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by Tiffani Michele

It wasn’t too long ago that I held clippers to my scalp and started shaving all my hair off. Admittedly, I had a pixie cut/fauxhawk so there wasn’t much to shave anyway. I assumed that because I was only getting rid of an inch of hair…2 inches tops…it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. It’s only hair, anyway.

Then I held the clippers in my hand.

The noise when I flipped it on and the vibration as I held it in my hand was enough to startle me back to a reality that I’d been avoiding. In truth, shaving my head was a Big Deal. I was not the kind of girl to do such a thing. I’m not the one to stand out, draw attention to myself, or be so bold and aggressive as to say “fuck you, beauty indoctrination! I don’t need hair to be awesome!” I’m the kind of girl to blend in. Fly under the radar. Wear clothes that are either brown, black, or navy blue. Have hair that is neither too long nor too short but always well groomed. Stifle my laugh since it tends to be waaaay louder than the normal ambient noise. Walk on my toes after it was pointed out that I stomped around like an elephant. Dress modestly, without drawing attention to my body parts. Deflect conversation to avoid talking about myself by asking questions about the other person. Basically, fly under the radar as much as possible. Assimilate. Look the part of a normal American girl-now-turned-woman.

As I underwent my metamorphosis, right about the time I left my church, my marriage, and my home for the last 5 years, I started switching things up a little bit. And I also started getting desperate to simplify my life in every way possible. I thought that as a haircut, the pixie was a nice compromise…while ridding me of inches of unruly frizz it was shorter than anyone else’s hair, so I was really stepping out there. But, it was still a style. It was something easily explained away. It could still look cute. I could still have a good hair day (actually, they were all good hair days with that cut!). It was still appropriate.

But it wasn’t enough. I could feel it in my bones. Every time I went back to Floyds Barbershop I would find a new way to go a little shorter. A little more off the sides. Can we kind of shave the back? What about a fauxhawk? By the time my friend Tara called to say she was shaving her dreads off and would I come photodocument it for her, I was ready for the clippers myself.

As I stood there shaking in my rainbow socks, I had a moment of “what the fucking hell?!”

Would this turn me into Britney Spears level crazy? Did it mean I was in the midst of a mental breakdown? Was this really necessary? And if so, why? For being so middle of the road my whole life, did I really need to veer into the extreme? What would my kids think? Would they all run out at 18 and get shaved heads, tattoos, and an alcohol problem because the time when they were 13, 11, and 7 their mom gave a big middle finger to societal norms?

I took a moment to breathe and think. Where was the root emotion that was driving me. Was it in anger? Desperation? Retaliation? Uncertainty? If so, then I wasn’t doing it. Another breath. A big smile. It was rooted in happiness, playfulness, adventure, and a little mischief. It was anchored not by a feeling of “fuck you!” but more like “I give no fucks about this anymore.”

I started shaving.

As I did, this weightless giddy feeling washed over me. It was only hair. It’s not like I was tattooing my face permanently. In two months time I’d have my pixie back again. And it was my own body, who…and I mean literally…WHO would care if I shaved my head. It’s not like I was running around the streets shaving everyone else’s head. This was me, it was what I wanted for myself.

I felt brave, badass, strong, empowered, determined, and fearless. I felt like a woman living authentically…beyond the narrow limits of a societal norm and into a more expansive radical self acceptance.

The backlash started immediately.

When you wave your freak flag and are bold enough to not even try to hide it, then society at large feels entitled to dialogue about it openly. The comments started as soon as I walked into a public space.

“If my daughter did that to her head, I would kick her ass” said one woman.
“My daughter wants to shave her head like that, but I told her it would be a mistake. She sells Mary Kay products, and needs to look pretty!”
“I would do that, but I want to look feminine.”
“Does this mean you’re a lesbo?”
“She must not have gotten enough attention at home” said a mother to her daughter.
“So..when are you growing your hair back?” said the guy I was dating. Who then stopped seeing me.

and on and on.

