Home > Reflections, Women > It grows back

It grows back

Arrrgyle returned from Arrrland (photo by Dana S)

I shaved my head almost four years ago.

I loved how it felt. I felt like I’d been in hiding, and was for the first time in years unconcealed.

I’ve often thought since of shaving my hair again. I felt beautiful bald, and I loved what I saw when I looked in the mirror.

So why haven’t I shaved my hair again? Because of the overwhelming inescapability of others’ questions, spoken and unspoken. The unconcealed horror and pity written on their faces as they considered the possibility I might have cancer, and then walked a step beyond that to contemplating the fragility of human life.

I loved how I looked and I loved how I felt, but I did not love the constant inspection.

A few days ago, an old blogging friend shaved her head in solidarity with a friend battling cancer. I saw how gorgeous she looked and I thought how much I missed my super-short hair.

ang almost bald

This morning, Angie posted another photo, and I felt the same longing intensified. In addition to loving how it looks and feels, it’s so easy to manage hair so short. So freeing, when the choice is made willingly.

I saw her newest photo and felt the ache of wanting to shave my head again right now. Almost as soon as I thought of just doing it, though, I thought not only of those bygone looks of horror and pity, but how wound up hair is with the idea of feminine beauty, as if a woman’s beauty is in the length and style of her locks instead of a light that shines from within.

The question is: Would I rather do what feels right to me because it feels right, and lovely? Or would I rather keep my hair falling comfortably below my shoulders because it slightly inconveniences me to face others’ discomfort? Because my husband feels like he’s looking at the wife he knows?

I don’t feel a clear right answer, whether or not there actually is one. I know I’m lucky to have a choice, leading me to think, again and again:

It’s just hair. When we’re so lucky, it grows back.

Would you ever shave your hair? Under what circumstances?
How much does hair factor into your perception of another person’s beauty?

  1. February 15, 2016 at 9:02 am

    Your body – your hair included – is yours and your decision. How outsiders will look at you doesn’t matter. But your husband and your children and other loved ones do count in any decision you make. You can’t live to please them, but pleasing those you love may be part of loving yourself. Ask them.

    • February 15, 2016 at 9:09 am

      That’s a significant part of my reluctance. D didn’t mind then and probably wouldn’t mind now, but I know Anthony’s not nearly as fond of my short hair as I am. He’s assured me–not that I need it, though it’s nice!–that he loves me no matter the length of my hair, but that it feels a little like he’s looking at a stranger when it’s so short. That doesn’t make me want to run out and do it, no matter how I love it … and that hesitation makes me sad, because why should it be such a big deal?

      Of course, it’s more than just about looks. Anthony also dealt with pitying questions and gazes. Indeed, I was nearly bald in the TBBT cast/crew family photo they took a few months later (related pic here, leading Anthony to field a lot of his own uncomfortable questions.

  2. February 15, 2016 at 9:05 am

    Don’t want to do anything to create bothersome questions. When I wear an arm support for carpal tunnel pain, I have to answer so many questions. It’s a lot of annoyance.

    • February 15, 2016 at 9:10 am

      I actually asked someone recently what he’d done to be in a cast, then promptly said, “Ignore that. I’m sure you’ve answered that exact question a hundred times already,” and, indeed, he had.

      • February 15, 2016 at 9:16 am

        Questions just jump out.

  3. February 15, 2016 at 9:17 am

    A shaved head was the best haircut I ever had. 20 minutes on your hair once a week. No shampoo, no conditioner, just some clippers. I wore it that way for about a year until I got tired of people either assuming I was a lesbian or a cancer patient.

    • February 15, 2016 at 9:21 am

      I feel guilty that I think so much about something that on some hand feels it should be so little, but on the other hand … those questions and assumptions are exhausting.

      • February 15, 2016 at 9:24 am

        The assumptions really are exhausting, which is part of why I eventually grew my hair back. That and I can never keep a hairstyle for long. I get bored. Still, I miss my shaved head, too.

        For what it’s worth, Male wasn’t fond of my shaved head either, but he dealt with it, because he knew it made me happy.

