“Why I shaved my head” I have googled this exact phrase so many times as I thought about shaving my head. It’s one of those things that seems so random and spur of the moment but there’s so much tied in with it. Why? What is the big deal about hair? I’ve been fascinated with the idea of shaving my head ever since seeing G.I. Jane. Then a senior at my arts high school came back to school from vacation with a buzzed head. She said that high school was the last time she would have the chance to do something wild and crazy. She had amazing thick, black, Filipino hair down to her waist . In that moment I asked myself,” What would make me shave of my head?” After some thought I decided that if my childhood friend ever got cancer I would shave my head for her. She had hair down to her waist and we spent so much time talking about hair and doing hair. it would be such a heartbreak to see her lose her hair and she probably didn’t have any other friends that would be as crazy as me to shave their head in camaraderie
Just under 10 years later, I came in from a week of working on a commercial fishing boat in Alaska. It was the weekend, time to hit the town, refuel and restock the boat. The skipper’s wife had a letter for me with the news that my friend had been diagnosed with Luekemia. After I sobbed for about half an hour I started planning, this was it, my criteria for shaving my head had come to pass. I could sell my hair, it was nearly to my elbows. When my fishing season was over I picked a day and I got the clippers set up in Dad’s workshop, where he would trim his hair. I hadn’t really thought the whole process all the way through. I realized I would need help shaving the back of my head. I wanted to ask Dad for help but I knew if Mom found out she would somehow talk me out of it. How was I supposed to explain that I needed to talk to Dad out in his shop? I didn’t have any clever excuse and when “Can you help me with something out in the shop?” Didn’t go unquestioned I finally spoke my plan to my parents and Mom talked me out of it. She had a good point, maybe my friend would be heartbroken to see me lose my hair. Maybe she didn’t want people acknowledging how rocked her world was. Maybe seeing my hair when I visited would just be a reminder to her of what she had to go through. I had never thought of it this way. I just thought of it as solidarity. We both had and wanted long hair. I wanted to show my true friendship and to have her know that as she recovered and grew her hair out I would be right there going through the same process. In the end I bought her a blue wig and visited her for a week and read to her, went with to Chemo appointments, and did art together.
But from then that day that I didn’t shave my head in the work shop, my hair didn’t feel my own. I didn’t feel like I deserved my long hair that I had always dreamed of having. I felt guilty having it while hers grew back. I had told myself this promise and I hadn’t fulfilled it. Over the years my hair finally got to my goal, elbow length, and then it kept growing and I only trimmed it and it got impossible to style and the curls grew out and it began to weigh me down. I felt dragged under by this guilt, this weight, this long hair that had not lived up to my expectations. I imagined bright blonde wavy hair, not my dishwater blonde, nearly straight hair. 10 years later I sold my hair and chopped off 26 inches or so. I had planned to sell it all andshave my head as a publicity stunt for my art. I was making a big change. I could finally fulfill my promise I had made when I was 17. I didn’t really get the marketing part down and it didn’t turn into a big event. In the end I scrapped the plan to shave it. I’ve had my hair short ever since and this short hair is the true me. The long hair to my waist was an anchor on my life and who I am. Now my curls are free but even 3 years after chopping off my hair I still feel like I don’t deserve my hair.
My husband loves to tease me about letting my friend down. I found out he misunderstood the story, and he thought it was a pact that we had made together and I had not fulfilled my end of the deal when she got cancer. He’s more forgiving now. Somehow, as we were reviewing our year and all that we had accomplished it came up again. “You know,” my hubby said teasingly, “You never did shave your head.” I’m on a new journey, I have this new life in Germany and this new outlook. I have a purpose to truly share my art with the world. Suddenly I was tired of feeling tied down by this hair that doesn’t belong to me. I’m tired about feeling guilty for little things, of carrying around this shame of being a bad friend, of not keeping my word. I want to dedicate this new time and this new place to growing my art business and quit all this whining and self reflecting. I want to live and be me and let go and grow in a whole new way. It really stuck when my husband reminded me yet again how I hadn’t followed through with my head shaving plans and finally I was like, you know what? Why not? I have several friends that shaved their heads, it didn’t harm them, it’s only hair, it grows back in 3 years, I can finally see what I look like in all the pixie cuts, it’s winter so I can wear hats all the time, and I think this is a great way to end my word of the year for 2017: Grow. It’s time for me to grow. I’ve lived 12 years feeling guilty about not shaving my head. I can work for a year on self forgiveness OR I can just DO IT. Be done with it and work on not putting shame and guilt on myself again. As I see my shaved head every day I will remember what I am growing towards. This is a spiritual journey, I don’t have time to take all this vanity and ego with me. I am done. Here is to new beginnings.
In summary, Why I shaved my head:
- Fulfill the promise I made to myself when I was 17, “I will shave my head if my friend gets cancer.” I never gave a timeline for it at least. I’m only 12 years late.
- I wanted do something BIG to show the Universe my gratitude for getting to live our biggest dreams. I donated all my hair. Hopefully some was long enough to be useful.
- I was so sick of guilt and shame I had put on myself for not shaving my head all those years ago. I wanted to use this moment as a symbolic moment to leave behind all guilt and fear that I’ve piled on myself.
- I wanted to do one more wild and crazy thing before I turned 39
- It works well with my 2017 word for the year “grow”. What am I going to grow in 2018?
My Biggest Fears:
- I’ll look old and ugly with a shaved head.
- I’ll miss my hair in my face
- The years it takes to grow back will drag out and be miserable
#1 – My friends and family will see me shave my head and label me unstable. I will look like I have a mental illness.
The evening was strange. We had to buy a clippers. I think it was within a week of my hubby reminding me about not shaving my head that I went ahead and did it. I put it in ponytails to mail off. Seeing myself in the mirror with all the ponytails and having to make that first cut was the strangest, surrealist experience. It didn’t even feel real. Was I really doing this? Just hacking my hair off? At the same time there was a roar of “FREEDOM” screaming through my head. This was it. This signified a new outlook for my life. No more guilt, no more shame, about anything. I hung my head over a bucket and shaved what I could and then hubby touched it up. For years I helped him shave his head and this day he helped me. Gently getting around my ears. It was the sweetest thing and I was so grateful for his kindness and acceptance of me. I had lived so long thinking my beauty and love was conditional on my hair, and here is my husband sticking with me and helping me in this bizarre moment. I felt loved and supported. What do I have left to offer?
It was quite an adjustment to have velcro hair, to feel everything. To shift my head on the pillow and not get wrapped up in hair. I still catch myself when I see myself in the mirror. The first week I was a bit horrified with what I had done. How will I ever tell my family and friends? When will I not look crazy? Well, here I am. Thank you for supporting me on this journey.