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My Haircut Journey, Part 2

Earlier, in My Haircut Journey, Part 1, I detailed how I got to this point of not just donating my hair, but starting over from a clean slate.

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It’s just hair, isn’t it? So it was surprising that so many thoughts and emotions played out before, during, and after I got my once-in-a-lifetime haircut.

Note: My favorite part of getting my haircut is as soon as all of the hair is gone, my older kiddo said, “Mommy, you look like Quan Yin. Well, actually like the Buddha.” <3
Great Clips did a great job and they have experience cutting hair for donation. They could not shave down to the skin; they said that was called “barbering” and they were not a barber shop. So, we went home and my husband finished it off.

Why did I choose to get my haircut on 9/09? In Mandarin, the word for the number 9 (九) sounds like the word for “long time” (久). In support of my friend currently going through chemo treatments, I chose 9/09 as it sounds like “long time long time”: I’ve loved her for a long time and will continue to love her for a long time. Since I’d been sitting on this idea for well, a long time, it made sense to set a date so that me and my family could mentally prepare and follow through.

Throughout my thought process, my husband had always just told me, “Do whatever makes you happy, dear.” My kids, however, had reservations about what would happen if I shaved my head.

“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!”

Closer to the date, we explored these thoughts and feelings some more. I fielded their questions and in turn asked them:

“So … if Mommy was ugly, would you still love me?”

To my relief, both of them replied without hesitation, and full of pure love: 

“Yes!”

With my family’s support behind me, others’ opinions, good or bad, fell away into the ether. And so a plan was hatched that my family would accompany me to the hairdresser’s to witness and be a part of the process. It simply felt right to include them on this life journey, just like all the rest that have been and will be.

Shaved down to 0! I was already a carbon copy of my dad … me shaving my head made me look even MORE like him!

Some first thoughts after my haircut:

  • The shape of my head was unexpectedly okay. I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on the shape of my head – it’s hilarious, flattering, and a relief, all at once.
  • Showering and then drying my head off has been REALLY great. I hated washing my hair due to the amount of time it would take. And a handful of hair would always wash out (hair catchers for our drains were a must!).
  • A true time savings. In addition to zero dry time, there is now no need to brush hair in the mornings.
  • No more needing to keep hair ties on my wrist.
  • No more needing to move my hair out of the way to clean my ears / eat food.
  • I’m really not used to my reflection in the mirror.
  • My husband’s lips feel super cold when he kisses my head.
  • Man I feel really … exposed.

Hilariously, I was scheduled for a video call with my brother and parents the very next day. On top of that, it was my brother’s birthday. In an effort to keep the focus on my brother for his birthday, we made excuses for me to stay off camera until after we sang happy birthday. He probably thought I was super rude, but we wanted to make sure it was about him, and not me. Afterwards, I came on camera, and I think my brother’s mouth remained wide open for several minutes, asking repeatedly, “Is that for real? Like, is that for real real?” My mom said she cried. My dad (who himself has shaved his head to end his battle with male-pattern baldness) didn’t say anything. Maybe they thought I was pranking them with a video call filter that I would soon turn off, or a bald cap that I would soon peel away. It was a shock to them, understandably.

More from days 2 and 3:

  • Velcro time! My stubbly hair growing out made changing in and out of clothes not a smooth process. My stubble made me stick to a pillow or my husband’s shirt.
  • One daughter told me I was a bit ugly (“有一點醜”).
  • The other daughter agreed but also conceded that my personality hadn’t changed. I am grateful for these conversations.
  • I need a hat!
Tongue-and-cheek considering … I had no hair! 😀 

I tried to go out and about without a hair covering since I wasn’t ashamed of my new look, per se. I was certainly a bit self-conscious at first. When walking around a store, I felt compelled to buy a hat because I did not realize how effective hair is as an insulator! And now I had none! The air conditioning in the store was too much for me. And then going out into the sun beating down directly on my scalp – ack! Too hot! I found myself often donning a hat both indoors and outdoors.

