” of yours turned into a good thing and I hope you keep feeling more and more confident and empowered through it!
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