Car rental employee: “Excuse me, sir?”
Me, in my head: “I don’t see any ‘sirs’ around here, so I don’t know who she’s talking to.”
“Sir? Oh my gosh, I am so sorry! I didn’t know.”
If this conversation had taken place 8 or 9 years ago, there’s a great chance that I would have cried.
I was once obsessed over the thought of having long hair. At one point in time, you would have thought that I had a degree in research because I was constantly looking up hair growth remedies. I was always trying out new hair products and vitamins, changing my diet, you name it. But in 2011, my relaxed hair was damaged beyond repair, and there was really no other option for me other than cutting it all off. A year prior, my older sister, Tara, made the decision to big chop to embrace her natural hair texture. Admiring her bold move towards self-acceptance, I scheduled a hair appointment and brought her along for support.
I will admit that I was feelin’ myself for a minute after leaving the hair salon, although it did feel strange not having that much hair. The excitement went away, however, when I remembered that I was going to have to debut my new cut at work the next day. I remember trying to play it cool, even gelling down my edges to make myself feel a lil’ better. The moment I walked in to my job, one of my managers looked at me and bluntly uttered, “Awww, I liked it better before,” before walking out.
It was at that moment that I regretted it.
I laughed it off, but I was hurt and embarrassed. If I’m being honest, I can be pretty sensitive so I allowed that one negative comment to affect my entire mood. I formed a love/hate relationship with my hair. Although I was beginning to embrace my texture, I didn’t feel confident in my appearance, and I felt like I had to prove my femininity according to society’s standards: by wearing “girly” clothing and big earrings, putting on more makeup, etc. But as time went on, I noticed that the longer my hair grew, the more compliments I received, and then I felt better about myself. That was the issue—my confidence was completely dependent upon my hair and other people’s approval.
In February 2017, my hair was in a protective style, meaning that it was blended in with synthetic hair to give my hair a break from physical manipulation. I was ready for a change but I wasn’t satisfied with any of the ideas that I came up with. New hair color? No, my hair would become damaged all over again. Re-twist it? No, I wasn’t in the mood to deal with the length anymore. Have a fresh start and shave it all off? Maybe, just maybe.
The thought did scare me at first because I thought about how low my confidence was when I first cut my hair off. What made me go through with the idea was the fact that I hid behind my hair for so long, and I wanted to learn how to love myself without it. I didn’t tell too many people about my decision, except for my small Snapchat following. I avoided telling my parents because I knew that they’d try to talk me out of it. After finally convincing myself, I scheduled an appointment with a barber, cut my twists off, and went straight to her apartment. Although I had worked so hard to achieve my hair length, oddly enough, I didn’t feel much emotion as I felt the clippers run along my head. Okay, I lied—I did have a brief “What did I do??” moment shortly afterwards. But despite that moment, I felt brand new.
My shaven head has taught me two things: to love myself, and to live for myself. There is something about getting a haircut that truly feels liberating, like you’re breaking away from the weight of your past. Not only did I shave off my hair, I also shed the thought of living my life according to other’s expectations . Something that I’m learning on this journey to self-love is that if you’re not comfortable in your own skin, every negative comment can and will get to you.
Many people assume that a woman who cuts off her hair is having a Britney Moment (the older I get, the more I completely empathize). In actuality, I was just ready for change and wanted my appearance to symbolize my new beginning. I’m proud of myself because I don’t feel the need to hide behind hair to feel beautiful. I also don’t feel pressured to look “feminine” anymore. If I want to dress up or dress down, I do so without fear of judgement.
Today, I receive a lot of compliments on my cut but I am occasionally asked, “When do you plan on growing it back?” If I’m being honest, I do miss having my fro at times, despite the freedom and low maintenance of my cut. Right now, all I know is that I’ll grow it out when I’m ready.