I buzzed my hair off a couple of months ago. It was something I’d been wanting to do for a while. I think my curiosity was ignited as a girl, when my mom used to threaten to shave it all off and send me to a Buddhist temple in China if I didn’t smarten up and behave. It terrified me, but not enough to make me obedient (much to my poor mom’s chagrin). Though now, I’m tempted by the idea of seeking solace in the cliffs of the land of my ancestors, meditating and practising levitation and kung fu. Oh wait, that’s just Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon which, sadly, is not a documentary
My man unexpectedly suggested that I do it. And when asked why, he replied that not only was it something I’ve been casually contemplating, my femininity was not dependent on my hair but rather my carriage and personality. I texted my hair stylist Camia (whom I’m convinced is my spirit animal, I love her to bits!). She was stoked and said she’d do it for free because she’d be proud of me.
I didn’t shave my head with the intention of blatant expression. I was just simply itching for change. Last year threw me into a purgatory of self deconstruction and subsequent metamorphosis. And while I didn’t wake up as a cockroach and mutter “shit, is my name Gregor now?” shaving my head just felt like part of the fresh start that I needed.
The response has been amusing. People either love it or they hate it. Bindu, one of my favourite kitchen ladies at Vij’s Rangoli, actually ran up and punched me in the arm, screaming “WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?!” before giving me the biggest hug and kiss to welcome me back after almost two months away from work. The ones who love it express it just once, and the ones who don’t seem to repeat themselves as if they weren’t sure I heard them the first time. Mostly, people just want to touch my hair. I don’t blame them; feeling my fuzzy hair has proven to be as therapeutic as child’s pose.
Beyond the superficial however, it’s been a heart-opening experience. My hair has always been a prominent defining feature, having gone through numerous transformations. Stripping it away ironically still defines me, as its near absence and unusualness garners second (often confuzzled) looks. Halfway through the shave, I was resigned to having to wear a toque for a while and dealing with a bad decision. As riveting as it was watching Camia buzz my hair off, I was faced with a hodgepodge of emotions.
First, I felt exposed and had to have a good look at myself and accept that this was what I had to look like for a while; I was convinced my head was cube-shaped and that I looked like a block of Lego. Second, I had to step out of the hair studio and face the unknown of how people would react. I could have sworn everyone on the bus parted like the Red Sea on the ride home. But what it all really came down to was the simple fear of the gaze of others. While it was been mostly positive, dealing with the negative has taught my bones to shake less in the face of rejection. I knew the ladies at Rangoli would hate it…they remind me at any opportunity that I look like a boy: “your face look beautiful but your hair? Look like boy.” As for friends or strangers who have expressed disapproval, I’m learning not to take it too personally. For a while I compared it to other forms of body shaming. And really, it is: the length of my hair is just as superficial as the size of my arms or state of my complexion. I’ve realized that the reaction likely derives from something internal on their part rather than mine, which is not for me to meet in turn with defensiveness or judgement. Because ultimately, I love it. Beyond the fact that it takes me no time to get ready in the morning and I don’t have strands of hair hanging everywhere and clogging my vacuum or drains, having almost no hair has forced me to embrace my choice, celebrate it, and wear it with confidence. With no hair to braid, twist or curl, I have nothing to hide behind or fiddle with. I’ve started to force myself to wear hats less and to extend my confidence and energy beyond my hair, with an acute awareness of rooting my connection to others with my eyes first, carriage second. Do I still have trouble affirming a sense of self worth? Naturally. I am devastatingly critical of myself in all aspects of life and am desperate to please or right things. People keep telling me I’m brave for shaving my hair. I don’t see or understand it as bravery at all, but rather a liberating exercise or daily meditation in letting go and continuing my quest to feel comfortable in my own skin, or perhaps, kicking off the armour I’ve stacked up over years of scars and hurt in order to learn to embrace vulnerability with fearlessness.