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?