        • February 15, 2016 at 9:26 am

          I really don’t know how to put my response to that into words, so I’ll express it as best I can without words:

          • February 15, 2016 at 9:29 am

            I can tell you this much, if there’s ever a zombie apocalypse, all my hair is going bye-bye. 🙂

            Also, ❤

  4. February 15, 2016 at 9:18 am

    I had half of my head shaved at age 19, after an accident involving my face and the windshield of a Honda Civic. So I don’t think I would ever do it willingly!

  5. February 15, 2016 at 9:29 am

    I’ve had no hair (close close cut) and have run all the lengths in between my current length of frolicious almost shoulder length natural hair. I’ve embraced each stage and have not let myself be defined. I think as long as the hair and body are well taken care of I’m fine with the presentation.

    • February 15, 2016 at 1:36 pm

      Thank you for your food for thought! I look forward to anything being well taken care of again; for now, I’m just kinda treading water with bare minimum attention to appearance (or, well, anything beyond daily must-dos and blogging) as my younger boy makes the transition between toddler and little boy. I look forward to having a little left over day-to-day, and am glad to feel very like it’s just around the corner. 🙂

      • February 15, 2016 at 2:20 pm

        You are a beautiful woman. Enjoy the many fun moments of the transition 🙂

  6. February 15, 2016 at 9:57 am

    I’m not sure I’d have the courage to do that, but I might feel differently if someone very close to me was going through cancer. But I have great admiration for those who do. What a selfless way to show solidarity.

    • February 15, 2016 at 1:55 pm

      I know a couple of cancer survivors on my blog’s FB page were disgusted by people taking this step, because they felt only they had earned it. That response was pretty rare, though. I think most people understand that even those not experiencing cancer within their own bodies are–rightly and understandably–moved by the cancer experiences of those whom they love. Looking on from the outside brings its own kind of heartache and devastation, and finding a physical expression for that … that’s a healing thing no one person or group of people can or should necessarily own.

      I know that my mom hated how she looked with short hair. I thought she was beautiful. While I remember her with a full head of hair, too, my last experiences of her alive–and all my experiences of her with Li’l D–involved her with short hair. That’s how I usually remember her, and why I will never forget the moment I turned on the restaurant bathroom light and saw my reflection right after my head shaved.

      My mom had hated being virtually bald, but me? Oh my god, I felt beautiful to look at my face and see her in it. I cried then, and I’m crying now remembering it.

  7. Deb
    February 15, 2016 at 10:07 am

    I am intrigued by the mix of answers so far. Personally I don’t know that I would ever shave my head, but I have had very short hair before, for many years and loved it, until a co-worker suggested I grow my hair some because short hair ‘ages a woman, and longer hair softens the face’ whatever the hell that means – but that remark has stuck with me. Now I just cut and mess with it at will and can’t ever quite decide what form it should take. Prior to the aging remark I don’t know that I ever cared much about family reaction, I simply went with what felt right to me…perhaps that was wrong, not to consider how kids or husband felt on the subject but it is my hair and it’s on my body so I suppose I took/take the stand that it is mine to do with as I want, regardless of others needs or wants. Society tells us how important hair is to beauty and as with a lot of those gendered ideals, I feel a strong need to go my own way… 🙂

  8. February 15, 2016 at 10:53 am

    I have cut my hair, many times, and the shortest was just over an inch in length at the back. I was younger, but I loved it. I did it because I was stressed, and my hair was sooo long. I donated it twice to locks of love, and still had too much. I cut it another time because my anxiety was terrible. I needed a metaphoric release that was also a physical reminder that things change, and nothing is forever. My hubby has gotten use to the different colors, lengths, styles. It’s my hair. It’s your hair. Our views on beauty are often based the perception others have and their need to press it upon the rest of us. If your most beautiful is felt with short hair, then own it. If it is found in helping others, do it. Just be true to who you are, inside…outside. It’s the best way to love yourself. 💜

  9. February 15, 2016 at 11:03 am

    I’ve never shaved my head, but I did cut it really short because I was getting rid of my relaxed hair and allowing my natural kinky hair to live freely. I find it really interesting how in my pictures in which I have long weave in, people see those pictures and then look at my kinky hair with a sad face and say, “Oh, you cut your long hair!!” I just respond and say, “Yep!” I actually get tired of all the looks and questions. It’s just hair people!!

