why my hair does and does not matter

We take advantage of things.
Don’t deny it.

There’s elements of your life that go unnoticed by you every day. But the moment they’re taken away, they’re greatly missed. Anxiety of loss may cause a panic attack. You may break down like your world is ending. The cliché saying “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” is one of the strongest truths.

I digress.

So I dyed my hair black last week…

And I’ve gotten way more of a response than anticipated. The biggest question from people has been “what inspired you to do that?” I got the same reaction when I chopped my hair off 5 years ago. 

When you do something noticeably different to your appearance, people’s first reaction seems to be “why?”

What if there isn’t a reason?

GASP! Who would I be without my reasons? I have rationale for just about everything I do. So to tell people “I just did it on a whim” is paradoxical. This got me thinking- maybe that’s my quick answer. But there has to be more to it.

Another reaction, (mostly from women), has been “You’re brave!” or “I could never do that.” I’m not sure if that’s become a social response or if they seriously mean it. But with all do respect, I really don’t understand how changing your hair color (or getting it cut) is an act of bravery.

img_1655

Let’s go back to the idiom.

Have you ever taken your hair for granted?

While you’re complaining about how it frizzes in the humidity or how tangled it gets after swimming, have you ever thought about how life would be without it? Countless times, I hear women and girls complaining about how they can’t do anything with their hair. They nitpick about: the color, how thick it is, how it’s too curly, how it’s too flat and straight, how it’s not shiny enough, etc.

Now I know most of this is just meaningless rambling. Complaining about frivolous things is something we all do. But when it comes to the hair thing, I can’t help but sit there and wonder why the hell it matters so much that your hair isn’t the kind you want.

I’ll take whatever I can get because I know what it’s like to lose it all.

4-year
around age 4

When I was in preschool, I lost my hair for the first time due to cancer treatments. In a matter of days I went from a 4-year-old with thick brunette braids to a bald little girl full of toxins. I know it bothered my parents more than me when I was that little. Not only was their baby sick, but the hair for barrettes and bows and braids was gone.

Being bald was weird. It still is weird to think about. We don’t have to pretend it’s not. In fact, most parents would appreciate it if we educated ourselves on their kids’ illnesses rather than treat them like lepers. We don’t have to lie and say we don’t want to stare at bald kids and wonder what’s going on there. It looks unnatural and we can’t help but be curious and maybe feel bad for them.

Now if you think you’re uncomfortable looking at a bald kid, imagine how they feel. Not only are their personalities and brains developing, but they’re full of pressure on a social level. Peers. Fellow children who aren’t educated will stare just like their parents do. It’s better to honestly answer their questions.

Have you ever put sun lotion on your scalp? It’s one of the strangest feelings. 

…Ah, the way your bare head feels on a pillow at night, the way the wind breezes on it, how water pours down it in the shower… Don’t even get me started on how much wigs itch and hats make you sweat… 

There are some things you’ll just never experience if you are blessed with hair all your life. 😉 haha. But that’s not my point. The thing is, I know what it’s like to be without hair. As a little girl in a society that tells you what ‘pretty’ is, the lack of hair was sometimes worse than the cancer.

You can’t see cancer, but people notice when you lose your hair.

And you can’t hide it! Adults look at you with pity. Kids stare at you like you’re an alien. And there’s absolutely nothing you can (physically) do but become immensely fascinated in your shoelaces and hope they’ll stop.

Even when it was peach fuzz and growing back, strangers mistook me for a little boy. I tried walking into the women’s restroom at a restaurant on vacation one time. I was probably 7 or 8 and a lady stopped me and told me it was the wrong bathroom. It made me feel so embarrassed.

Situations like that made me more empathetic. I never want to be the cause of someone feeling embarrassed for things out of their control.

older

When I was in 3rd grade, I remember fuming at the fact that I couldn’t have hair. I wished everyone in the world could just be bald. My mom told me if everyone was bald, we’d all be boring and look the same. She told me hair was a lovely thing and that it was a part of who we are. At the time that just made me more furious. But that conversation stuck with me over the years and gave me a different outlook.

My cancer didn’t go into remission until I was 10. That was six years of losing hair and having it grow back a different color and texture every time. It was dark; it was light. It was thick, curly, and thin. Thank goodness I was born with a heavy mop of it; mom’s genes are much appreciated. If it wasn’t so thick in the beginning, I probably wouldn’t have any now.

I dyed my hair for the first time in college. I also chopped all my hair off in 2011. Then I grew it out almost to my waist. You wouldn’t believe how happy it made me the first time I let a friend braid it.

So I dyed my hair black last week…

I’ve never had reservations about changing it up. I did dye it on a whim. I also get it cut on whims. Frankly, I get bored and like to shake it up. I’m not going to abuse it and I’ll never take it for granted. I am afraid I’ll lose it again one day; I’ll admit that. When scary things happen to us, we worry they’ll happen again.

But I’m not going to let the worries stop me from doing things I love. Life is too short not to say what you need to say and just do things you want to do. Go out and try some new things. If you want to tattoo your wedding date on your wrist, stop thinking about it and just do it. If you want to dye your hair black, why not? Just take care of yourself and be kind to one another. Everyone is fighting battles.

Thank you for pushing through this long post with me. All I can say is that I hope it makes you think and understand a little more about the world. But more importantly, I hope it inspires you in some way. You are beautiful and I love you- hair or no hair.

CRCH


This song that has helped me through times where I’ve felt ugly and angry at the world.

You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold, you gotta be wiser
You gotta be hard, you gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger
You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm, you gotta stay together

You Gotta Be | Des’ree

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Kelly Stiegman says:

    Thanks, I have been trying to decide if I was going to cut my hair, after reading your post…Absolutely! By the way, I LOVE your color!

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