“Why are you cutting your hair?”, “but your hair is beautiful! Your hair is lovely” has become, “why are you going bald?!”
Every time I decide to cut my hair, I get asked the same questions. And every time, three to ten people in my life will try to convince me to not cut it.
In April 2020, I shaved my head. Entirely bald. For the first time in my life. When friends asked me, I joked it was the most appropriate action to take during the quarantine.
The more serious answer is slightly longer. Don’t get me wrong, quarantine is a great time to experiment with a risky hairstyle. After all, only one other person besides myself would have to suffer my egghead if it all went wrong.
I’m going to tell you the story in two segments. Firstly, I’ll share the unexpected joys I’ve found in baldness before I share the more serious thoughts on beauty and self-image as a woman.
1. A freshly oiled head, minus the grease. Do you know how great it feels to have a freshly oiled head? No? Neither did I until a week ago. What a life.
2. Cool water: no one told me cool water on a naked scalp feels like a massage from the angels.
3. Massaging my own head finally feels nice. The independence. The power. I don’t need your head massages anymore.
4. I feel invincible. Like the warrior queen Zenobia or the Dahomey Amazons. My head is naked and I don’t have a problem with it. Would I win if I got into a fight? Highly unlikely. But I sure do feel like I would.
Fun aside: did you know most ancient Egyptians, including my beloved Nefertiti, were bald? They shaved their heads for cleanliness.
Grace Jones on her shaved head: “My shaved head made me look more abstract, less tied to a specific race or sex or tribe. I was black, but not black; woman, but not woman; American, but Jamaican; African, but science fiction.”
I’ve wondered why being bald has made me so happy over the last week. I grin every time I walk past a mirror. Maybe it’s the sight of the contours of my skull. There’s an element of absurdity to the experience.
More likely though, the happiness comes from the new freedom I’m experiencing: having a bald head and, a naked make-up and hair-free face. And still liking the way my face looks. It feels liberating. Light. A throwing away of years of cultural, societal and familial messages which told me to:
- wear makeup to correct the down-tilt of my eyes
- cover my large forehead (north-east Africans represent)
- thread my eyebrows to make my face more appealing
- style and straighten my hair because curly is messy
Cutting my long curly hair, wearing less makeup and now shaving my head was my way of asking myself: What if I do none of the beauty musts and shoulds asked of me? Can I still like the face that looks back in the mirror?
Going bald marks the end of a psychological mission. It took 11 years, 4 countries & multiple adventurous and weird practices but here we are. The shaving was a ritual that signified an acceptance of my looks. The final shedding of teenage insecurities, of a million and one messages, cultural and otherwise, that tell me I need to be dissatisfied with the way I look.
Going bald was also a test to see if my mental self-image had updated. I can happily say, put out the flags! The model has indeed updated and no longer feel the need to work on it. What a relief. The cue? I don’t feel unhappy when I look in the mirror. I feel comfort and love.
Now, I can grow my hair, wear make-up and adorn myself in any way I want without feeling as if it’s an attempt to mask the way I naturally look.
From this place, make-up, hair and jewellery are a way of enhancing and playing with a base I’m comfortable, satisfied and happy with.