Ever since college, I wanted to shave my head. In one of our theatre department’s productions, a woman was cast in the role of an androgynous sorcerer, and was designed to be bald. Initially, the plan was to use a bald cap on her, but either due to allergies or just frustration with the length of the application process, the actress decided she was going to shave her hair off. She was gorgeous and strong and proud with her bald head. She rocked it, she owned it.

And it was then that I decided that, at some point in my life, I would do the same. I had heard women talk about how liberating it was, how cleansing, how it taught them things about the way they viewed themselves and the way the world reacted in turn.

My junior year of undergrad, I stripped the miserable black dye from my long hair and turned it pink.

Me Homecoming 2006
This was what I wore to Homecoming, 2006
I rescued it from the costume shop.

Then I decided that it was so damaged, I would cut it shorter. First, I dyed it “crushed garnet” and chose a sassy, shaggy cut that my BGF (best gay friend) dubbed my “Lesbi-do.” (I was still straight-identified at that point. I thought it was amusing.)

PA Shakes 2007 015
Fun times with the Lesbi-Do, 2007

Then I grew it out a bit. Then I got it cut off into an asymmetrical bob in grad school…the type that Victoria Beckham had back in the day. I went “chocolate cherry.” And then pink again.

Tweet
The “Victoria Beckham,” 2009

And then I went even shorter, to an asymmetrical cut with a long swoopy side that was pretty awesome because it meant I only really needed to worry about plucking one eyebrow. It was edgy and punky and kinda queer, even if I wasn’t fully queer-identified yet.

With Bryan and Mohawk! 016
If I were to ever grow out my hair again, this is the goal. Summer 2009

And then I went even shorter…a full-blown pixie cut/fauxhawk.

IMG00766-20100118-0045
#Gradschool.   Fall 2009

Grad school sucked up all my time and I was beginning to get a bit of a mullet. I was faced with the issue of being able to 1) afford and 2) find time for a haircut.

Or…

I mean, I was so close anyway…

I could just…shave it all off.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. My hair had always been a huge part of my identity. I was The Girl With The Pink Hair you could see across campus. I was the girl with the slightly unnatural color with a bit of an edge. How was I going to feel when it was gone?

But it’s just hair. That mindset had allowed me to be so experimental with my cuts and colors throughout the ages. It would grow back. I just hoped I wouldn’t have some sort of existential crisis. I didn’t have the time for that shit. This was grad school.

I borrowed my friend’s trimmer and with her help, we buzzed my hair off. Then we Bicced it right down to the scalp because go big or go home, right?

Some pretty wacky progress photos, Spring 2010

I looked at myself in the mirror.

Thank God I had a good shaped head. No weird bumps to speak of, no odd moles.

And I was fine. I did feel cleansed. I felt free from the oppression that dictates that women must have long hair in order to be beautiful. I felt like I was pure and unadulterated, distilled to my most basic form. I felt supremely badass.

I felt more like myself than I ever had.

I acknowledged that maybe the down-to-the-skin shave was a little too much, but with 1/8” of hair, I was home.

I felt beautiful. I felt sexy. I felt confident in a way I never had before.

I did this right before spring break. I didn’t tell my parents.

I knocked on my parents’ garage door and my dad answered. He took one look at me and slammed the door in my face.

I burst into tears.

My dad emerged soon after and apologized profusely. He didn’t mean to do that, and he was surprised by his reaction. I was hurt, but I understood.

Bald means cancer. Bald is not what you expect your little girl to be. Bald is “skinhead.” Bald is lesbian. Bald on a woman is upsetting. Bald women are everything negative, in the eyes of many people.

While I experienced a boost of confidence, I also realized that people interacted with me differently. Sometimes people were threatened by me. Was I some hardcore skinhead who was out to curb-stomp someone? Was I going to shoplift? Was I going to mess with their kids?

I found myself smiling more to prove myself to be nonthreatening. I found myself wearing more makeup to accentuate my features, to look more feminine to make up for my lack of hair, to soften my edge.

IMG01099-20100331-2216Definitely not masculine

And sometimes I found myself embracing my androgyny, no makeup, high top chucks and a hoodie, feeling like a badass mofo. Spiky, daring people to mess with me.

IMG01206-20100414-1050Not a hoodie, but feeling pretty badass nevertheless #myspaceangle

This was six years ago. Since then, I have attempted to grow my hair out from time to time, but by the time it got to a pixie cut that needed a good shaping (because: mullet) I grew impatient and shaved it all off again.

Sometimes after I grew it out, I shaved it into a mohawk and dyed it pink.  In a gift shop in central New York when I had my mohawk, an older man came up to me with a carved Native American figurine.  “In some cultures, they call this a fetish.  Are you someone’s fetish?”  He asked with a smirk.

Uhhhhhhhhh. What.

Me with Mohawk and Caribou July 2010
Showing some love to a caribou, July 2010 (man, I love my pink mohawk)

And then my hair all goes away once again.

