What is our relationship to hair? Is it a vehicle for self-expression? Is it power? Is it beauty? Is it comfort? Is it fashion?
I’ve never been one to put much effort into my appearance, and that includes doing my hair. I’ve not had a lot of variety over the years; straight and long, straight and short, bangs, no bangs. At craziest, a perm, some dye, some highlights.
I would describe my relationship with my hair as one of annoyance mostly, especially when long. I would tie it back to keep cool, to keep it out of the way to play sports, to keep it out of my food while eating … I always made sure to keep a hair tie on my wrist. I thought about how nice life might be with really short hair, or maybe even no hair at all.
I’ve been lucky to have a decently full head of hair for most of my life. However, after giving birth, my hair thinned greatly and shed easily. In Chinese culture, it is said that shaving a child’s head one month after birth will give them a fuller head of hair. There isn’t scientific evidence backing this, but it does make sense from a Chinese Medicine perspective. I wondered if the same could apply to me in giving my hair a “fresh start” of sorts.
As much as I was tired of always tying back my long hair, and never caring to style it anyways, I couldn’t bring myself to actually do it. How exactly does someone just up and shave their head for no “good” reason? And as a woman … it felt like it would be even harder. I’ve seen plenty of men who have lost hair to baldness or shaved their head to end the struggle with hair loss, or even simply because no hair looks good on them. But on a woman? Most of the women I’d seen bald were going through chemo, or had alopecia, or had some other illness. Something drastic or “wrong”.
I pondered when would be a good time to do it. And there was never a good time. Weddings. Birthday parties. Thanksgiving and Christmas. How could I attend these gatherings if I’d shaved my head? And it wasn’t just special occasions; how could I show up at work like that? Or go grocery shopping? Or take family Christmas card photos?
And so this thought sat at the back of my mind, dormant, for many years.
In retrospect, the start of the pandemic would have been the “right time”, since I had been furloughed and wasn’t working anyway, and we were around people a lot less frequently. But it was always just 2 weeks away from being over, so it never felt like the “right time”, if the right time meant I could shave my head and let it grow back with no one ever knowing that my hair was ever gone at all.
I would tell people about these thoughts from time to time. I was met with a spectrum of responses, from “Yeah, I wish I could do that too!” to “Oh, why would you want to do that?”
My husband was always amused by this and was always super supportive, much to my surprise. I mean, he’s always been supportive of me, but I definitely worried how he, and others, would perceive me without hair. When I started talking about shaving my head again, he would always say without hesitation, “Do whatever makes you happy, dear,” and actually asked the Reddit community to edit a photo of me so I could have a preview of what I might look like with no hair. One Redditor commented with much wisdom, “[None] of these can really show you how her head will be shaped without hair, that is a big part of how people look with [a] shaved head.”
The kids had some thoughts about it too. “Mommy, if you shave your head, I won’t want to look at you!” “Mommy, I’m going to cry if you shave your head.” “Mommy, if you shave your head, you’ll lose a big part of your personality!” We ended up having some pretty deep talks about what’s on the inside and what’s on the outside. And if you think about it, their thoughts are not far from what adults might be thinking, but perhaps just not saying outright.
The final nudge came from a dear friend’s cancer diagnosis – a move of quiet solidarity. We would be bald and beautiful, together.
And as several Redditors reminded me, hair grows back, so why not? And so, a date was chosen, and the plunge was taken.
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