Days 4 and 5:

  • My husband continues to call me names like “gorgeous” like usual (he’s so super sweet).
  • My husband is excited for me and continues to tell his friends.
  • Oh boy, gotta go pick up the kids after school. What are people going to say or think?

Life kept moving and soon it was again time to pick up the kids from school. I dreaded it at first. People asked me if I was okay, afraid that I was ill but didn’t want to admit it. I didn’t know how to handle it, but in retrospect, I would have been concerned for others as well. Eventually I got the hang of summarizing my story as, “It’s just something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.” Those who had time would talk with me more about it (and I mean, as busy parents, none of us have a lot of time!). It was interesting that more women than I expected told me they wished they could do the same. Really made me think about what we tell ourselves is and is not possible!

My older daughter might have been testing the waters on how my actions might socially affect her. She told her teacher that I’d shaved my head. It sounded like there might have been some initial shock, but then her teacher responded, “Really? Your mom is too cool!” Wow. What an amazing response from her teacher! While I wasn’t going to change anything I was doing to be less “embarrassing”, I was curious if my kids would be embarrassed at all. Thankful for her teacher, and to all the parents of her classmates – no one made a big deal out of it, and when the novelty fades, kids tend to move on faster than adults.

My “swirl”. Hmm, my greys are more obvious without long hair hiding them!

The one thing I felt a bit guilty about was accidentally garnering sympathy when I wasn’t in fact suffering from any ailments. I certainly wasn’t looking for attention, and there were plenty of people out there who would benefit from this sympathetic energy, not me. A wise friend who beat cancer told me, “You’re not soliciting this, so if it happens … [there’s] not much you can do about it.” Another lesson / reminder: There are things within our control and things outside of our control, and letting go of the things outside of our control actually enables us to focus more on the things that are actually within our control. So ironically, by letting go, I felt I was regaining more control over my life. People would ask if they were inclined, and I stopped worrying about those who didn’t ask.

Days 6 and 7:

  • Feeling around on my scalp, I was finding all these mini scabs (which would later resolve themselves).
  • The “velcro” softened out. Husband and the kids are enjoying touching it more now.

Other realizations up to the present day:

  • For people seeing me for the first time after my haircut, it’s a bit of a surprise but not so much a shock, as it now looks like I purposely cut it short.
  • I’m still not used to my reflection.
  • It’s fun for my kids to feel my hair’s softness.
  • I sometimes look at people and wonder what they might look like with no hair.
  • Dandruff from dry scalp can be a problem!
  • I can attempt cartwheels without worrying about my hair dragging on the ground or have my hands accidentally catch my hair.
  • My haircut quickly became old news. So, back to blending in, which is how I prefer it.
  • The people who love me have continued to love me. <3

I have also had the thought: what IF I had cancer right now? That thought colored how I interacted with my kids, in a great way. What a way to live, as if each day might be your last.

Sending my hair off to Wigs for Kids.

I am proud to have been able to lend support to a fellow woman; for me, it is but a haircut. For my friend and anyone going through cancer and chemo, they are forced to part with their hair. Hair changes our look, we can style it to make us appear more aggressive, more gentle, whatever we want it to be. We can control it to shape our appearance. But just imagine when that control is stripped away and we are forced into baldness; nothing can adequately prepare us mentally for this. Definitely not to belittle men who must go through this process, but society definitely stigmatizes women who are bald (several bald or balding men have even been named “Sexiest Man Alive” by People magazine over the years!). A bald woman is rarely how the media portrays beauty in women, and so it is harder for a bald woman to walk through society without double takes, raised eyebrows, or needing further explanation. By choosing to part with my hair, it serves as yet another reminder that there will be many opinions, but at the heart of it all, my choices in navigating my happiness are ultimately what matter. And I’m the one who has to live with my choices for a long, long time.

Different hair. Same mommy. (Just more susceptible to cold, heat, and sunburn now!)

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Biology basics of hair: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK546248/
Hair donation: https://wigsforkids.org

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