I think we all have security blankets. We all have something that gives us comfort and makes us feel safe. A constant that we can always count on even when life dumps a load of unwanted muck all over our brand new white dress. As children it tends to be a blue fuzzy blanket that your parents brought you home from the hospital in, a pacifier, or a giant stuffed bunny with an eyeball missing and a paw sewn back on after an unfortunate encounter with the next door neighbors dog. But as we grow up it becomes less and less acceptable to tote that smelly rabbit around with us, so we find other objects to confide in. For some people that winds up being a comfy sweater that always seems to soothe a terrible cold, or the perfect fitting skirt that good luck follows while you’re wearing it. For me that thing that always made me feel strong, allowed me to hide, and, in a lot of ways, defined my identity as a woman was my hair. As a girl raised by a single father it took me a little bit longer to get involved in getting gussied up and other such “girlish” activities than your average bird. Jaime likes to make fun of me because, at 24, I still haven’t mastered the art of the curling iron or really any sort of task involved in the presentation of a hair-do. The overprotective feelings I had towards my hair came from a different place than styling it and making it look cute. As a kid up until I was about 10 or 11 every day when I got out of the shower I would sit on the floor of my dads bedroom in front of his mirror and wait for him to come over and brush my hair. Every day he would brush and blow dry it for me. It was like our little moment to spend together in silence, conversation, or temper tantrums before we had to walk out into the world and start our days. He often worked nights or went to night class so when I got out of school I would go over to my grandparents house and I would sometimes convince Meme to spend what felt like hours sectioning my hair in tiny little strands and give me a head full of braids so that when I woke up the next morning it would have a little curl to it. I even have a few memories of my mom french braiding my hair while we watched movies, and sometimes she would even put a giant bow in it for me. Two of my greatest friends, Emily Moore and Jaime, both constantly played with my hair and cut it, colored it, teased it, baby powdered it, put it into perfect top buns. For me when people fix my hair it feels incredibly affectionate, and when they do it regularly (even though I beg them to) it feels like a really true expression of their love for me.
Of course when I started dating I realized, after a horrific run in with the super cuts in the mall and a VERY harsh bob, that boys tend to like when our hair is long and flowing and voluminous and shiny and tangle free. So I kept it long. I dabbled here and there with shoulder length cuts but always kept it long enough to put into a pony tail. In 10th grade Emily was the first person to dye my bangs blonde. My father disapproved, but let it slide. With the exception of maybe one or two summers I kept it relatively the same for about 8 years. I always wanted to do something crazy to it but was dissuaded by friends or fellas not to mess with a good thing, because WHO KNOWS what could happen. I even once had a boyfriend that started a gigantic fight with me when I wanted to get my bangs trimmed, because he said that I wouldn’t look as cute if I cut them (I did anyway, and he didn’t even notice). Then I started dating a boy that I was sure was “the one”, so naturally I did everything I could to keep up a certain appearance that I knew he preferred. I tried to stay thin and fashionable and long haired because in my mind if I looked the part then I would get to play the part. Turns out that was exactly what it was. A part. A character.
Our relationship ended and so did my complacency. I was so fed up living in this “comfortable” little house that I had built for myself that I didn’t even feel I belonged in. I was done asking for other peoples input. I was done tip toeing through my own life apologizing the whole way through. I was done hiding. Emily came to visit from Canada and one night she wet my hair, put it into a braid, and cut the umbilical cord. My hair went from touching my elbows to full on pixie cut. I can’t tell you how refreshing that feeling was. A couple months later I moved to Chicago and took the last little leap and asked the barber to shave it all off except the top.
Turns out that you can shave your head, gain 20 pounds, wear clothes that are 5 sizes too big for you, have facial piercings and tattoos, and still be a lady. Not just a lady, but a lady that has shit to say, feelings to feel, friends that love her, and even a boy or two that wouldn’t mind taking her out on the town. No matter if you have the weirdest hair cut of all time you’re still you, and THAT is what’s sexy. Not the lipstick you wear or the heels that kill your feet or the hair that takes you an hour to fix every morning. It’s YOU! It’s the life you’ve lived, the stories you have, the glimmer you have in your eye for that person that lights you on fire, the way YOU feel about YOURSELF. If I have to say that every day until I go to my grave, then so be it. Because it seems like there’s still some people out there that haven’t quite let it sink in.
So, to all those people out there that look at me with unsure disapproving eyes and say “I mean, it’s cool and all….but how long do you think you’re going to keep it like that?” my answer is;
Until you quit fucking asking me how long i’m going to keep it like this. Because as long as you’re asking, you still don’t get that taking ownership of my appearance and straying away from my comfort zone are not phases but valid and non-negotiable decisions i’ve made for the body in which I reside. Not you.