Sometimes when I felt the most down about myself, my ex-wife Carmen would tell me, “You should shave your head again. You know that having too much hair makes you depressed. You feel your best bald.”

Yes. Now that she mentioned it, that was true. Each time I buzzed my overgrowth of fine locks, it was like I was peeling back the artifice that is my hair. I was revealing my truest self once again. I would receive an instant boost of confidence, of self-love, of empowerment.

Once again over this winter, I tried growing it out again. Just to see what would happen. I even went out and bought a hair dryer (it was the first time I had needed one in years) and some styling product. There was the cute fauxhawk stage, but that only lasted about two weeks before it got unruly. Then it grew to the point in which I needed to get the dreaded Professional Haircut. I had only gotten those twice since I had begun the shaving cycle. I put it off for weeks and weeks. I didn’t know if I was just lazy or cheap or what.

But then I realized once again (you think I’d have learned by now…) that having hair isn’t me. I was hiding under it again. It formed a shield around me, and I formed a shield against the world from behind it. My hair closed me off. It always did, I mused.

Me march 2016
Eh.  It was hair.  March 2016

And so I shaved it off, 4 months of growth on my bathroom floor.

And I was free.

I was finally in a healthier place emotionally, and my shaved head was now my source of sexy confidence as opposed to my prickly armor like it had been last fall. I realized how, now that I had lost a significant amount of weight, my facial bone structure was prominent again. I looked like an elegant, chiseled, dare I say modelesque creature.

In a dress or a hoodie, feminine or vaguely badass

I had unearthed myself in my most pure, and most healthy form I had seen in years. And I was home.

PUBLIC REACTIONS

“Most women can’t pull it off, but you can really rock that shaved head. You’re really working it.”

Well, thanks.

I now hear this multiple times a week, men putting down other women to pay me a compliment. Telling me that I can “pull off” some impossible feat. Like they’re surprised they could possibly find a woman with a shaved head attractive. Like they’re a little alarmed and sexually confused about it.

“Hey, maybe we could get together some time and I could shave your head.”–Tinder message (Ummm…for a first message…ewww?)

“I never thought I could be so attracted to a bald girl.” (Uh….thanks?)

I get a lot of compliments from women, too. (Most of which are self-deprecating.)

“Wow, I wish I could pull that off like you!”
“Your shaved head really makes your features pop.”

“My head is so bumpy, it would never work for me, but you look great!”

But there’s a flip-side to this.

I have also gotten the following:

“Your hair makes me feel sad.” –Little old lady in Target

“Are you…okay?”

“DYKE!” –Multiple occasions, yelled out of car windows, across the street, etc. Well yes, I was married to a woman at one point…you’re part true, but this is obvious, unoriginal, and not really very nice.

“Wow, bad break-up?”–Random strangers

“Okay, Britney…everything good?”

“That chick over there with the shaved head is kinda freakin’ me out…” –At a bar in central New York during my summer job

“Did you donate it? Did you do it for a charity? No? Why not? Then why did you do it?” Doing it because I simply wanted to does not compute.

“But you were so pretty when you had hair.” –My grandma, every time I see her

“I wish you would grow your hair out a little…even that cute little pixie cut. Just…something.” –My parents

“Is that a boy or a girl?” –The majority of young children who see me

* Shifty eyes as I walk into a store *

“Good thing you don’t have a “real job”–you could never have one with hair like that.”

“So when are you growing it back?”–Friends, family, strangers

My hair, or lack thereof, has become part of the public discourse. Strangers have the right to tell me exactly what they think of it. Come up and rub my scalp without asking. It’s like a pregnant belly or dreadlocks.

Assumptions are made about my sexuality, my gender identity, my personality, my morality, my mental stability.

Britney shaved head
Obviously only women having a mental breakdown would shave their head, right? (via)

This small aspect of my appearance is all people see.

“You know who you look like? Sinead O’Connor.” Oh, you mean the one woman with a shaved head you can think of?

Sinead O'Connor
Sinead O’Connor.  Eh…kiiiiinda sorta not really? (via)

Sometimes I get “Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta.” (Ok, I’ll take that. That’s the biggest compliment you could give me, really.)

Natalie Portman
All comparisons to this beautiful creature are welcome (via)

“You look like that one girl in Deadpool.” My dad said this recently, and I initially scoffed. Of course, she’s got a shaved head so obviously I look like her. Except he was kinda right about that one. I’ll let that one slide.

Brianna Hildebrand
Brianna Hildebrand AKA Negasonic Teenage Warhead (via)
Brows = On Point

But I obviously also look like Moby with glasses. Right?

Me August 2010 Moby twinsies

But I have noticed, as I have become more used to being in public in this Most Pure Of My Forms, that the higher I hold my head, the more confident my stride, the more compliments I receive.

When I face the world knowing my self worth, the world smiles back at me.

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One thought on “On Shaving My Head, or How Everyone In the World Thinks That Their Opinion Matters To Me

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