I’ve never been the prettiest girl in a room, or the funniest, or even the nicest. Heaven knows I wouldn’t even dare dream of being called the most intelligent. But I always walked into a room holding by head up high as I told myself “Hey! No one has hair like you.”
I don’t have poker straight hair, or perfectly spiral curls. I don’t have hair as soft as silk or as black as ebony. But I believe that my mane was nature’s way of telling me that sometimes by defying every accepted construct of beauty, you actually end up with something pretty darn beautiful.
By the age of sixteen I realized that I could run it in between an iron and have it poker straight in less than five minutes. A curler may take fifteen, but that was no massive feat either. Beach waves or the grunge look that I often heard girls pine for was what my bed hair looked like.
My hair was never easy to define to the stylist when I called them up to book an appointment. It was a chameleon, it did whatever I asked of it. My magic threads, I had secretly deemed them. I was certain Rumpelstiltskin would come to claim me someday.
So last September, when it hung an easy three-inches below my waist (the longest it had ever been) I decided to have it shaved off, perm and all.
I remember sitting on a stool in a tiny parlor with murky yellow walls and a reality show playing in the background as I clutched on to my friend’s hand when the razor made its first whizz past my ears. There was no turning back, I was going bald.
It took a little more than five minutes (longer than it took to straighten it!) but once the deed was done, I couldn’t bring myself to look into my eyes in the mirror. I knew that they would reflect what every nerve in my body was feeling at the moment? “Why did you do this, you crazy girl?!”
I quickly wrapped a thick scarf that I had impulsively bought around my head with minimal head wrapping skills, drew my eyes with thick black liner and painted my lips jungle, and proceeded to pay the bill, collect my packet of what once was and slink out of the entire scene like no life-altering thing had just transpired.
I was still shaking from what I had just done when I went to camp at my sister’s, who after her initial five minutes of refusing to look at me, made me promise to wait a while before telling my parents, who were away in America celebrating their 30th anniversary.
“You look like a boy,” she told me.
The next few days were sure as hell not easy. Not the part where I got a mild panic attack when my roommate undid her lustrous long locks. Not the part where I had to convince myself that I was invisible to avoid the stares that I saw my classmates throw at me inadvertently. And definitely not the part when my mom called me up just about ready to have a heart attack. News travels fast apparently.
The next few months were not easy either. I wasn’t used to not having endless, flowing hair to cover up everything about me that generally looked like a tacky mess. I wasn’t used to always being passed up at a pub because I was that weird bald chick. And I most certainly wasn’t used to random strangers adding me on Facebook asking me where I got my head shaved and if any of my friends would like to have it done as well (sure, because we are an underground feminazi sorority who go around shaving our heads as step one to taking over the world).
I hated being asked if I shaved my hair off to give it to a God (why would He need my hair?!) or if I did it to make a statement. I wasn’t sure how to reply to those texts and inboxes of acquaintances telling me that they were proud of me (like, what about?) And I could only but guffaw when the long-lost classmate from tenth grade decided to call me up to make sure I didn’t have cancer.
But every night after the warm water ran over my prickly bare head, I would think of why I did it and smile.
There is always that one compliment which we’ve heard our entire lives:
Something about ourselves which has been sung to us over and over and over again in so many mellifluous adjectives that it’s no longer about individual perspective or beauty lying in the eyes of the beholder. We learn to accept it as a fact.
And no matter how much we preach self-love or go around telling the girl crying in a corner that beauty isn’t defined by looks, there is still that one vain thread we cling on to. My thread was my hair.
I always wondered what it would actually be like if I didn’t have it, any of it.
What would it be like, I often asked myself, if I had to walk into the open just as I was? What would it be like if there was nothing crowning me? Would I still feel like the queen that I said every woman is or would I want to run away and bury myself six feet under because I may not feel as beautiful if you could look right into my eyes and see through to my soul?
I was done asking those questions and needed to know the answers. So I did.
After the first long-bald day at college, when I returned to my room and undid my head wrap (which I had spent the last entire night perfecting through video tutorials) my roommate looked over at me and said “You are so beautiful. This is who you are. Don’t ever grow your hair back.”
So maybe, I thought to myself that night, I wouldn’t be the prettiest girl in the room. Or the funniest. I wouldn’t be the nicest or the most intelligent. But I would still walk in holding my head up high as I said to myself “Hey! No one has hair like you.”