  10. February 15, 2016 at 11:19 am

    Oh those assumptions.
    Years ago a work colleague told me he had just seen two lesbians in the lift (elevator). When I asked him how he knew he told me (perfectly seriously) that they had unshaven legs and underarms.
    And was totally unimpressed when I told him that he had just defined me as bisexual.
    Your hair. Do what is right for you. Which somedays includes what is right for your family.

  11. February 15, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    Deb, the fact that you’re considering it shows your thoughtfulness. You and I did this together, and it was a wonderful experience, I know. Over the past couple of years, I’ve been less than enthusiastic about doing it again. Last year I didn’t even go to the event, and I doubt I will this year. I feel like my reasons are complex, but I haven’t given voice to them yet, so who knows? The vagueness of the feelings almost certainly are making them seem bigger than they are. One fear I have is that if I think about it too much I’ll decide to do it, which means I’ll have to live with the looks and questions, which leads me back to my initial statement: you’re being thoughtful about it, and that’s half of the journey to your answer.

    The point is, your decision to shave or not to shave is more than a coin-toss. By articulating your concerns frankly, you’re honoring both the process and the outcome of your decision. Whatever you decide to do will be the right thing to do. ❤

    • February 15, 2016 at 12:40 pm

      It is so good reading your words. I had an aha moment while out and about with D earlier. I don’t think I would have reached it had I not written this down and mulled over comments so far.

      With those comments guiding further reflection, I understood that I will likely shave my head again, but that it likely won’t be for another year or two. I’ll try emailing you about it during the week.

      Big, big hugs and thanks for the inspiration, then and now. ♡

  12. February 15, 2016 at 12:50 pm

    I used to have hair that fell below my knees. Then a friend got cancer and wanted a long wig. I donated my hair, leaving me with average length of hair; I felt naked. I didn’t know how to handle my evening routines without the hair to wash, brush and braid. It grew back, but, several years later, I had a severe stroke. My head was shaved to drill burr holes to relieve the pressure. When I finally woke up, I literally didn’t know who I was. I didn’t miss my hair because I didn’t remember having it…. It’s now almost 10 years later, and my hair is kept extremely short, since I am unable to care for it without help. I often say, “the person I used to be died in the stroke, and I’m still discovering the “new me.” One of the things I’m very sure of is the “old me” had long hair; the “new me” has very short hair. The length of my hair is and was a large part of my self-identity. My husband is simply glad I’m alive. He doesn’t care what length it is.

    • February 15, 2016 at 1:33 pm

      Thank you so much for sharing this. There’s a lot here for me to consider, but for now I wanted to touch on one point.

      Your conclusion reminds me of a poem called I wrote a few months ago. Called “whole,” it was inspired by a conversation with a friend. Some people around this friend’s wife have been weirded out by his wife’s prosthetics while he looks at them and sees the fact she survived a terrible car accident. To him, those limbs represent not loss but life continued.

      One of the final verses in the poem is:

      i wish
      i could shine
      [that light] here, so that
      you could see it
      for yourself, and
      feel how “whole”
      is not
      in how
      our limbs,
      or our minds,
      are configured,
      but in our
      as we can
      with the configurations
      we do have

  13. February 15, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    I’d never shave my hair because I’d end up all sunburned on my scalp. And that would hurt. Also, I’m an introvert who’d rather not bring attention to myself. For me, the whole idea is a no go. But for you, now that’s a different story, indeed…

    • February 15, 2016 at 2:17 pm

      See, that’s exactly what I came to today! The hesitancy now isn’t that I hesitate to be bald again, but an introvert one. I was an introvert before having kids; with each kid, it’s gotten more pronounced because I already have to expend that much more energy within the house before ever making it outside the house.

      I’m not close to having enough social/emotional energy for the constant scrutiny and unwanted conversations yet. Perhaps someday when both kids are bigger and I have a little more room–of all kinds–those conversations won’t be so exhausting. For now, merely remembering them has me wanting to hide in my closet and never come out.

      So, for now I’ll know that this is for someday, and that letting it be someday is the best thing I can do for my boys and for me. 🙂

      • February 15, 2016 at 4:01 pm

        And there is your answer lol!

  14. February 15, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    It grows back and it’s really nobody’s business. My friend is shaving her head this year, as are her kids. It is in support for someone they know who has cancer.

    My hair is finally growing long. It was ravaged by poor health choices. Through hospital stays and inclement weather, it is creeping down my back. I think I might do locks of love. Then I will seriously consider shaving. The irony is that I have developed scalp psoriasis since my hair grew. I’m sure I will receive looks of yuck, but again…no one’s business.

    Please let us know if you decide to shave.

    Off topic, did you receive my response?

  15. February 15, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    I’d probably do it for a loved one, but otherwise, no. I had an extremely short haircut once and look very mannish with short hair!

  16. February 15, 2016 at 10:13 pm

    Beautiful post. I shaved my head when I was eighteen or nineteen. I was just sick of dealing with my hear and wanted the simplicity of not having any. Even though I’d been living on my own for months, my mother took it as an act of rebellion and was mortified about being seen with me in public.

  17. February 16, 2016 at 2:56 am

    I don’t know if you have heard about this any time, but in South India (state – Andhra Pradesh), there is a religious place (temple) by the name Tirupati. That’s the God actually – Tirupati Balaji. All most all the devotees offer their hair to the God and they do it once a year!
    I have never shaved my hair, but I have this strong urge of visiting Balaji and offering my hair there… may be some day!

  18. February 16, 2016 at 11:36 am

    When my aunt was diagnosed, we did all the “right” things, and went and bought wigs before she lost her hair… and when she started losing it, she and mom shaved her head. She’d rather be bald all at once than go through it day by day, and I agreed with her – and she looked so lovely! I couldn’t do it because I know my scalp isn’t pretty, and I would be way too cold, and I know hair, or lack of it, doesn’t really play into my perception of people, because every time she asked me to pass the shampoo, or hairspray, or whatever, I passed it to her. Every. Single. Time. She’d giggle until I realized what was up 🙂

  19. mgbmdri
    February 16, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    I don’t think I could ever shave my head. I’ve freaked out completely if my hair is too short. I feel silly thinking back on those moments though. As you said, it’s just hair and if we’re lucky it grows back. I guess some of that is the view that females should have long, luxurious hair. Some is probably due to comments made about short hair not suiting my facial structure. The rest, who knows? You saying that you felt beautiful bald, is a beautiful thing to read. Being happy with yourself, however you choose it to be, is a wonderful thing. Even if you can’t shave your head right now, maybe a little down the road the time will present itself.

    In regards to hair and beauty, my initial reaction to bald heads is negative. I guess it’s since hair is pushed as beautiful and bald is not. I catch myself though and tell myself that people are beautiful no matter if they have hair or not. There are many reasons people are bald and I have no bearing on it at all. Their head, their choice. Then there’s when people don’t have a choice. Either way, that person is a beautiful human being. That was a bit lengthy of a reply. Sorry ’bout that >.<

  20. February 17, 2016 at 10:19 am

    I’ve really thought a lot about shaving my head and I’ve been tempted to recently… Ironically, I am currently trying to grow out my short pixie cut and it is so painful. I don’t even know why I am doing it, except for the reasons you mentioned. Long hair seems more luxurious and valued. Maybe I should just shave it to get some perspective!

  21. February 17, 2016 at 11:13 am

    Consider taking part in a St. Baldrick’s fundraiser for pediatric cancer research. Check out the organization. It does amazing work. This will be my 8th year getting my head shaved.

    • February 18, 2016 at 4:38 am

      This is what I did the first time around, and likely what I’ll do if/when it’s time for a second go!

  22. February 19, 2016 at 5:22 pm

    I wore my hair in damned near a buzz cut for a very long time. I did it because I could not take care of it long. That was the original reason. Then, I met my ex and he told me time and again, it was the only way he liked it. I left it short, even though I did not particularly love it short and it didn’t feel like me short.

    Then one day he walked out. Slowly my hair has grown back. It has also gotten darker. Slowly I am finding myself in the mirror again. Slowly I feel as if I am more me.

    No our hair doesn’t define our femininity. No it doesn’t define who we are. But somehow, it does, whether long or short, somehow it does.

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