I was astounded. These people didn’t know me. They didn’t know if I had done it on a whim or done it because of a terminal sickness like cancer. But they still judged like it was their job.

The first lesson of the shaved head was a feeling of rising above a lot of bullshit and feeling strong and powerful in my own skin.

The second lesson of the shaved head was a heartbreaking vulnerability. All my worst fears of the previous 30-something years of not measuring up, not looking good, not being found attractive, not being wanted, of standing out, of being judged, of hearing negative things about myself…that all came true.

It came true…and I remained unscathed. All those fears have nothing to do with me. Words have more to do with the person judging than the person being judged. And I learned something counterintuitive about happiness. Where before I thought that it was the ultimate in selfishness to make myself happy if it meant someone else became unhappy, I now think totally differently. I’m not responsible for someone else’s happiness, only my own.

And that one time? When I freaked everyone else out but made myself happy by shaving my head?

That was awesome!

Here’s a video of Tara’s journey from dreads to a shaved head that I made in addition to the photos I took over the course of 2 days.

Turns out that one time when she shaved her head? It was awesome for her, too!

Have you ever really stood out? On purpose? Or wished you could?

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  1. May 30, 2012

    Just last night I received an email from someone who recently discovered my blog. Lots and lots of encouragement. And then this:

    “Your photo attracted my attention because you looked so free. Then I stumbled on your post about your dreds. Personally, I hate them, but I love many people that have them. :-)”

    At Flipside this past weekend, a new friend said, “So, your dreads … do they smell?”

    The things said about me online by people that don’t think I ever see their words … for 2.5 years … it makes me stronger. I fall more in love with myself. And I also can have empathy for where they are, as I was once there too.

    Love you and every inch of your freak self.

  2. Danielle #
    May 30, 2012

    I shaved my head for about 3 years when my kids were little, and I absolutely loved it. But I very clearly recall the looks I got, which seemed to fall into one of two camps: 1) hatred and intolerance or 2) overwhelming pity for such a young mother having to undergo chemo.

  3. May 30, 2012

    Oh god, Tiffani.
    I shaved my head after I had my second kid.
    I was going through something..I’m still not sure what…and I felt like the only way out of it was to shave my head.
    I was bored...
    It was the most liberating thing I’ve ever done. EVER. It’s crazy how even though I never considered myself a girly person or even cared that much about what others thought of me, I was still so wrapped up in how I looked.
    I sincerely believe that every woman should shave her head at least once in her life.
    I toy with the idea constantly of doing it again, but at 240 pounds and 5’7″ I feel like I’m just too fucking fat and need to lose weight before I do it…. maybe I should just throw caution to the wind & do it anyway.

    • May 30, 2012

      do it anyway.

      I also believe every woman should shave her head. In fact when my daughter turned 15 she did shave her head, and whereas before that would have freaked me out…I thought it was freaking rad for her to experience it. It’s liberating in a way nothing else has been!

    • December 30, 2012

      I did it!! At 5’8″ and a tad more than 240. Do it! Do it!! Release what is scaring you about it. :))

  4. Laura #
    May 30, 2012

    For starters, I think you’re amazing beautiful with a shaved head. I can “see” you more clearly, if that makes sense. And I’ve always felt it makes you seem even that much more feminine. I also remember feeling a little envious of your bravery and courage. Someday perhaps I’ll join you….

  5. May 30, 2012

    I like you. Hairy or bald.

  6. May 30, 2012

    Tiffani,

    Your wonderful post could not have come to me at a more perfect time. I found Tara through your photo-documentary of her dread releasing journey (which I love every time I watch it). Since that time, I have been doing a lot of inner work and have come back around to my desire to have dreads. My friends are supportive; some don’t understand, but they love me and support me. When I read that line in your post about the guy you were dating deciding not see you any more, my jaw (and my heart) dropped. Just yesterday evening, I had the conversation with the guy I’ve been seeing for a year and a half (and have known for over 20 years) about wanting to dreadlock my hair. His reaction: he can’t deal with it. It was very painful. There are other issues at hand that don’t belong in a blog post comment. πŸ˜‰
    I guess I just wanted to say that your post *so* resonated with me and where I am in my journey back to myself.
    Good for you for listening to YOU!
    Thank you for sharing!

  7. May 30, 2012

    The movie was beautiful!!!! I’ve had a shaved head before but not by choice, by chemo. I want to do it again, this time of my own accord! I know I will someday.

  8. kate #
    May 30, 2012

    Shaved my head when I first moved to the US to work. Worked with an ER doc who had a shaved head and he said “be careful, it’s addictive”. He was right. I kept it shaved for about 5 years, then had to look “normal” again, so grew it back. After our daughter came home as a newborn, I shaved it again…and kept it shaved for about a year. Now we’re back on the adoption bandwagon and waiting for a match…so must attempt to look “normal”. If we’re lucky enough for a second child to join us, the minute those finalization papers come through, the clippers come out.

  9. May 30, 2012

    When I was 19, I shaved my head. I wrote an editorial about it, not about why, but about what it was not about. It got published in a newspaper. People recognized me Everywhere. I have to say the amount of times I was poked fun at or treated badly about it, doesn’t even come close to 1/4 the amount of times I received compliments, encouragement. At least that is what I choose to remember anyway.
    Tiffany, you inspire me because you are you. As a wise person once said, “What other people think of you is none of your business.” Love and hugs,
    Chriss

  10. May 30, 2012

    Love it ! You looked beautiful and badass ! I had a shaved head for 4 years and heard every kind of misconception you could possibly think of – I was gay, vegan, a political activist, depressed, using it to self-harm – all this and more. My boyfriend of the time *hated* it. My parents *hated* it. I used to get it done professionally at a barber shop and loved sitting in line on the bench with all the dudes πŸ™‚ These days my hair is down to my thighs, purely because people tell me that women of my age (I am 44) shouldn’t have long hair. Mwahahahaha !!

    • sandyone #
      August 18, 2012

      Great piece! Great buzz, too. I had dreads for about a month. It was the result of sleep depravation, last final on the last day of finals week and too much celebrating with my two roommates–for two days. I don’t remember whose idea it was, but when I woke up on the third day, I had a dozen of them! We all did. And none of us would admit to which of us talked the others into it. Didn’t really matter, the damage was done. Since I had them, I decided to give them a chance– I mean, what choice was there, anyway? Maybe a month wasn’t long enough, but dreads were so not me! So, I went to see my friend and stylist, Mary, and asked her what to do about it. The short answer was to do what Tara did. Pretty drastic but I’d had buzz’s before and given I had “difficult” %$@&&! hair anyway, a buzz was good for me. As we discussed it over a wine cooler or two(or three or….) it occurred to me that since it was going to be short anyway, why not do something really cool and go for the closest setting on the clippers? And that’s what we were going to do– tomorrow. This was going to be an after hours appointment so there would be no spectators.

      Tomorrow came. At 5:30 I was in the chair getting a scalp massage in preparation for the scalp buzz. At the conclusion I was quite bald. At least it looked smooth. But there was a very fine, almost imperceptible stubble. This simply wouldn’t do! I wanted it to feel smooth. Mary just happened to have a multi-bladed razor and a hot lather machine in the salon. A moist towel wipe, thin layer of lather and I was ready for Phase 2. I sat back, closed my eyes and waited for the first touch of the razor on my scalp. I don’t know how long it actually took– I was pretty ” zoned in” on every little nuance of the movement of that razor as it gently moved over my head; first the sides, then the back and finally, the top. Next came a brief cold water rinse, then the most amazing scalp massage! Up until then, there was only a brief glimpse of what I looked like. Now came the final unveiling. I looked the same as I did before the razor shave. But the feel was very different– I was quite smooth to the touch. And emotionally? Well, awesome! might be a good start.

  11. May 30, 2012

    Good god, I love this! I’m all inspired to shave mine, too.

  12. rose #
    May 30, 2012

    holy hotstuff! you rock girl!!

  13. May 30, 2012

    I’ve been telling people that I want to shave my head for st. baldricks for years, but honestly I just want to shave my damn head. lol I hate my hair especially in FL, it’s toooooooooooooooooooooooo hot for all this hair!

  14. TravelingOnTheOutskirts #
    May 30, 2012

    I’ve always told people I wanted to shave my head for St. Baldricks, but in reality I just want to shave my damn head. lol Especially in FL it’s waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too hot for this much hair!

  15. Corinne #
    May 30, 2012

    Fantastic post. While I didn’t shave my entire head, I decided to give myself a mohawk at the age of nineteen. I loved it. My boyfriend adored it. I had a job as a server at the time and got many compliments from the young crowd. The older crowd didn’t give me too much flack. The only ones who had issues with it were my parents and the boyfriend’s parents. You are beautiful with your head shaved. Don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise.

  16. May 30, 2012

    That was an amazing video, and it made me quite emotional! The photo of you sitting with your phone is incredibly hot though. Sigourney Weaver in Aliens type hot.

  17. May 30, 2012

    I have been wanting to shave my head since I was 13. I now have a pixie cut and that was very liberating for me. I was always complimented on my beautiful long hair and when I cut it all off it was like releasing shackles. I haven’t worked up the courage to shave it off yet but I keep reading about all you wonderful women who take the plunge and are liberated by the process. Your post has pushed me just a wee bit closer to the clippers!

  18. May 30, 2012

    beautiful you, with shaved head.
    have always wanted to do it.
    however: have wanted my hair to be back down the middle of my back, again.
    so that’s where i’m headed first.

  19. May 31, 2012

    Rock on with your bad self, Sweetheart!
    Something has been pulling me towards shaving my head too. Not sure why, but one day, it’s coming.

  20. May 31, 2012

    A few friends of mine have shaved their heads – and have done so proudly. I have almost envied that boldness and proudness that they eminated afterwards!

  21. June 4, 2012

    When I was a senior in high school till about my junior year in college I grew my hair out long enough to spike it up. By spike it up I mean I had 6 inch spikes of hair. The best comments and looks I got were from people at sunday morning mass. I was rebeling, to what i dont know, and i loved all the negative comments i got. People dont believe me when I tell them my hair was that long because I’ve been shaving my head for a few years now. Great post, thanks for sharing

  22. J #
    June 13, 2012

    Your story was a pleasure to read. I am 28 and just shaved my head last night. I had nice long blonde curly hair which over the years was just extremely damaged. Last night I said F it. I’m sick of spending thousands of dollars a year on BS hair so I bought a wig (as backup because I don’t think my office could handle me coming in tmrw without hair) and went to the barber next store to the store and shaved it all off. It’s a really weird feeling and like you said the insecurities are setting in. I was extremely nervous to show my bf but he seemed fine. This whole experience is just wild. I have people constantly asking me “is everything ok??”. Yes I’m fine! I could ramble on and on but I won’t but will thank you again for sharing your story with us all.

  23. maqsuda #
    July 10, 2012

    my friend found out i had headlise and i want to shave my head i have no friends eney more

  24. July 24, 2012

    I just shaved my hair too. and your post is exactly what I went through. I was sweating of nervousness while waiting for the barber to shave it off but I couldnt turn back again.
    A question, how long did it take to grow back to pixie length?

    • J #
      July 25, 2012

      Right now I don’t think my hair is even an inch! I still wear a wig to work because I don’t the people could handle it and when I turn that corner when I leave it’s soooo nice to take it off! I def feel that people have been cruel to me about my hair ( my bfs brother who I cant stand called me ugly, said I looked like a dyke then proceeded to ask if I was sick)and treated me differently
      which I think is ridiculous. But you just need to learn those that are purely ignorant. Hello
      I am still me even without hair! Sometimes I regret it but it is what it is and there is nothing I can do now! It’s hair!

  25. sandyone #
    August 18, 2012

    I erringly wrote my comment as a reply to snippetygiblets comment. My reply was to intended to be for “That One Time…… When I Shaved My Head” by Tiffani Michele

  26. VeiledThorn #
    September 23, 2012

    I am sitting her, at my computer, with my clippers in my lap. For years, I have said I want to shave my head. Friends and family always talked me out of it. I came on, looking for a reason to talk myself out of it, and wondering what people will think. I try to tell myself I dont care what people thing. Tonight, I came to the realization, I do. I have been making myself unhappy, trying to make other people happy. I have 2 kids and a husband, and while I do care about their opinions, I need to start caring about mine. I have always said, It’s just hair. It does grow back. But you’re right. This is terrifying. Your blog is wonderful. It answered every question and fear I have. So, I just have one thing left to say as I head to the bathroom to take on this massive adventure. Thank You.

  27. Tina B #
    November 25, 2012

    I discovered your blog when I was randomly searching for women who shaved their heads. It is an idea I have toyed with for a while. I’m not young, I’m not rebelling, I’m just tired of having hair right now. I’ve always kept it short and have a sense that getting rid of it might help me recharge and reboot. I have a lot of stress and trials in my life and need a sense of newness. I hope I have the courage to try it. Your photos and your video are beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  28. December 15, 2012

    I. JUST. SHAVED. MY. HEAD.
    I’ve wanted to for YEARS.
    So I did. And I dig it!
    My nearly three year of daughter told me that I look beautiful. My nearly 19m old daughter doesn’t care at all.
    My husband knows it was happening but hasn’t seen it yet. I expect him to hate it. But me? I love it. And that’s ultimately what matters!

  29. Nu #
    February 1, 2013

    You are an inspiration, thank you for sharing your experience. In fact, I still think you look really feminine with your head shaved.

  30. February 7, 2013

    This is such an awesome story! Im 15 and I really want to shave my head but everyone in my life is against it. My mom refuses to even talk about it, my friends say that if I do it they will stop talking to me, my coach says she won’t let me be on the team, and my boyfriend says he won’t date someone with shorter hair than him. I really want to do it because I want to in a way defy the stereotypes and not conform to society’s “rules.” I have been wanting to shave my head for over a year but I just have no support. I guess i’m commenting to see if anyone has any suggestions on how to get the people in my life to come around to it.

    • TravelingOnTheOutskirts #
      February 19, 2013

      Life is too short to worry about what other people think about your hair and what you choose to do with it. I’m going to be 31 in July and I’ve been telling myself I was going to shave my head since I was your age! I turned around and WHOOOSH 15 years have gone by and I still hadn’t done it! I’m using St. Baldricks as an excuse but either way I think it’ll shake things up and I’ll have fun doing it either way! πŸ™‚

  31. S millet #
    February 20, 2013

    I recently shaved my head as well. Something in me wanted to do it and Im not sure why. So I went ahead. People have not even seen it and I am being judged already. All I know is that I love it and my husband loves it and I feel absolutely liberated. Thanks to this blog I have some support. I also believe that every woman should do it at least once . Beauty comes from within not from hair.

  32. heather #
    March 14, 2013

    I have had hip length hair for several years and the good majority of my life… while I have had some bob haircuts and even shaved the bottom half as a teenager I still always had a long piece or section. I recently decided that the long hair was too much to handle. I have a bad right shoulder and properly caring for my hair was causing me physical pain. I gave it plenty of good thought for a few months, and yesterday I had it all cut off with clippers. I love it. I have very bright blue eyes and big lips so I still “look like” a girl. No one has seen it yet except my friend who was with me and my 13 year old son. I don’t think my son likes it very much, but he has been polite. I read on another blog of the same topic that this woman said “people acted as if my hair was public property” and “would walk up and just start touching and petting my hair” I know about this all too well, and must say its beyond liberating. I am not defined by my hair! Nor am I defined by my tattoos or peircings or clothes. I’m sure I will get some negative and judgemental comments that are beyond unnecessary, but I am preparred for it. I am happy and confident with my looks and being “me”. I just wish more people were so they didn’t focus on others so much.

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