The first time I chopped off all (well, most) of my hair, I was 13.
That weekend, I was going to dress up as Tokyo Babylon Sumeragi Subaru, a CLAMP character– for my first comic convention. (Incidentally, Subaru means Pleiades in Japanese, ahem…)
It was the first time I got my hair cut by someone other than my mom, with whose skills I had been less than satisfied as of late. I handed the lady at SuperCuts a print-out of a manga scan of Subaru and his twin sister, Hokuto, and she told me she couldn’t use it– it was a “comic book character, for deity’s sake!” She would not give me the faux-sideburns that the character required– instead, she proceeded to hack off everything into something much less cool than a bowl cut.
I looked like a boy. (Wasn’t that the goal, anyway?) No matter. I was mortified. I had Chinese school in an hour. Could I get by with wearing a hat?
And more than just feeling mortified, I was incredibly depressed every time I looked in the mirror. I felt terrible about the loss of my hair. At least before I had my hair cut, I didn’t look too bad.
Worse, being that it was middle school (the new version of high school in terms of being the epitome of peer pressure and meanness– kids start to mature so much earlier these days!), I became the brunt of bullying.
Not just being teased that I looked like a guy (and dressed like one already, too). Instead, I was “worse”– I was “a lesbian”, they jeered, staring at me and my hair with disdain, treating me like something absolutely grotesque.
For the rest of 8th grade I was ridiculed for looking “not straight”. I didn’t understand; why could the girls with makeup and long hair slap each other’s butts, laughing, and hug each other tight… but if I hugged my best friend, people would look at me as if I were not just weird but disgusting? Because I didn’t wear cute clothes or “look” like a girl?
I had serious gender identity crises. Why did I see a cute guy that I might even be attracted to, when I looked in the mirror? Why, if I tried to see myself as female, I thought I was ugly?
After a while, though, I became comfortable with my short-haired self, even reveled in the fact that I didn’t look like everyone else– but eventually decided to grow out my hair, citing a goal to grow enough hair to donate to Locks of Love, and the fact that I had never really grown out my hair past a certain length.
The second time I chopped off all my hair was the year I turned 18. I felt like I had to reclaim a part of myself somehow before I teetered towards the first number of “adulthood”– I was heart and stomach deep within an eating disorder, a different kind of depression I didn’t understand, a sort of quiet numbness that made me feel hollow– I felt like having short hair again was like coming back to myself, to the self that actually knew how to feel once upon a time, knew how to cry bucketloads instead of being a stone. Anything better than the soul-paralyzed anesthetic I constantly felt then.
So I took a pair of scissors (I never trusted SuperCuts again…) and chopped off my hair. Unevenly and unperfectly, but I did it.
I also dyed my hair black, the last time I ever dyed my hair, and the first time my hair was its “natural” color in 7 years. (I had dyed my hair at least once or twice per year ever since I was 11, convinced that black was just “so boring!”)
And I felt like I transformed somehow. I felt like I returned to my real self a little bit. But I don’t know what I was trying to accomplish. I don’t know if I saw it as a panacea for all my problems at the time. It was still a symbolic action for me, though. Something changed.
And then I grew out my hair again. I wanted to dress up as Tifa Lockhart with my natural hair at least once in my life, and I still wanted to see how long I could grow it out.
Recently, though, I’ve gotten a little sick of having so much hair. I love my hair, surely, but it becomes a burden when I run, it rarely behaves, and it always seems to get in the way. Even after my first haircut this month, after I showered, the generic style I got didn’t want to replicate itself again without the prodigious amount of products the hairdresser had piled on at the salon.
So I decided offhandedly that I wanted to go back to short hair. I really did feel different when I had short hair. Like it was a way of being true to myself, to the way I saw myself inside, within my spirit.
But this time, after I got it cut, I didn’t feel too different as I stared at myself in the mirror, waiting for my sister’s hair to be done as well. I do feel a little more satisfied with my hair (no more bangs in my eyes and excessive amount of hair left everywhere I go!), and that short hair suits me better and expresses my inner self more– but I don’t feel like I’ve changed that much.
I don’t feel like just because I look different physically, my internal feelings will change, too. Not anymore.
That’s my milestone. How I look on the outside doesn’t affect my inside anymore.
And it’s not just hair. But my body– my nose, my lips, my eyes, my legs, my arms, my hips, my stomach, or how well I fit my bras.
As long as I’m healthy, as long as I’m happy… on the inside.
And that realization, cemented in my heart, brings me more happiness than any physical change ever could.
(I can’t wait to shave my head in a couple years, too. Originally it was scheduled for my 30th birthday, but I figure why not sooner than later?)
Thank you India.Arie for the title… I was stumped for a moment 😉
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