Next week, I’m going to be having my head shaved. Not by choice but, rather, as part of a medical procedure. I’ve never been one to put too much effort into my hair, usually just letting it air-dry overnight and wearing it down.
Blow-drying it, let alone curling or straightening it, is by no means a part of my everyday routine. Stylists typically cringe at my lack of an extensive regimen.
Additionally, while I love a great tutorial, after three hours I have very little to show for my efforts besides a whole lot of knots constituting something that looks a little like a bird’s nest and a poorly constructed one at that.
This is all to say that prior to finding out that I was going to have the majority of it shaved off, I never considered myself to be someone that had any special ties to her hair.
Did I enjoy dying it occasionally? Sure. Had I experimented with different bangs and bobs in my younger years? Much to my dismay, yes. After all, hindsight is 20/20. Did I feel that these decisions by any means defined me? No.
Yet, over the last couple of weeks, I’ve found myself panicking over what I’ll look like upon my return to Homewood Campus, especially given that I have absolutely no control when it comes to how much they take off.
Unfortunately, neurosurgeons, while they do what they can, are ever pragmatic. Needless to say, their prime goal isn’t ensuring you leave with the optimal cut for your face shape and sense of style.
I’ve tried shorter hair before, each time optimistic about how empowered I’d feel after chopping off my longer locks, only to find myself simply wanting them to grow back as quickly as possible.
Perhaps it’s because long hair gives you something to hide behind? Or maybe, although it pains me to admit it, it’s because as a woman I’ve been fed the narrative that women with short hair are less attractive.
I consider myself a feminist. Given this, I like to think that I don’t subscribe to traditional beauty norms or rely upon the affirmation of my male peers for a sense of self-worth.
Still, in an era where we’re constantly judging one another based off selfies posted to Instagram and cultivating an “image” is increasingly billed as a plus in the job-market, it’s hard to argue that appearances don’t matter.
And when push comes to shove, I want to be seen as attractive, something I no longer see as an uncomplicated, vain desire.
When I appeal to my logical side, I can think of so many gorgeous women that have rocked short hair. There’s Demi Moore’s iconic look in G.I. Jane; Zoë Kravitz’s edgy, fun coif; and women like Michelle Williams and Natalie Portman’s more preppy pixies.
These women are talented, intelligent badasses, yet, even many a Pinterest search seeking inspiration hasn’t been able to assuage my anxieties.
Looking at myself in the mirror, in spite of my imaginative capacity, I simply can’t picture it.
Who knows? Maybe I’ll find that I truly do love my new, post-hospital look, and you’ll see #shorthairdontcare posts popping up all over your social media feeds.
However, I make no promises. This might merely represent one more sacrifice, however seemingly small, that has come with the territory of taking control of my health and seeking out a better quality of life.
And that’s okay. Because I know that, however I might feel about the outcome, this temporary physical change in my appearance will serve as a constant reminder of the strength and resilience that characterize this semester for me.