Wonder Boi Writes

It’s Just Hair (Part 3): The End Of It.

After years of hair drama, last week offered the opportunity to close it all out. I’d first shaved it off with a friend going through chemo. I’d then spent the next years dealing with the joys and complications following that decision. Then after only a short time of having my hair at a length I felt good about, I decided to grow it out long enough to donate. Now after more than a year of annoyance and lack of control and the gender presentation issues of growing it out, I finally had the chance to be done with the whole (mis)adventure.

IMG_5422

I should have been thrilled. I’d been bitching for over a year and measuring obsessively for months. This was the moment I’d waited for. Why didn’t I feel better about it?

Part of my hesitance came from the fact that in order to get more than eight inches off, I would have to go very short. I’d have to put it in multiple ponytails and snip each one off close to the scalp. All the lessons I’d learned the last time I’d had it that short came rushing back. I wasn’t sure I really wanted to go back to making people uncomfortable because that so often led to making them angry. This fear was reinforced by several people saying things like, “I don’t think it’s long enough” (like I hadn’t had the ruler out 7 bazillion times) or “But it’s so pretty long.” “But you look so much nicer.” “Are you sure you really want to do that again? Remember what it looked like last time.” I knew they meant well. Some of them even made a valid non-gendered point in saying that a buzz cut in January in Buffalo might be chilly. Mostly, though, I feared the censorship that would come from once again not fitting into the prescribed boxes people want to associate with a female body. I would no longer look “nice” or “pretty,” and in our culture there are tangible consequences for people who willingly make that choice.

I started talking about not cutting it. I lied and said I maybe wanted to wait until the weather got warmer, but I’d worn it short in winter before and had never been bothered (also I have a stocking cap I really like). I also tried the excuse that if I waited until it got longer I wouldn’t have to cut it quite so short, thus lessening other people’s discomfort, but that didn’t really feel great, either. My head tried to reason, but my gut wasn’t giving up. It had been denied too long in this whole ordeal. The internal battle raged for a few days until I finally made a pro/con list. It looked like this.

The Pro List
More comfortable physically
Easier to take care of
Cheaper to take care of
Takes less time in the morning
More people will touch it when it’s short
Shorter hair aligns with my sense of self
I like the way it looks short

The Con list
Short hair alters other people’s opinions of me

That list hurt my feels a little bit. To see it all laid out there didn’t paint a very nice picture. Everything that should matter came down on the side of cutting it. The one on the side of leaving it long shouldn’t factor in at all. And yet I’d give that one item enough weight to be equal to or greater than everything from my physical comfort to my sense of self.   That’s vanity. It’s scary. And it’s sad.  It’s not the person I want to be.

I wish I could say that did it, that the stark contrast of my pro/con list snapped me back into myself and that I charged forward without trepidation. I didn’t. The list did, however, allow me to examine why other people’s opinions mattered so much and made me begin to think about whose opinion should really matter enough to be considered. My wife’s was clearly important, but she likes it better short (mid-length for me). My son’s matters, but he was also a vote for short. He said I didn’t look like his mom anymore. But outside of the two of them, who had to live with me and who I have to face every day, there was another small group of people who kept coming back into my mind in a way that lifted me up instead of tearing me down.

IMG_5431

The thing that got lost in all of this, the thing I lost track of in my own selfishness, is that while the process has been enlightening, it had an end goal outside of me. I set a limit on my hair growing, and I stuck to it even when I hated it because I wanted to donate the hair.   If not for that, I would’ve caved very early on. And honestly even with that I almost caved over the summer. Then at the GCLS conference in New Orleans, a woman I’ve known for years pulled me aside between sessions. She said, “I promised I wasn’t going to cry,” as tears filled her eyes.   She went on to say that what I was doing was such a wonderful thing. Taken aback I honestly had to ask what I was doing. She mentioned my hair, and I remembered that she’d gone through chemo a year earlier. She thanked me profusely and talked about watching her own hair swirl around the drain as she stood in the shower. She talked about how much that moment had frightened her, how demoralizing it had been, how it had shaken her sense of dignity. She said that knowing other people out there did what I was doing meant the world to her. I did not feel proud. I felt sick. I felt selfish and vain. I felt like a spoiled brat for bitching about my hair and what it meant to me when it meant so much more to so many others.

Remembering that conversation and the struggles of other friends in similar positions, I had a very low opinion of myself for pinning so much emphasis on my own looks, and I thought even less of people who tried to pin parts of themselves on my looks. Of all the things I learned along the way, that had the biggest impact. It also gave me the strength for the final attitude adjustment.

IMG_5445

You can like my hair or not. I can like my hair or not. The whole world can see what they want or they can sod off. I wish I could say I didn’t care at all what people think, but I do. I just don’t care enough anymore to let it cloud the bigger issues. That night my friends and family gathered around the same way they had when I first shaved it. We laughed, we joked, they took turns with the scissors, and we did something more meaningful than making a fashion statement. It wasn’t even a political statement. It says nothing about you or women in locker rooms or men who won’t hold doors. I am more than my haircut. I am more that what anyone else sees when they look at me. Despite what messages the rest of the world may try to send, in my case it really is just hair, and it really will grow back. But more importantly, when I put aside my vanity and my insecurities, I had the chance to tell someone out there that they are not alone.  That’s the message I want to send.  That’s the person I want to be.

IMG_5452

Advertisements

January 28, 2016 - Posted by | Uncategorized

5 Comments »


  1. Your heart is so big, the only thing bigger is your talent for expressing yourself.

    Comment by onamarae | January 28, 2016 | Reply

  2. I’ve been trying to think how to say this appropriately, but between your generous spirit and your romance-novel-worthy eyes, who is looking at your hair? What you’ve done with it is important.

    Comment by Ann | January 28, 2016 | Reply

  3. This is a great blog and I am touched. Thx! 😄

    Comment by lynnlawler | January 28, 2016 | Reply

  4. I could relate to this entire series on hair, it still amazes me that people judge others by the length, color, style of their hair…it is such a small piece of who we are and what we stand for.

    Comment by lesficreader | January 28, 2016 | Reply

  5. The best haircut is the one you choose for yourself. If people want to judge you on the merits of a haircut, sexual orientation, or anything else, then it’s their loss. It’s the person you carry inside that matters and that’s the person that shines. 😀

    Comment by Aura Eadon | January 28, 2016 | Reply


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: