Why I shaved my head for a friend’s tatas and what it taught me. by D. A. Królak
What happens when she has to shave her head & you think it is a good idea to show solidarity? (*View as one-page)
No Filter. [For Lisa] page 2
So this dear friend, whom I only met a few years ago & spent a week with in Houston in crisis mode (with her as my knight on a shining steed), and have since cultivated that friendship via Facebook and Twitter, recently had to undergo the hard step of shaving her head prophylactically. This milestone could not go unnoticed, no matter how brave we are in the face of these challenges, hurts like hell and needs acknowledgment.
We have such an emotional attachment to our hair, and women acutely. Their crown, their signifier that announces to the world what is inside that lovely head. An empire is erected selling potions and cures for whatever ails you. Snake Oil Salesmen: Hair too curly? Here try this. Tazmanian Iguana Excrement inside! It will do wonders for you. So smooth, silky, soft to the touch. $75 a bottle.
Having hair, Maintaining hair, Losing hair ; Color, Cut, Comb, Curl; Flatten, Feather, Frost.
Lather, Rinse, Repeat. 22 inches! New Weave! Gets expensive in an actuarial table for the average lifespan.
Twice in my long life I’ve grown my hair to my waist. That is 30-50 inches of good hair, if you are keeping count or figuring up how much it costs. Each time donating it when the journey ended. The trek includes not using any products in it, washing it weekly, using both humanely-tested and organic nutrient rich strengthening cremes so that wherever it is now, hopefully that child is stroking its tender locks and thinks: “I LOOK GOOD! Can I get a witness?” To which someone is hollering behind them in the mirror: “10s, 10s, 10s across the board.”
They turn, sweep it off their shoulder, batting it away from their eyes, and strut.
That is what I’d do.
That is what I did with it. That and tying it up in impossible buns, adorned with chopsticks, a huge plastic bone, garden trellis made into a mantilla, and whatever silly notion came into my head. My hair was a Phillip Treacy hat. One that made a milliner of me.
Each time it was cut, there was a long pause by the person about to cut it. “Are you sure?” Ummmm, yes. “Are you really sure?” Definitely, please get this succubus off of me – it is sucking all the brains from my head?!?!? Of course, there have been many moments of bad high school dramatics or toddler tantrums played out in the chairs of salons all over the world from people who thought they were ready, but when it happens, have a meltdown. Tears, threats of lawsuits, lost friendships, etc… This is because we all have an emotional attachment to our hair.
For me, that doesn’t really exist. I like it, sure, but am equally happy with a shaved head as a 6 inch old school mohawk, or to the middle of my back, up in a librarian’s bun, or fried/dyed/laid-to-the-side. It might as well be a wig. I’d often hoped that someday we could magically make ourselves through some technological invention just like that doll with a crank on her stomach that allowed us to make it the length we desired at that moment. That would be dangerous, excusing myself just to change my hair would be my calling card or punctuating some bad joke would become draining, on my audience.
Alas the future hasn’t caught up with my thoughts yet.
Finding the right hairstyle for your face and the color that accents your eyes and sets them off, might seem vain. But I beg to differ with you, likening it more to a writer finding her voice or an artist discovering their style and medium. It is that confluence. When everything seems for a moment to have a purpose and you can write until your fingers ache and still want to write more. It is the feeling that when somebody reads this, they will get it. You will have made a difference.
Aside from a pair of new shoes, there really isn’t any better feeling, besides finding your purpose in life which hopefully insists you wear cute shoes & have a killer haircut and will let you afford them as often as you want. Being forced to shave your head is both dehumanizing and humbling. Imagine recruits being inducted into the Army, or the Gays, Jews & Gypsies arriving at concentration camps, or the novice at a Buddhist temple. It levels the playing field, takes away the illusion and mask that we as humans hide behind.
There can be no casual hair flip, twirling it around your finger in mediation, stroking your hands through it as you cast a longing glance at the one you love, or blowing it out of your face with the casualness of a bored supermodel. Humans, when shorn, feel every slight breeze, tingle with every bead of sweat fiercely, and shudder with the absence so viscerally that even fully clothed & with a hat on we still feel naked. Like a pet that has been fully shaved, we are suddenly helpless.
It is the ultimate intimacy to see yourself for the first time. The last time most of us saw ourselves with that little hair we were fresh out of the womb. They have the pictures without the self-realization in the mirror. The absence of hair will suddenly make that spot on your temple jump out at you, while your eyebrows suddenly become the crooked crown. You can feel every contour of your skull, and discover an entire alien terrain that previously were like the trenches at the bottom of the ocean or craters on the face of the moon. The fourth wall has dropped, and you can only ask that mirror: “Who’s the fairest of them all?”
It seems nearly impossible that you could suffer losing all your hair and not become introspective. Starting with a retrospective of every cute haircut you received, the many tortures you put it through, and spur of the moment colors that you couldn’t wait to grow out. Then you realize how hard & time consuming it is to grow hair. Praying that if it just grows faster, you’ll treat it right.
I loved my hair, but am not in love with it. Bone straight, dishwater blonde (which is a way of trying to deny brownness, that’s racist is what that is). People don’t ask or didn’t, to “touch my hair” – probably because of my perpetual-bitch resting-face syndrome. It is my curse. Hair that is pliable, will do whatever I ask of it. That too, however is just an illusion, because it will never be the albino afro that is my birthright. It will not dread, or I’d never dread this mess. It won’t turn silver fox white as I’ve wished since childhood and prayed more furiously than a Roman Catholic, nope just the right side above my ear will have the faintest whiff of platinum. My pubes have more, so the drapes & the rug are telling lies about matching.
But…But… My life is full of people telling me the buts. How I can’t understand their struggles which are always legendary, and the trials and tribulations of wavy, curly, textured natural hair. I’ve heard you. It is a burden, your cross to bear. But, guess what? The grass is always greener, get over it & be glad for it. It really drives home the aphorism: