I am a middle-aged woman who recently shaved her head and I am continually astonished by the reactions – both spoken and unuttered. Occasionally someone will ask me if I am a cancer survivor. I am not. I shaved my head because I was plagued by stubborn bald spots which resisted all my efforts to grow more hair. I’ve received positive feedback and heartwarming compliments. The typical reaction is silence – the other person is determined to act as if my bald pate is invisible. It isn’t. In these instances people either don’t know what to say or feel an inquiry is in really bad taste. They aren’t.
I am approximately 5’2” in my bare feet -anyone more than a few inches taller than me had full view of my thinning scalp. They could see the defiantly hairless patches of my crown surrounded by areas of limited growth. It wasn’t a pretty sight. It did nothing to enhance my features and I was beginning to fret about my circumstances.
I dyed and tinted my hair for more than twenty-five years. Toward the end of this period, my daughter, who was born after I began coloring my locks, warned me my hair would start coming out if I didn’t give it a chemical break. I heard her – I did – but as the saying goes, old habits die hard. I viewed unbleached hair as detrimental to my self-image. A year of sustained losses helped me rethink my position. Between November 2000 and December 2001, my family and I lost seven relatives. My father’s passing was the second death during this period and thereafter my mother was literally hopping on and off planes to attend home going services across the United States and British Columbia, Canada.
Daddy died of complications following heart bypass surgery. He didn’t get out of the hospital. Anyone who has lived through a death watch knows how intense it is, particularly as the days drag on bringing hopeful moments, anguish and grief.
My hair couldn’t take the pressure. I quit dyeing and relaxing it. I tried the hot comb for a minute then went natural. I loved it! The change seemed beneficial and it appeared my scalp was thriving. No new hair grew in the bald spots but I was unfazed.
Several years ago I began to view my hair differently. It was rapidly disappearing and the hairless patches were getting wider. I decided I needed to do something, but what? I began discreetly discussing the possibility of getting a wig. Notice I didn’t say anything about wearing one. The act of purchasing fake hair to cover my own represented a gargantuan step for me. Whenever the subject of hair came up, I glibly asserted my intention of buying a wig. It was an unranked priority on an unwritten to do list. This one-sided conversation continued until a few months ago when, once again, I found myself thinking very seriously about doing something.
I began methodically contemplating my options: (a) purchasing a wig; (b) getting a weave; (c) getting braids. I finally admitted I wasn’t going the wig route. I couldn’t see myself wearing one. I didn’t find the prospect of a weave appealing. Initially I settled on braids or possibly dreds. The more I considered this possibility the more unlikely it seemed. I couldn’t justify the cost of the hair or the price to have it intertwined with mine. I dreaded the thought of spending hours in the chair having the work done and I wondered how it would look. What about the bald spots? What would maintenance involve? Slowly my eagerness for a sculpted, sophisticated braided do began to dissipate. It wasn’t feasible on so many levels.
While weighing the pros and cons of my choices, a voice popped into my head with a simple but profound suggestion: cut it all off. Wow! What a novel idea. It made good sense although I was hesitant. I decided to think about it and concluded a deal with myself: I’d give myself six weeks to mull it over. If the urge was still strong, I’d do it. I’d take that leap of faith. My target date was May 10, 2013. I was unable to get to my barber on the tenth but by then I was committed. I could see myself with a shaved head. I was ready to be rid of the hair I had left. I wanted to make this move.
Saturday morning, May 11th, I set out for my barber’s shop. I felt like I was on a mission. I had to see this thing through. What would my shaved noggin look like? Would it be round and smooth? Did I have unsightly bumps and lumps populating the ridges? Did I have the guts to let her cut it all off? The reality of my decision hit home with a bone chilling finality as I sat in her chair and uttered those memorable words.
“How you doing today?” She inquired as she always does while preparing to cut my hair.
‘I’m fine,” I assured her.
“How do you want it?”
“Cut it all off,” I instructed as evenly as possible. I was feeling giddy.
“Cut it all off?” She repeated, looking me in the eyes.
“Cut it all off,” I affirmed.
“All off,” she repeated once more for good measure.
“All off,” I reaffirmed.
“Okay,” was all she said as she began cutting and shaving.
I was amazed by her handiwork. There I stood, no hair, and I liked what I saw. I knew I had an adjustment to make but I felt free…liberated…empowered. This was a life-changing decision and I felt so good about it. While I didn’t think of what I did as a fashion statement, it is. I shaved my head – I can do that!
Originally published on www.afterwriterdreams.com.
©September 28, 2015 and June 22, 2013 by Theresa Bennett-Wilkes. All rights reserved.